Nancie Akinyi wins the inaugural Migration Gravel Race.

Nancie Akinyi of Kenya has won the inaugural Migration Gravel Race in Kenya in a time of 30:41:33 ahead of Betsy Welch of The USA and Dorien Geertsema of the Netherlands. Welch finished in 30:49:58 and Geertsema recorded a total time of 33:32:24.

Akinyi won three of the four stages on her way to victory but still had a considerable gap to close entering the final day. She trailed Welch by 20 minutes after Welch had won the brutal first stage and established a lead of more than 40 minutes.

Akinyi won the Queen’s stage with an impressive display of climbing to conquer the 3000m of elevation, then took further time away from the American with another powerful ride on the short and fast stage 3.

Akinyi and Welch were both lost throughout the race. Akinyi strayed off course on day 1 and 2, and lost time navigating her way back onto the trail. Welch was lost inside her own mind, asking publicly if she cared or didn’t care about winning, and whether or not she is competitive. She can be certain of the silver medal she takes home from Kenya.

The final stage would decide the overall winner in the women’s category. Welch enjoyed a 20 minute lead over the Kenyan, and Akinyi charged through the 160km stage with determination. She didn’t stop at the first feed station, and slowly chipped away at the time gap. Behind her, Welch was suffering with a chain that kept slipping off. Akinyi eventually won the stage by almost 30 minutes, and grabbed the gold medal.

Behind the two leaders, Geertsema and companion Mieke Luten rode together and supported each other throughout the first two stages. At the end of stage 3 and 4, however, Geertsema found more strength in her legs and rode away from her compatriot to claim the final position on the podium, while Luten finished 4th in 34:59:37.

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.