Betsy Welch of the USA has become the first woman to win a stage of the Migration Gravel Race after taking stage 1 ahead of Nancy Akinyi of Kenya and Mieke Luten of the Netherlands. Welch finished the 146km stage a full 30 minutes ahead of Akinyi and has established herself as one of the favourites to win the 4-stage race.
A small group of the strongest women rode together in the early stages, passing through local villages of the Maasai Mara region over rocky terrain. The rough gravel surfaces caused punctures and mechanical issues, as well as falls and injuries, for a large number of the 61 riders, and so challenging were the conditions that some riders even found themselves a long way off the official course, riding random dirt paths beside Africa’s famous wildlife.
Akinyi rode alone for long sections of the race, while Luten teamed up with Dorien Geertsema for most of the stage before pulling away from her compatriot in the final few kilometres. Nairobi resident April Kelley secured 5th position while Nicola Greene rode home in 6th.
Welch handled the conditions better than any of her competitors, and when the race entered the final 50km stretch, she fought through the strong headwind to open up a significant gap on her rivals and make a statement heading into stage 2.
Welch will take her form and confidence into the Queen’s stage, which covers 160km and a total of 3200m of climbing.