Kenyan Riders team captain Samwel Mwangi presents a gift of a signed team photo to Tweed mayor Barry Longland.
A group of Kenyan cyclists, who are using the Tweed as their base to strengthen their aim to be counted among the world’s best, were yesterday welcomed by Tweed mayor Barry Longland.
Managed from Singapore, Kenyan Riders is the first professional cycling team based in Kenya and is inspired by the success of Kenyan long-distance runners.
The dream is to transfer extraordinary Kenyan running talent onto road bikes.
A group of 11 cyclists and their support team are spending time in the Tweed to train and compete as they work towards their goal of international success in professional cycling.
The group’s accommodation until the end of this month is the Mount Warning Rainforest Park near the base of Wollumbin/Mount Warning.
‘Tweed Shire Council was more than happy to assist in any way we could with the Kenyan Riders’ visit, as we have our own strong links with Kenya through the Tweed Kenya Mentoring Program,’ Cr Longland said.
The Tweed Kenya Mentoring Program (TKMP) aims to work with rural Kenyan communities to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation, using sport and youth programs to encourage participation.
‘We all know Kenyans as world-beating long-distance runners but the country does not have a reputation for producing professional cyclists,’ Cr Longland said.
‘All that might be about to change and it would be wonderful to think the Tweed may play a small part in their future success.’
According to the Kenyan Riders’ website, there has not been a single black African cyclist in the more than 100 years of Tour de France, inspiring the Kenyan Riders to chase the uphill dream.
The team is full of promise so far, with members representing their country in various African championships and some members competing in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
They have also competed in Europe and in the 2012 Tour of Rwanda, where the squad placed fourth out of 12 teams, finishing behind South Africa, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Project coach, Australian Rob Higley, is thrilled to be training the team in Australia for a few months.
‘The local community, cycling clubs and Tweed Shire Council have warmly welcomed us and we are thoroughly enjoying our time here in the Tweed,’ Mr Higley said.
‘Kenyans thrive in warm climates and since it’s winter, we wanted to go as far north as possible where a variety of racing opportunities are at hand.
‘The team has contacts in the Murwillumbah area and the roads are conducive to the kind of training the team needs between races.
‘The cyclists need diverse racing experiences to enable them to close the gap on the best western cyclists, who are introduced to cycling and racing at much earlier ages.
‘When we heard about the Tweed Kenya Mentoring Program, it seemed a natural fit for us to come to the Tweed.
‘We are exploring potential mutual benefits through the youth and sport link to reinforce TKMP and KR initiatives in both countries, he said.