By Hedwig Kröner
Two black African riders from Kenya are currently in the Alpine region of Isère, France, and testing their climbing skills on the epic mountain of L'Alpe d'Huez. Last Thursday, August 7, Zakayo Nderi and Samwel Mwangi were amongst the amateur riders setting out on the timed ascent of the climb organised by the local tourist office. They clocked 43'35 and 44'45 minutes respectively, obtaining an impressive result in front of their competitors.
In the 2004 Tour de France's individual time trial up the famous mountain, Lance Armstrong clocked 39'41 minutes, with the tenth-placed rider that day being 2008 Tour winner Carlos Sastre at 42'08 minutes.
The cyclists supported by Nicholas Leong are currently "attempting to go three minutes faster" in order to prove that "with the right support, an East African can become a world class climbing specialist. The [first attempt] was not a 100 percent effort, so we are optimistic."
Last year, Nderi already proved top class on the Genting Highlands in Malaysia, frequently raced in the Tour de Langkawi. Leong is supporting the two cyclists, a shoe-shiner and bike taxi rider from Eldoret, Kenya, believing that their physical capacities could be sufficient to make them world class riders and even professionals. "They have the heart, lungs and legs of marathoners, but all they want to be are the first black African professional cyclists in the world," Leong stated on his website, www.theafricancyclist.com.
To date, despite the success of Kenyan sportsmen in athletics, no black African cyclist has made it into the professional cycling ranks. A movie about Nderi's and Mwangi's cycling trials is also in the making.
(Additional editorial assistance provided by Gregor Brown and Susan Westemeyer.)