The dust has literally settled on the first ever Migration Gravel Race in the Maasai Mara of Kenya. Over the course of four stages, 61 riders from all over the world battled headwinds, extremely rough terrain, and broken bikes and bodies to complete 600 kilometers of the inaugural gravel race.
Yet, the statistics only paint a brushstroke of the whole picture.
The event organizer’s vision wasn’t simply to challenge cyclists with a race. It was to bring bike racing to a part of the world where athletes aren’t given many opportunities to compete, and to bring with it a field of talented riders from across the globe. It was to expose East Africans to gravel racing and offer them the opportunity to travel to its birthplace, the United States, if they reached the top of the podium. And it was to show everyone the beauty and tragedy of the Maasai culture, with its ancient wisdom and modern challenges.
Yes, we raced bikes, but we also shared meals, stories, and slept under the same starry ski. Over the course of all of this we became timu moja, one team.
Riders were plagued by punctures on the rough and rocky first two stages of the race. One rider, Nol from the Netherlands, said he tallied 19 flats throughout the entire race.
In our daily informal debriefings, many of us wished that we too had opted for mountain bikes.
Our race staff included members of the Maasai tribe, pastoralist herdsmen who acted as cooks, moto drivers, fire builders, and night watchmen.
Zebras, gazelles, wildebeest, and giraffe were frequent sightings on the plains.
Riders didn’t manage to stay in groups for long, due to the extremely challenging terrain.
We often encountered cow, goat, and sheep; fortunately they always obediently crossed the road.
Excited and energetic children were a daily distraction.
Stage two was particularly brutal at just under 110 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing.
Full moon, fire, and friendship.
They made us wait for this elephant until stage four, but wouldn’t you say it was worth it?