Kenyan riders celebrate Froome's Tour success
22 July 2013, 16:13
Nairobi - A group of Kenyan riders in yellow jerseys stood with their arms held high and fists clenched in triumph on Sunday.
Another performed a risky handstand on his bike in an acrobatic celebration along the dusty streets of Nairobi — once Chris Froome's home city.
Later, members of Froome's first cycling club lifted their sodas and beers and cheered as they watched the Kenya-born Froome on television toast his current team with a glass of champagne during the Tour de France's final stage in Paris. And at the end, the riders from the Safari Simbaz club stamped their feet on the wooden floors of the room when Froome's first Tour victory was confirmed.
"For his great achievement we are going to a have a great party with a ride through the routes Froome loved to trek in while he was in Kenya," said David Kinjah, Froome's first cycling mentor, wearing a yellow t-shirt and waving his hands in the air. "Chris Froome's victory has energized us.
"Forget about doping, forget about everything else. Live for the moment. Just live for the moment. No doping story, just the glory, just the yellow jersey, just the win. Chris Froome. That's the story and that's enough."
Even before the largely ceremonial last stage began, and before Froome clinched the Tour title at the Champs-Elysees, hundreds of Kenyan riders had already celebrated with a procession of their own through the capital Nairobi, where Froome was born. Thousands of miles from Paris, around 300 cyclists were led on a parade by the dreadlocked Kinjah, Froome's earliest tutor when he first got on a bike as a skinny schoolboy in the hills just outside the city.
Some of the celebrating riders, like Kinjah, wore helmets, sunglasses and sleek cycling clothes. Others just shorts and sneakers. They all were smiling.
"It is not a race guys, OK?" Kinjah told them. "We are just celebrating the yellow jersey."
The joyous procession reflected what turned into an expected ceremonial ride for Froome and his Sky teammates to his title, the pinnacle for a rider who first learned his trade under Kinjah in Kenyan hills and valleys surrounded by coffee and tea plantations, and who now has reached the very summit of his sport on the famous boulevards of the French capital in the 100th edition of the Tour.
"It's a great feeling, you know, and it is beyond what words can say. It is very humbling and it is great," Kinjah said. "We can feel the energy all the way from France being transferred to us here in Kenya."
Schooled in Nairobi and then South Africa, Froome first represented Kenya as a professional cyclist before taking the nationality of his British parents. But here in Kenya, where distance running and football far outstrip cycling for popularity, the riders have claimed his triumph as historic for his first country and are calling him Kenya's first Tour winner.
"It's so strong, so amazing. It's a wonderful, wonderful feeling," Kinjah said. "It's just unbelievable. Beautiful, beautiful. It's going to change a lot of things for sure, not only in Kenya but all over Africa."
After their procession, Kinjah and other riders from Safari Simbaz cycling club gathered to see the climax on television. They had already watched every other stage so far and cheered Froome through every time trial and climb of his dominant Tour.
Froome hasn't forgotten his roots, either, riding with a Kenyan flag on his bike and sending a message on Twitter during the race to promote Safari Simbaz.
Pointing to the younger riders of Safari Simbaz, Kinjah said, "I hope that energy will carry these young men to great achievements."
AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed from Johannesburg.