Nancie Akinyi wins three in a row at the Migration Gravel Race.

Nancie Akinyi of Kenya has won her third straight stage at the Migration Grave Race after taking the fourth and final stage in 6:57:54 ahead of Dorien Geertsema in 7:22:15 and Betsy Welch in 7:26:15.

Akinyi raced with pure determination on the final stage. She trailed Welch by 20 minutes overall leading into the final day despite winning the Queen’s stage and the third stage, and left everything on the dusty gravel roads in the search for victory. She powered through the first feed station at 60km without stopping, knowing she had to make up a considerable deficit.

Welch arrived some time after Akinyi, and was forced to stop for mechanical advice.

“My chain fell off 8 times already,” she explained.

“I’m feeling ok but the clutch fell off when it’s on the low gear.”

After a snack, a drink and a chat with the mechanics, she set off after Akinyi with Spanish rider Marc Roig.

Geertsema and compatriot Mieke Luten arrived at the first checkpoint in high spirits.

“We saw a cheetah,” they beamed, “and an elephant.”

The Dutch pair have ridden together throughout the race but Geertsema had stronger legs at the end of the final stage and followed Akinyi across the line.

Laurens Ten Dam wins the inaugural Migration Gravel Race.

Laurens Ten Dam of the Netherlands has won the inaugural Migration Gravel Race beating Kenyans Suleman Kangangi and Kenneth Karaya. Ten Dam won two of the four stages in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya and finished with a total time of 22:01:51, ahead of Kangangi in 22:20:49 and Karaya in 22:59:37.

Ten Dam arrived in Kenya fresh from second place in Unbound Gravel, while Kangangi and Karaya were competing in their first international gravel race. Karaya rode the entire 4 stages on a 26′ hardtail mountain bike. Ten Dam entered day 4 with a 19 minute gap over Kangangi in second, and monitored the Bike Aid rider throughout the stage.

A large lead group formed at the beginning of the final stage, then shrank up the first climb. At the top of the climb, Didier Munyaneza broke away and Ian Boswell followed. Boswell was more than one hour behind Ten Dam and posed no threat to the overall classification, and the American eventually powered away to victory on the stage. Behind Boswell, the chase group reached 45, then 50km/h in the finishing stretch, swerving as if they were preparing for a sprint, but actually avoiding potholes and cattle.

“The first part of today’s stage was rocky then there was a climb,” Ten Dam said at the finish.

“The last part was smooth and fast, it was perfect. Next year I want all the roads to be like they were today.”

Ten Dam was then reminded that he had won the race on some brutal roads which caused punctures, mechanical failures, falls and injuries. To which he replied:

“I won the hardest one”

Ten Dam finished in the top 10 at the Tour de France and La Vuelta a Espana, and appeared relaxed at the final feed station. He asked about Boswell’s progress up ahead, and was told that Boswell looked serious on this stage.

“Good to see he’s serious for one day,” Ten Dam joked.

“Today we rode through the villages with lots of people, I liked that. My muscles are sore, everywhere, but today I was happy to be on the bike.”

Kangangi explained his approach to the final stage.

“It was a tough day. I was second and I didn’t want to throw that away, so I had to ride smart.”

“Boswell attacked with maybe 90km to go and I knew I still had about 1 hour to play with, so I felt fine as long as I knew Laurens was there.”

Ten Dam stamped his authority on the race on stage 1. He dominated the rough, rocky, brutal terrain to establish a lead of 13 minutes over Kangangi, and 23 minutes over compatriot Thomas Dekker and Karaya. Ugandan Jordan Schleck was about 36 minutes behind on his hardtail mountain bike. Dekker suffered on the steep climbs of stage 2, and slipped off the podium during stage 4.

