No active professional cyclists currently call Kenya home. If a perennial Tour de France competitor and world record marathoner have any say in it, that’s about to change.
Eliud Kipchoge and Ineos Grenadiers know a thing or two about covering miles fast under human power. Before the human cycling machine known as Tadej Pogačar started punishing the field, Ineos won seven of eight Tours de France between 2012 and 2019.
Kipchoge’s reputation for speed and performance, if anything, is more superlative. He ran the fastest marathon anyone’s ever run — twice, though his second (sub-2-hour) time remains unconfirmed.
Kipchoge’s running academy in Kenya, Kaptagat, cranks out long-distance running proteges as a matter of course. So why not do the same with up-and-coming cyclists?
Ineos will help Kipchoge answer that question with the INEOS Eliud Kipchoge Cycling Academy. Its mission? To open the door for Kenyan cyclists to compete at a high level on the international stage.
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Currently, no Kenyan cyclists ride on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) professional circuit. The new Academy looks to change that.
“There is such exciting sporting talent, passion, and ambition in Africa, and at INEOS, we want to continue to invest to help realize its maximum potential,” INEOS Chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe said. “I visited the Kaptagat facility in Kenya recently and came away convinced that this partnership can do something truly different and unique for cycling — as well as for aspiring young African athletes.”
Valentijn Trouw will bring his 30 years of experience training Kenyan runners to the table to head up the program. The broader Kaptagat team will support his and the new academy’s efforts.
Trouw is a living legend in Kenyan running; besides helping Kipchoge break the 2-hour marathon barrier, he’s also helped build dozens of Olympic and World Championship running careers. The academy project seeks to task his talent-development experience with Ineos Grenadiers’ robust cycling wherewithal to drive results.
“I believe the exceptional local endurance talent combined with the great training environment at Kaptagat will be perfect for developing quality cyclists,” Trouw said. “Working together with Sir Dave Brailsford (director of the cycling team), the INEOS Grenadiers Cycling Team, and tapping into the broader INEOS sporting family will bring us the world’s best practice in competitive cycling.
“I am excited by the opportunity to build a relatively new sport in Kenya, in good harmony and collaboration with the Kenyan Cycling Federation, bringing together our collective knowledge and insights from running and cycling for the benefit of the sport.”
A ‘Natural Fit’
Kipchoge called the addition a “natural fit” for Kenyan athletes training in Kaptagat’s “perfect distance running” conditions.
“I’m proud that we are expanding our Kaptagat-based training camp from a purely athletics-focused training camp towards a wider kind of sports academy. The INEOS Eliud Kipchoge Cycling Academy is a very natural fit with great potential to enable our young talented cyclists to make the next steps towards the top level of cycling,” he said.
In the mid-2010s, the Qhubeka team functioned as a driving force for African cycling and achieved some significant breakthroughs. Eritreans Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus became the first Black Africans to race in the Tour de France when they rode under the Qhubeka banner in 2015. However, the team stopped competing professionally last year.
More recently, Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay made history as the first Black African stage winner in a Grand Tour event, when he posted the best time in stage 10 of this year’s Giro d’Italia.