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Team Amani targeting African jersey at the Cape Epic

Only South African teams have won the coveted jersey; Kangangi and Karaya would be the first Kenyans as well as Black Africans to break the trend.

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Since 2013, the race for the African jersey has become an exciting competition-within-a-competition at the Cape Epic.

All-African teams in both the men’s and women’s elite category compete for the coveted red jersey while also racing for the overall win. In the eight years that the race has sponsored the jersey, only teams from South Africa have won.

This year, a duo from Kenya is seeking to break the trend.

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Sule Kangangi and Kenneth Karaya of Team Amani hope to ride to the top spot among all of the African elite teams this year. If they do so, they’ll also be the first Black Africans to be draped with the red jersey.

Kangangi and Karaya’s big goal at the Cape Epic represents another step along the way of growing a cycling culture in East Africa. Both men have been aspiring pro cyclists since their adolescence but without much financial or moral support from the national level, making headway has been a slow and challenging process.

Major progress was made last summer, however, with the Migration Gravel Race. The four-day gravel stage race in the Masaai Mara brought WorldTour level talent to Kenya, where Kangangi and Karaya went head-to-head with riders like Laurens ten Dam and Ian Boswell.

The race was not only an opportunity for East African cyclists to test their physical mettle, it also shined a spotlight on the struggles that they face — which ushered in an opportunity for major players in the cycling industry to become involved.

Team Amani was formed earlier this year as a result of that infusion of cycling industry dollars. Now, nine riders from Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda will be able to train and race competitively at off-road events around the globe — like the Cape Epic.

Kangangi credits the gravel race with creating a new sense of urgency around the dearth of opportunity for aspiring pros in East Africa.

“The Migration Gravel Race was a big step, and it really came right on time because during that time because of COVID and other issues it was really becoming really dark in terms of cycling and cycling activities in Kenya,” he said. “Really, MGR came at the right time and brought some new life into all the existing projects in Kenya and to us as individuals as well.”

The 2022 Cape Epic will be Kangangi’s first (and only his second international mountain bike race). It will be Karaya’s second — last year, he partnered with EF Education-EasyPost rider Lachlan Morton.

Whether or not the duo can break the eight-year cycle of South African dominance remains to be seen. However, given the obstacles they’ve already overcome, the simple feat of arriving at the start line is victory in itself.