It comprises 6 Kenyan, 4 Australian and 3 New Zealander cyclists who are young, extremely talented and hungry for success. The video clip below is Kenyan Riders Downunder in an nutshell.
In December 2005, Nicholas (Nick) Leong, a commercial photographer from Singapore, wondered if Kenyans who dominate marathons and distance running would also make excellent road cyclists. After all, road racing was an endurance sport just with very expensive gear. For most people, that question would have remained just that - a question. But Nick is not most people.
In 2010, Nick left his business and moved to Iten, Kenya with the hypothesis that the home of the world’s best distance runners including Kip Keino and David Rudisha would also produce the world’s best professional road cyclists one day. Over the next 8 years, he set up a training camp in Iten, and developed cycling programs in Kenyan schools to select and develop the best cyclists in Kenya. Nick established an all Kenyan cycling team, Kenyan Riders with the dream of fielding Kenyans in the Tour de France one day.
This is Salim Kemboi in 2010. He was selling firewood for a living. A few years later, Salim acquired a heavy duty bicycle, known as Black Mamba in Kenya, to deliver firewood. In our first encounter with him, he chased the cyclist, riding bare-foot on his Black Mamba, which had no brakes at the time. His tenacity impressed us, and he was invited tojoin the junior squad of the Kenyan Riders. In 2015, Salim, who was still under 18, became the top junior cyclist in Kenya.
In order to get onto the first rung of the ladder leading up to the Tour de France, Nick had to do two things - register an UCI Continental (Division 3) team, and immerse the Kenyan cyclists in a racing culture and environment.
In 2016, Kenyan Riders merged with Team Downunder (from the Gold Coast in Australia) to form Kenyan Riders Downunder, a UCI Continental team. It comprises 6 Kenyan, 4 Australian, and 3 New Zealander cyclists, including Jason Christie, who is the 2016 New Zealand national champion.
The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Sunday, January 31 was the team’s first race in Australia. And the team did extremely well for newcomers to the pro cycling scene. Competing against the world’s best professional teams like Sky and BMC, Jason Christie achieved a very respectable 34th position in a field of 146 riders. Kenyan, Suleiman Kangangi, came in 75th and outlasted greats like world champion, Mark Cavendish, who did not finish the race, nor did Caleb Ewen.
Below is a 5 minute video of race highlights.
A week later, KRD repeated that performance on the Jayco Herald Sun Tour with 3 of their riders in the top 50. Two-time Tour de France winner, Chris Froome won the tour.
Kenyan Riders Downunder have a packed schedule of races lined up for the rest of the year, and are looking forward to delivering top stellar performances in tours and races in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Africa.