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Gravel

Team Amani triumphs at the Migration Gravel Race and Evolution Gravel

With a strong international field including Lachlan Morton and Lael Wilcox, East African riders John Kariyuki, Sule Kangangi, and Mary Aleper win on home soil

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Kenya recently crowned two new champions in gravel — John Kariyuki and Sule Kangangi won last month’s Migration Gravel Race and Evolution Gravel, respectively.

Italian Maria Speretto and Ugandan Mary Aleper won the women’s editions of the two races.

Watch: Mbogi Amani | It’s time to change the face of cycling

2022 marked the second edition of the Migration Gravel Race (MGR), a four-day stage race of 650km and 8,000m of climbing on the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and the inaugural edition of Evolution Gravel, a point-to-point five-day race of 850km and 10,000m of climbing in neighboring Tanzania.

migration gravel race
Wildebeest and riders (Photo: @saltlake_lian)

Kariyuki won the first two stages of the MGR in tight battle with Italian Mattia de Marchi. Those stages wins coupled with third-place finishes on stages 3 and 4 earned him the overall.

In Tanzania, the overall victory was never certain with tight racing between Kariyuki, WorldTour pro Lachlan Morton, de Marchi, Kangangi, Kenneth Karaya and Ugandan Jordan Schleck.

Ultimately, Kangangi secured three second place and two fourth place stage finishes to land him on the top step overall.

In the women’s edition of the MGR, three racers — Speretto, ultra endurance star Lael Wilcox, and Dutch triathlete Berber Kramer — were in a tight battle for the overall throughout the MGR after hometown favorite and defending champ Nancy Akinyi had to drop out due to injury.

In Tanzania, Aleper, Dutch rider Mieke Luten, and Rwandan Xaveline Nirere traded spots on the podium over the five days of racing, with Aleper ultimately winning overall.

migration gravel race
Morton, de Marchi, and Kariyuki at the front (Photo: @saltlake_lian)

The three East African victories at the two gravel stage races are significant on numerous levels.

Read: Gallery: The Migration Gravel Race

Kariuki, Kangangi, and Aleper all race for Team Amani, a multinational squad composed of male and female riders from Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. The team was formed in the wake of the success of the first Migration Gravel Race (MGR), held in the Masaai Mara of Kenya last summer. Its mission is to provide international off-road racing opportunities for promising riders from East Africa, while also growing a gravel and off-road culture at home.

Laurens ten Dam won Last year’s edition of the MGR, followed by Kangangi in second, Kenneth Karaya in third, and Ian Boswell in fourth. Kenyan Nancy Akinyi won the women’s race.

This year, the Amani Project — the parent organization of the races and the racing team — added Evolution Gravel in Tanzania to the calendar. It began just days after MGR ended, making the transfer easy for both the East African riders and a small international contingent.

WorldTour pro Lachlan Morton (fifth, MGR; second, Evolution Gravel) and Italian ultra endurance racer Mattia de Marchi (second MGR, third Evolution Gravel) were two of the international racers who stayed for both.

migration gravel race
Riders pass a small village in the Maasai Mara (Photo: @saltlake_lian)

In addition to the two marquee stage races in Kenya and Tanzania, the Amani Project has also channeled resources into helping grow the local off-road cycling culture in East Africa. In fact, Kangangi, 33, spearheads the Migration Gravel Series events in and around Nairobi.

Amani Project founder Mikel Delagrange told VeloNews that the Amani Project’s ongoing investment in addressing the herculean task of elevating East African riders means growing gravel both inside and outside of East Africa.

Read: Ian Boswell on the Migration Gravel Race: ‘It’s so much more than a bike race’

“There’s only so much in terms of revenue and in terms of a single race on the calendar can do,” he said. “We’re trying to lift three, four countries up with getting their athletes opportunities and access to the sport. A bunch of athletes got an opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten off the back of the proceeds from the Migration.”

evolution gravel
Evolution Gravel (Photo: Finley Newmark)

Last year, after the inaugural MGR, athletes from Team Amani traveled to Europe and raced across the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain. Kenyan rider Kenneth Karaya raced the Cape Epic with Morton.

This year, four Amani riders raced the Cape Epic in South Africa in March.

Since its inception, a goal of the Amani racing squad has been to send riders to the US to race in the birthplace of the discipline. After being denied visas to the United States last year, four riders from the squad — Kangangi, Kariyuki, Nancy Akinyi, and Jordan Schleck of Uganda — have been granted access for 2022-23 and will race SBT GRVL and Gravel Worlds in August.

Overall and stage results from the 2022 Migration Gravel Race and Evolution Gravel