Monday, December 9, 2013

Froome and Kinjah carry Kenyan cycling to new heights

By: Bradley Parks 
Produced & Edited by: Danny Medlock
David Kinjah, dressed in a loose yellow polo shirt, with his dreadlocks pulled back in a black trucker cap, wildly celebrated with friends as Chris Froome crossed the finish line with his Team Sky Pro Cycling teammates at his sides. 
Standing on the podium, his skin pink from the sun, Froome looked more like he forgot sunscreen on a faster-than-usual walk, than having just finished the world’s most prestigious cycling race.
Kenyan ties
Froome’s 2013 Tour de France victory was nothing less than expected – he was
David Kinjah (via BBC)
the heavy favorite going in with more than a 50 percent chance of winning according to oddsmakers. The victory sparking Kinjah and company’s celebration was much less anticipated by those unfamiliar with Froome’s makings.
Kinjah, the so-called king of Kenyan cycling, was paramount in Froome’s victory. Froome rides for Great Britain, but is Kenyan born, and was coached by Kinjah when he rode for Safari Simbaz in his teenage years.
“It’s going to change lots of things, for sure,” Kinjah told Sports News Television after the victory, “not only in Kenya, but all of Africa.”
A cycling haven
Kinjah and Froome, do not alone make Kenya a two-wheeler’s destination of choice. Many Kenyan cyclists say that their home, even before Froome’s victory, was a cycling haven.
Chris Froome as a boy in Kenya.
(Photo via The Telegraph)
Kenya’s rich topographical variance makes it a cyclist’s dream, according to Tash De Lion, a Kenyan rider. The Great Rift Valley runs along the western side of the state and Kenya’s tallest peaks sprout on either side. Mount Kenya is the highest point in all of Kenya, standing at more than 17,000 feet. Some training courses along the Great Rift Valley, De Lion says, offer 4,000 feet of incline.
“Kenyan weather,” De Lion said of things that would surprise most cyclists unfamiliar with Kenya. “Riders enjoy full-time riding throughout the year as there is never winter here.”
That combination of these elements along with Kinjah’s coaching made Froome the cyclist he is today. The Tour de France victory that brought this extraordinary pair to the spotlight has now produced a new fire behind Kenyan cycling.
De Lion says the Kenyan cycling community has responded to Froome’s success with new inspiration. Cycling centers are opening in cities around the country, more cyclists are using protective kits, and Froome even promised to start a cycling foundation in Kenya on his most recent visit in early November. Even law enforcement has stepped up to help those on two wheels.
“Revised traffic rules to traffic offenders against cyclists has given riders a new hope,” De Lion said.
Kinjah’s words on the night of Froome’s victory were certainly not empty promises. Froome, clad in a yellow jersey and carried by two wheels with the help of Kenya’s old veteran, has brought the hopes of a growing cycling nation on his back.

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