Ten Dam then showed the climbing prowess which brought him success in the grand tours. He prevailed on the Queen’s stage which punished the riders with 3000m of climbing, and he extended his lead over Kangangi. On stage 3, it looked like he was in trouble. Mechanical issues slowed him down, and he lost touch with the lead group. Realising this, Kangangi worked with his Kenyan Riders teammates John Kariuki and Geoffrey Langat to drop Ten Dam, but it was not successful. Ten Dam plugged his puncture, then time-trialled his way back onto the group and they crossed the line together behind stage winner Langat.

Langat’s victory on stage 3 put him within striking distance of the podium, but early on stage 4 he punctured, then punctured again and he could not reach the lead pack, despite working with Ugandan Kato Paul who had also punctured and slipped down the general classification.

“My body felt strong today, the problem was the bike,” explained Paul after crossing the line.

“It was the same yesterday, even though my body felt good, I had problems with my bike. But, it’s my first gravel race and I’m happy to be here.”

Boswell eventually finished 4th overall in 23:09:36 and Dekker finished 5th in 23:40:17.

Ian Boswell wins stage 4 of the Migration Gravel Race.

Ian Boswell finally claimed victory at the Migration Gravel Race with a strong solo breakaway to finish ahead of a chase group containing the contenders for the podium. Boswell powered to victory in stage 4 just a few kilometres from the place where he struck disaster on stage 1 and lost his chances on winning overall.

“It took me 580 kilometres to find my terrain,” he said.

“Just about 5k from here is where I lost the chance in the overall at the start of the first stage with the mechanical, so to win here today does feel a little strange.”

“Today is the culmination of everything I’ve learned on this race. I’m now more familiar with the racing style here. Even near the end there I was cruising through cars and cattle and people on the road, so I just went up onto the grass to go around them. The great thing about this race is that anything can happen.”

Boswell and Laurens Ten Dam were the two clear favourites for the overall title. Boswell has ridden in all three grand tours and recently outsprinted Ten Dam at the Unbound Gravel race. Ten Dam placed in the top 10 at the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana. Boswell, however, lost about 1 hr and 30 minutes due to multiple mechanical failures on the first stage, and had to fight for a stage victory to redeem his race.

A large lead group established itself at the beginning of the final stage, and only broke up during the first climb. This is where Boswell seized his opportunity.

“Didier (Munyaneza) attacked on the climb and by the top he had a bit of a gap. I decided to go with him then pushed on. Didier dropped off on the descent and I decided to go for it once I had a gap. I knew it would take a lot of commitment for all of the chase pack to work together.”

The chase pack contained Ten Dam and Suleman Kangangi, who were the only two riders with a realistic chance of overall victory. It also contained a contender for the third podium spot, Kenneth Karaya, plus John Kariuki and Jordan Schleck. Geoffrey Langat, who won stage 3, was also within reach of third place overall, but he and Kato Paul punctured early in the stage and lost contact with the leaders.

Munyaneza eventually crossed the line behind the chase pack, and the Rwandan road cyclist was satisfied with his performance in his first ever gravel race.

“Boswell dropped me on the descent after the climb. This is my first gravel race so it was good for me to get experience against European riders. Next time, I’ll do more training for longer before the event. I will be stronger.”

Boswell enjoyed his last day on the gravel roads of the Maasai Mara.

“The last 50k or so was fast, with beautiful dirt roads. I saw two elephants and some wildebeest on the ride today, so it was a fun way to end it.”

Geoffrey Langat rocks to victory in the Migration Gravel Race.

Kenyan Geoffrey Langat attacked through a rock garden to win stage 3 of the Migration Gravel Race ahead of four East African riders. Langat won in 4:34.22 ahead of Kenyan Riders teammate John Kariuki, who finished in 4:39.40 to lead home the chase group of compatriot Kenneth Karaya, Ugandan Jordan Schleck and Kenya’s Suleman Kangangi, plus Laurens Ten Dam and Ian Boswell.

Langat broke away from a group of seven riders in the final 20 kilometres when they confronted a rocky section of the otherwise smooth gravel road. The Kenyan battled through the rocks while the rest sought smoother lines off the side of the road, and he’d established a meaningful gap when the group rode back onto the rocks. A few minutes later, a herd of cows, then a flock of sheep, slowed the chasers, leaving some to wonder whether the local boy had arranged for the cattle to be herded onto the road.

