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.

Migration Gravel Race goes onwards and upwards.

The Queen’s stage of the Migration Gravel Race features a total of 3200m climbing over 146km and could well determine the overall winner of the inaugural gravel race through the Maasai Mara region of Kenya. Laurens Ten Dam and Betsy Welch lead the men’s and women’s categories and are expecting strong attacks from riders like Ian Boswell who lost time in the gruelling first stage.

Ten Dam dropped his rivals with a determined attack into the headwind in the final kilometres of stage 1, and enjoys a 13 minute lead on second placed Suleiman Kangangi. Boswell suffered the most on stage 1. The pre-race favourite and recent winner of Unbound Gravel (200) punctured numerous times on the rough and rocky trails and spent valuable time repairing the damage to his bike. The American sits 1hr 17 min behind Ten Dam.

Boswell has ridden in all three grand tours. What will he do on the Queen’s stage?

Welch broke away from Nancy Akinyi throughout the stage and starts day 2 with a 38 minute lead. Dutch duo Mieke Luten and Dorien Geertsema rode together on day 1, and lie 1hr 24 minutes behind Welch.

Ten Dam holds the following time gaps over his nearest rivals:

Thomas Dekker and Kenneth Karaya – 23 minutes

Jordan Schleck and Alvaro Galindo – 36 minutes

John Kariuki and Edwin Keiya – 45 minutes

Tom Oosterdijk – 46 minutes

Finley Newmark held high expectations leading into stage 1, but the reality of Africa confronted him and he sits in 25th at 1 hr 47 from the lead.

Other women who will be chasing Welch up the steep hills and into the clouds are April Kelley at 1hr 48 behind, and Nicola Greene, who needs to make up 1 hr and 52 minutes.

Rwanda is a powerhouse of African road cycling. It hosts the annual Tour du Rwanda and produces some of the continent’s strongest riders. Most of the Rwandans struggled on stage 1 and their best result was Jean Eric Habimana, who finished 13th, 1 hour 6 minutes off the lead. Attacks are expected from the Rwandans in stage 2.

Stage 1 introduced riders to the reality of off-road cycling in Africa, and stage 2 will be even harder.

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Laurens Ten Dam creates history at Migration Gravel Race.

Laurens Ten Dam of the Netherlands has won the first ever stage of the Migration Gravel Race in a gruelling day of mechanical and navigational disasters that claimed many riders, including Ian Boswell. Ten Dam attacked into the headwind at the end of the stage to finish ahead of Kenyans Suleiman Kangangi and Kenneth Karaya, while Boswell finished 15th.

Ten Dam joined the leading pack as the race passed through local villages of the Maasai Mara region, alongside compatriot Thomas Dekker, as well as Jordan Schleck, Alvaro Galindo, Edwin Keiya and Tom Oosterdijk. Dekker finished strongly in 4th, just 23 minutes behind the leader and just ahead of a host of East African riders.

No one was surprised to see a Dutchman excel in the wind, but those watching live, and via the internet, were shocked to see Boswell so far behind throughout the stage and at the finish line. Boswell and Kangangi both punctured about six kilometres into the race. Kangangi was able to fix his puncture fairly quickly, but Boswell’s was more complicated and he was separated from the leaders. Boswell apparently punctured a second time and his day turned into a disaster.

Kangangi set off in pursuit of the lead group and just as he was about to make contact, Ten Dam used the racing smarts which carried him to top 10 finishes at Le Tour and La Vuelta, and launched his attack. Kangangi then picked off the lead riders one by one, including Karaya, who is riding the race on a hardtail mountain bike.

Jordan Schleck, who is from Uganda and not Luxembourg, rode home in sixth despite his own major mechanical mishap. A bolt from his gear shifter fell off on the rough rocky roads and the entire shifter almost landed in his spokes. He crossed the line with his gear shifter attached to the handlebars of his mountain bike with a zip tie.

Galindo battled stones, mechanical issues and a minor injury on his way to fifth place, while Kenyan Edwin Keiya finished 7th, just edging out the third Dutchman, Tom Oosterdijk. Kenya took 6 of the first 15 positions, with John Kariuki in 9th, Geoffrey Langat in 13th and Bobby Joseph 14th.

Masaka Cycling Club in Uganda is celebrating the achievements of their two inexperienced riders competing against some of the world’s best. Wasswa Peter finished 10th, just 3 minutes ahead of Kato Paul in 11th. Rwandan riders are expected to perform well over the four stages, but their sole representative near the top of the leaderboard is Jean Eric Habimana in 12th.

Stage 1 took riders through local villages, challenging rocky sections and a section featuring steep climbs, with a total of 1650m elevation. A stage which appeared moderate on paper proved very difficult in reality, as some riders found themselves completely off course and enjoyed their own private wildlife safari before rejoining the race.

Ten Dam enters stage two with a 15 minute lead over Kangangi, with Karaya 22 minutes behind, Dekker 23 minutes and Spaniard Galindo 35 minutes back. Boswell has three more stages to make up a deficit of 1hr 19 minutes. Such a large deficit could see a significant attack from the American on stage 2, which is the Queen’s stage of 160km with a total of 3200m of climbing.

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