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The magic of the Tour de Lunsar - Gallery

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Abu Sheik Sesay emerged as one of the brightest talents in the race, fighting to two stage second places and a GC podium placing.

Abu Sheik Sesay emerged as one of the brightest talents in the race, fighting to two stage second places and a GC podium placing. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Lunsar is a small semi-rural town in the northern region of Sierra Leone.

Lunsar is a small semi-rural town in the northern region of Sierra Leone. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Isata Sama Mondeh takes a look back at her rival for the blue jersey

Isata Sama Mondeh takes a look back at her rival for the blue jersey (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Huge crowds lined the route every day

Huge crowds lined the route every day (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Huge crowds gathered in Lunar. The increased profile of the race in 2021 led to the first involvement by the National Olympic Committee.

Huge crowds gathered in Lunar. The increased profile of the race in 2021 led to the first involvement by the National Olympic Committee. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Ibrahim Kamara celebrates victory in the junior race in a jersey donated by USA Cycling

Ibrahim Kamara celebrates victory in the junior race in a jersey donated by USA Cycling (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Exhaustion in the moments after the junior race. Temperatures hit 38°C during the day in Lunsar.

Exhaustion in the moments after the junior race. Temperatures hit 38°C during the day in Lunsar. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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The women’s race became a two-way contest

The women's race became a two-way contest (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Mondeh and Conteh, the two strongest cyclists in the women’s race

Mondeh and Conteh, the two strongest cyclists in the women's race (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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In West African cycling the passion and excitement often overflows

In West African cycling the passion and excitement often overflows (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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The Peloton passes under the Cotton Tree in the centre of Freetown. According to legend, the "Cotton Tree" gained importance in 1792 when a group of former African American slaves who had gained their freedom settled the site of modern Freetown.

The Peloton passes under the Cotton Tree in the centre of Freetown. According to legend, the "Cotton Tree" gained importance in 1792 when a group of former African American slaves who had gained their freedom settled the site of modern Freetown. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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The peloton during the neutralised section on their way out of Freetown heading towards Waterloo where the race started proper.

The peloton during the neutralised section on their way out of Freetown heading towards Waterloo where the race started proper. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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With Lunsar getting ever closer, Abu Sheik Sesay (Lunsar B) goes on a daring solo attack. The move meant that he lead through the Okra Hill KOM and Masiaka sprint.

With Lunsar getting ever closer, Abu Sheik Sesay (Lunsar B) goes on a daring solo attack. The move meant that he lead through the Okra Hill KOM and Masiaka sprint. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Abu Sheik Sesay (Lunsar B) goes on a daring solo attack. The move meant that he lead through the Okra Hill KOM and Masiaka sprint.

Abu Sheik Sesay (Lunsar B) goes on a daring solo attack. The move meant that he lead through the Okra Hill KOM and Masiaka sprint. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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A bicycle race is a rare and unusual sight on the roads fo Sierra Leone

A bicycle race is a rare and unusual sight on the roads fo Sierra Leone (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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The peloton hurtles past a pedestrian on the road to Lunsar from Freetown

The peloton hurtles past a pedestrian on the road to Lunsar from Freetown (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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The two chasers Osman T Kalokoh (Lunsar A) and Sorie Koroma (Lunsar A) caught Sheik Sesay (Lunsar B) coming in to Lunsar. All three are from Lunsar and the crowds really got behind their local riders.

The two chasers Osman T Kalokoh (Lunsar A) and Sorie Koroma (Lunsar A) caught Sheik Sesay (Lunsar B) coming in to Lunsar. All three are from Lunsar and the crowds really got behind their local riders. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Support vehicles come in all shapes and sizes.

Support vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Ibrahim S Jalloh (Lunsar A) triggers the first attack of Stage 2. Having been plagued with bad luck in 2019 at both the Tour de Lunsar and Tour of Guinea it was time for the youngster to reverse his fortunes.

Ibrahim S Jalloh (Lunsar A) triggers the first attack of Stage 2. Having been plagued with bad luck in 2019 at both the Tour de Lunsar and Tour of Guinea it was time for the youngster to reverse his fortunes. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Race leader Osman T Kalokoh (Lunsar A) missed the move on Stage 2 and fights on valiantly to try and reduce the deficit. The racing is on open roads and other road users respect the race with varying degrees of patience.

Race leader Osman T Kalokoh (Lunsar A) missed the move on Stage 2 and fights on valiantly to try and reduce the deficit. The racing is on open roads and other road users respect the race with varying degrees of patience. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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People on the roadside get caught up in the magic.