Langat was soon nothing but a trail of dust to the chasing group.

The largest lead pack of the race so far stayed together for a long time on the fast, flat stage, and watched as wildebeest and zebra sprinted across the trails in front of them. A select group of five riders then formed, without overall leader Ten Dam. Boswell, Schleck, Kariuki, Kangangi and Langat sat about 3 minutes ahead of the Dutchman as the tailwind propelled them across the gravel. The three Kenyan Riders surged in an attempt to distance Ten Dam, but he worked with Karaya and both of them eventually clawed their way back to the front.

Ten Dam started the final stage with a lead of about 19 minutes over Kangangi. Thomas Dekker and Karaya are 57 minutes behind, while Langat and Boswell are about 1 hr 20 minutes off the leader. The battle for the bronze is particularly interesting.

Stage 4 is 160km long and features 1600m elevation. What will it do to the podium?

Nixon Sewe is the busiest man in Kenya.

Nixon Sewe is the chief mechanic at the Migration Gravel Race in Kenya. That makes him the busiest man in Kenya. Riders are currently tackling the 4th and final stage and Nixon has worked day and night during stages 1, 2 and 3.

Nixon is the regular mechanic for the Kenyan Riders professional road cycling team, and has occupied that role for many years. He is invaluable to the KR team, and he is showing why on the Migration Gravel Race. He attends to bikes before and during stages, and oversees the mechanical check and clean of all 61 bikes at the end of each day’s racing. In consultation with the riders, he ensures every bike is ready to go before the gun fires.

Today, he is fixing punctures. Puncture after puncture after puncture. Punctures are the story of the day as riders reach the first checkpoint 60km into the 160km stage, and roll in on their battered bikes which are being punished on the rough, rocky, rutted and dusty gravel roads of the Maasai Mara region.

He pumped some air into Geoffrey Langat’s tyre. Langat won stage 3 but was a long way behind the lead pack at the first check point. He had suffered two mechanical issues. Kato Paul of Uganda also suffered a mechanical early in the stage, and Nixon cured his bike before Paul and Langat teamed up to chase down the leaders.

Will they make it?

He also cast his eye of the gravel bike of Betsy Welch. Her chain had fallen off eight times in the first 60km, and put her out of touch with her arch rival for the overall, Nancie Akinyi. Welch lead Akinyi by about 20 minutes entering the final stage. She can ill-afford mechanical issues.

Such is the brutality of the parcours that some riders are contemplating bringing mountain bikes rather than gravel bikes to next year’s race. That’s if they make it to next year’s race. Mountain bike riders like Jordan Schleck and Kenneth Karaya were placed inside the top 10 overall before the start of the final stage. Maybe a mountain bike is a good idea.

Peter Halliwell was ready to ride on without fixing the puncture in his tyre – until his mother saw him on the race’s live instagram feed. Mrs Halliwell told him to “get the bike sorted” Peter got the bike sorted.

Good boy Peter.

Meanwhile, Nixon waits at the checkpoint until the last riders passes through. Waits to fix puncture after puncture.

Nancie Akinyi wins a wild stage of the Migration Gravel Race.

Nancie Akinyi sped to her second consecutive victory during stage 3 of the Migration Gravel Race on a day when riders crossed paths with Kenya’s famous wildlife. Akinyi finished ahead of Betsy Welch and may have set herself up for overall victory.

Akinyi and Welch rode together for the first hour before back pain slowed Welch. Akinyi then broke away from the American and the Dutch pair of Dorien Geertsema and Mieke Luten, as ostrich, zebra and wildebeest sprinted across the flat and dusty roads right in front of the riders. The Kenyan took advantage of the tailwind to maintain a consistently high pace and successfully weaved her way through the cattle, goats and sheep which blocked the road throughout the day.

Reflecting on the first 3 stages, Welch said her arms hurt more than her legs, and re-ignited an old debate when she asked:

“Should I have brought a mountain bike?”

Riders were invited to see two goats slaughtered in their honour by their Maasai hosts after the stage. Some accepted, some declined. The fate of the goats reflected the harsh reality of rural Kenya, something riders will again experience on the 4th and final stage.

Who will stand on top of the podium in the inaugural Migration Gravel Race?

Follow the action at http://www.migrationgravelrace.com, and http://www.instagram.com/migrationgravelrace

Who will win the Migration Gravel Race?

The winner of the inaugural Migration Gravel Race will be crowned on today’s fourth and final stage through the Maasai Mara region of Kenya. Laurens Ten Dam and Suleman Kangangi will fight for victory in the men’s category, while the women’s race is a showdown between Nancy Akinyi and Betsy Welch. The fight for bronze will be just as fascinating on the 162km stage with 1600m elevation.

Ten Dam leads Kangangi after the Dutchman won the first two stages and rode strongly in stage 3 to regain contact with the leaders after numerous mechanicals saw him dropped. Kangangi and his Kenyan Riders teammates Geoffrey Langat and John Kariuki attacked Ten Dam, but could not break him.

Akinyi has now won two stages after Welch took stage 1. Akinyi has looked stronger as the race continues and has been too fast for her rivals…when she stays on the course. She got lost on stage 1 and 2, but showed enough strength to catch and then pass the other women in the field. Meanwhile, Welch is battling her own mind as she constantly asks herself whether or not she cares about winning, and whether or not she is competitive. Now is the time to decide.

Ian Boswell and Langat battle for third position. Boswell lost more than one hour to the leaders on a horrid first stage, but has clawed his way back on the subsequent stages to challenge Thomas Dekker and Kenneth Karaya who sat in 3rd and 4th before stage 3.

Langat is looking very strong after powering away to win the flat and fast stage 3, while Boswell is yet to win a stage after taking out the recent Unbound Gravel race in the US. Boswell has ridden in all three grand tours, but Langat employed his local knowledge and inherent toughness to escape from the lead group in the rock garden on stage 3, and leave his rivals in the dust. Jordan Schleck, Edwin Keiya and the Masaka Cycling Club duo of Wasswa Peter and Kato Paul could also fight their way onto the podium.

The Dutch duel.

Dorien Geertsema and Mieke Luten will contest the final podium position in the women’s category. The duo from the Netherlands have ridden together and supported each other during the first three brutal stages and were locked on the same overall time entering stage 3.

Will they cross the line together, or will competitive instincts kick in and prompt one of them to attack?

Follow the final day’s action at http://www.migrationgravelrace.com, and http://www.instagram.com/migrationgravelrace

Boswell is back.

Ian Boswell is fighting for a podium position in stage 3 of the Migration Gravel Race, while an intriguing battle between Nancie Akinyi and Betsy Welch awaits. Boswell finished second behind overall leader Laurens Ten Dam in stage 2 after a disastrous first day, and is chasing Suleiman Kangangi and Thomas Decker on the 130km stage which involves 1300m of climbing.

Akinyi rode powerfully to win the Queen’s stage and now sits about 28 minutes behind Welch after the American won stage 1. Dutch duo Dorien Geertsema and Mieke Luten occupy 3rd and 4th position, and are locked at exactly the same time. The pair have ridden together throughout the race and will have to decide at some point who claims a spot on the podium.

Stage 3 is shorter and flatter than stage 2, but stage 1 taught riders to assume nothing and avoid complacency on the rough gravel roads of the Maasai Mara region.

Ten Dam extended his overall lead with victory in stage 2. Kangangi is 19.07 behind, with Dekker and Kenneth Karaya 57 minutes back. 1.19.30 separates Boswell from Ten Dam.