People on the roadside get caught up in the magic. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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A group of six bridges the gap to Jalloh making the lead group a cohesive unit of seven riders that most notably includes Sorie Koroma and Abu Sheik Sesay.

A group of six bridges the gap to Jalloh making the lead group a cohesive unit of seven riders that most notably includes Sorie Koroma and Abu Sheik Sesay. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Ibrahim Jalloh proved to be a very popular winner of stage two.

Ibrahim Jalloh proved to be a very popular winner of stage 2. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Osman T Kalokoh fought hard to defend yellow, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Osman T Kalokoh fought hard to defend yellow, but was ultimately unsuccessful. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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The big roundabout in Lunsar became the focal point of the race.

The big roundabout in Lunsar became the focal point of the race. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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The riders leave Lunsar on the final stage.

The riders leave Lunsar on the final stage. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Abu Sheik Sesay sizes up his rivals

Abu Sheik Sesay sizes up his rivals (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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The peloton heads over the railway tracks on the way back towards Lunsar.

The peloton heads over the railway tracks on the way back towards Lunsar. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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An insight into the realities of rural life in Sierra Leone. People fish as the race flashes by.

An insight into the realities of rural life in Sierra Leone. People fish as the race flashes by. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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A jubilant celebration from Moses L Kamara as he crosses the line first on Stage 3.

A jubilant celebration from Moses L Kamara as he crosses the line first on Stage 3. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Celebrations are jubilant, with Lunsar A and B performing well across the whole race weekend

Celebrations are jubilant, with Lunsar A and B performing well across the whole race weekend (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Lunsar squad captain, Mohammed Ben Conteh (in cap) leads the celebrations. Several riders wore Rapha EF Education kit donated by Lachlan Morton

Lunsar squad captain, Mohammed Ben Conteh (in cap) leads the celebrations. Several riders wore Rapha EF Education kit donated by Lachlan Morton (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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White jersey winner Ibrahim Jalloh throwing water over Moses L Kamara, who was third on GC

White jersey winner Ibrahim Jalloh throwing water over Moses L Kamara, who was third on GC (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)
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Sorie Koroma rode an incredible race, consistently placing high and taking the overall race lead on the third and final day. Your 2021 Science In Sport Tour de Lunsar champion.

Sorie Koroma rode an incredible race, consistently placing high and taking the overall race lead on the third and final day. Your 2021 Science In Sport Tour de Lunsar champion. (Image credit: Matt Grayson Photography)

The Science In Sport Tour de Lunsar is a grassroots, non-UCI bike race that has brought magic to Lunsar, a small semi-rural town in the northern region of Sierra Leone, West Africa. The three-day event exists on a minimal budget but has been called 'the richest event in one of the world’s poorest countries' for its ability to showcase local cycling talent and bring together a cultural community.

The recent involvement of Science In Sport as the event’s title sponsor has allowed it to increase from being a one-day event to a three-day stage race held from April 16-18 this year - a leap that has also seen it grow in stature in terms of recognition and cooperation within the country.

As well as the three-day men's event, a women’s one-day race was held this year, as well as a junior men’s race. 

Le Col, the UK kit and clothing manufacturer, has provided winner’s jerseys for the race for the last two editions – the most recent being 2019, after the 2020 race was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The overall men’s winner gets a yellow jersey, modelled on the tricots worn by the leaders of the Tour de France and Tour du Rwanda. The women’s champion is awarded a blue jersey, with the best junior rider getting a green jersey.

Cycling is a fringe sport in Sierra Leone, and in West Africa more generally. Unlike other parts of the continent – South and East Africa, where the sport is reasonably developed – in Sierra Leone, cycling is at the very beginning of its journey. The national team have competed abroad only once since the Ebola epidemic of 2014-16.

There was an enormous interest in the 2021 Tour de Lunsar, as evidenced by the massive crowds on the roadside each day at the finish in Lunsar. Two of the three stages were out-and-back routes to nearby towns of Makeni and Port Loko, while stage 1 began in Freetown, the nation’s capital, passing the iconic Cotton Tree on its way out of the city.

There are no professional cyclists in Sierra Leone, and almost nothing by way of a pathway to professionalism outside the country either. These racers compete because they love to ride bikes, sacrificing much and training hard – often on borrowed or donated second-hand equipment. 

Nevertheless, there is something immediately identifiable about the passion and enthusiasm, the pain and the glory, that is evidenced in these photographs by Matt Grayson. 

Click through the gallery above to view images of the 2021 Tour de Lunsar.