Akinyi and Welch appear to be the only contenders for the overall title in the women’s race, as Geertsema and Luten are about 2 hrs and 25 min behind Welch. But this is Africa, there are two tough stages remaining and anything can happen, as Boswell proved on stage 1 when multiple mishaps destroyed his day.

11 of the top 15 riders in the men’s field are from East Africa, while riders from Kenya and the Netherlands are expected to medal in the men’s and women’s categories. Will the USA also grab podium positions in both categories?

Boswell won Unbound Gravel in the US recently, outsprinting Ten Dam at the finish. He has ridden all three grand tours and has the pedigree to challenge any rider in the field. He currently sits in 5th overall, 1 hour from Kangangi, but only about 22 minutes behind Thomas Dekker in 3rd. Kenyan Geoffrey Langat also made a big move on stage 2, and at only 23 minutes behind Dekker, he will also threaten for a medal.

What will Boswell do in stage 3?

Follow the action at http://www.migrationgravelrace.com, and http://www.instagram.com/migrationgravelrace.

Nancie Akinyi makes the Migration Gravel Race very interesting.

Nancie Akinyi won the Queen’s stage of the Migration Gravel race in 10 hrs 02min 24s and created an intriguing battle with Betsy Welch for the women’s overall title. Mieke Luten finished third after crossing the line with her compatriot Dorien Geertsema.

Akinyi broke away from Welch and the Dutch duo at the beginning of the stage before encountering problems,

“I went off course,”

By the time she rejoined the race, Welch, Geertsema and Luten had caught up. Akinyi surged again up the long, steep climbs and enjoyed a lead of about 10 minutes over Welch at the final check point.

“I’m suffering,” she explained, “I’ve had my ups and downs today.” She quickly refuelled and set off for the final climb.

Welch, meanwhile, was battling a philosophical conundrum as well as the exhausting terrain.

“Do I care, do I not care?” about winning, she asked herself while snacking and cursing her leaking water bottle. She of the sparkly spokes and pink bar tape said,

“My body hurts. I’ve had lots of struggles today, but I’m doing better,”

Welch won stage 1 convincingly, and finished about 14 minutes behind the Kenyan on stage 2. Luten and Geertsema, meanwhile, are riding together steadily and consistently. Welch still leads the overall, but Akinyi is coming after her.

“This might be the best day of my life”

Peter Halliwell had been cycling for 4.30hrs. He had climbed about 1500m and had at least 1200m of climbing remaining before he crossed the finish line on stage 2 of the Migration Gravel Race in Kenya. However, when he reached the final check point and feeding station he declared,

“This might be the best day of my life.”

Was it the pain or the hunger; the thirst, dust, dirt, rocks, creek crossings or the aching muscles which brought him such joy?

Was it the sweeping views of the Maasai Mara region and the regular sightings of Kenyan wildlife? Was it the quiet satisfaction that follows self-inflicted exhaustion? Is it something only an endurance athlete can understand?

Whatever it was, the man from Great Britain was in great spirits before he tackled the final section of the 170km Queen’s stage which featured 3000m of elevation. His fellow riders also found delight in their struggles. Spanish pair Jose Maria Azcarate and Carlos Barzano have ridden together during the first two stages and were pleased to find patriotic red and yellow energy pills at the feed station.

“The red one is for riding,” declared Barzano, “…and the yellow one is for the nightclub later, for dancing.”

Compatriot Marc Roig, meanwhile, expressed concern. Problems with his GPS tracker prompted him to remark,

“My wife will be very worried.” Luckily he stood out in his polka-dot jersey, or what he calls his ‘Traje de Luces’, a term normally used to describe a bull fighter’s suit.

The most common sentiment among the riders was the brutality of the course.

“Feels like the kilometres are taking forever, especially after the six /$*&* puddles we’ve had to ride through today,” said Charlie Kimber. Betsy Welch, who was the first woman across the line in stage one, said simply,

“My body hurts!”

Kenyan veteran Davidson Kamau won the Tour du Rwanda road race in his prime and summed up the course succinctly,

“It’s harder than the Tour du Rwanda”