The earliest bird seeks a delicious victory
I am hours away from the year’s second cycling event and still I cannot be easy and settle down with a good rest. Stormbreaker needs major adjustments so I got to work as soon as I changed into dry clothes. I checked the drivetrain, checked the STI micro-shifters’ response, heightened the saddle to my waist height only to find out its missing about 5 inches necessary for a cyclist my height.”Just my luck,” I’m now wearing a frown crown. I measured up to 2 inches shy of my waist and locked it. I would want to damage the seat clamp area just to have comfortable fun.”I’ll manage, there are many gains on this bike already,” assuring myself as I finished up by washing the bike off the mud of its previous ride. Some brown Ugali and Omena for supper, I retired for the night as James went on with his work (dude you are working too darn hard).
The Steel Sensei educating the Carbon Professors
4:15am, the alarm goes on Celsium ringtone. I snuggle the duvet for 15 more minutes before jumping out and suiting up. Knocking on Jim Button’s bedroom door, “Yo Big Man, wake up its time.” Some strong tea and the ngwashe I prepared yesterday, I was full and ready to take the race by storm on a full stomach. Steve, James’ friend was going to be our designated driver. We left for Theta Hotel by 5:58am, the roads were wet with the night’s long drizzle. I kept thinking about Tsibektican, my worry was on the flats kids finding Her and playing with Her accessories. The sun tried lifting the light clouds at the horizon, the yellow strike of light beyond Mua and Kathiani showed promise of a no rainy day. By 6:35am we reached Theta Hotel. Once again I’m the early bird here, I got to test the Garneau three times before parking it behind the tent seats near the hotel’s main entrance. Slowly, the competitors came streaming in: The elite, amateurs, beginners and joy riders. All here for one course and that was to enjoy the course. The Sun, just like yesterday, was like a big ball in a small well with a round space between it and the clouds. Hashim Zuzu, in his loud sarcasm let out his speech before we began the race of the day. He got into his car and the riders rode afterwards, being led into Kenyatta Road. He gave the hoot and with a finger snap the much anticipated race cranked into high gear.
In the peloton of Fire
For the very first time, I was in the peloton. Observing, learning, and anticipating an attack that will drop the weaker cyclists as the main peloton zoomed on. Matatus coming from Gatundu were in for a mighty surprise as they came to close contact with a multitude of very fast cyclists. We were all surprised to find recently erected bumps along the way but we acted in a bee hive mind frame and none of us fell to the anti-anticipation of route changes. I’m behind Ken Mwangi, alongside Nancy Akinyi (Champion Girl), Leakey Hero alias Mr. Thanos himself was two riders ahead of me to the left. We got to a stream of water crossing the road at the parting way that turns right. I got clever and took the right lane, intercepting the first 20 riders neatly and saving 12 seconds on the ride. This rider in front of Caleb ‘Belac’ Omwoyo braked hard and skid, nearly causing a pile of tumbling cyclists in his wake but we both maintained focused and avoided his wheel as he resumed steadiness. Now I’m remembering a race where Leakey crashed in the peloton at 63kph. I will avoid the descending peloton for my own safety. Another attack was launched and faulty gear shifting mechanics were cracking the still midland air. 15 more cyclists got dropped, detaching me from the main bunch. I could not just watch the fun ride away so I put in my practiced off-saddle attack and re-united with the sonic pack. Charles Mbugua was in the grey chase car constantly warning us to stay to the left lane (Good man). We left the flats and entered the sub climbs. I started to feel the pressure of a lower seat post so I would constantly off saddle to release pressure from my Lumbra Vertebrae (Lower back). Alas, the first turn to the left, to a scary descend. The first riders of the bunch had it easy as they accelerated fast with no distraction ahead. Their attack forced a canter coming from the other side of the valley to risking-ly halt at the right corner of the bridge. Unknowingly to me, I slowed down and let the rest dive and fly away, watched Bongo Mathao croostube-drop down and Brian Tabbz following suit. I got to pass the canter and climbed hard on 50t. Cyprine Mitchell, with her daughter in the next chase car can cheering me up. I was motivated, by my elder sister, to finish this climb like a true champion. With every strenuous pedal-stroke and my bum off the saddle I passed Tabbs for the very first time. I know it sounds amateur-ish, but it meant a lot to me as I shifted quick to hard gears and paced forward. “Good job Sam, you’ve passed Tabbs, keep it up,” said Phillip as the car backed a bit and the occupants watch my morale push Stormbreaker harder and faster. On the next descend, Tabbs had his revenge as he too crosstube-dropped past me as I tried overtaking the rider in front. Being an experienced big city cycling commuter, I had looked back before attacking and that’s how I avoided Tabbs from hitting me.”Sorry!” I exclaimed as the Bossman zoomed down and up the climb with his signature climbing style. James was waiting for me at the next turn to the right with Carol Mbutura cheering on, I hardly noticed him because here came a nduthi guy and we nearly collided at the T-junction. I was pissed and I roared in angry while sprinting up the steady climb to catch the riders ahead. Leakey was now a kilometer away, it will be impossible to catch him. “Next time Uncle, next time,” I comforted myself to accepting the defeat and switched focus on pedaling as fast as I could. I caught Samuel Kagiri and three riders stomping up the meanders of the river valley. We worked as a team as we rotated the draft plate. Sam rode to my left, “Yo Sam, si sikii vipoa, sioni kama nitaweza.“ (Yo Sam, I’m not feeling well, I don’t see myself going through with this). Instinctively, I gave my young brother my electrolyte fluid to drink. I could tell that he was surprised at what the contents of the drink were. It took only 2 minutes for the young champion to get better, his strength returned, he was ready to wreck havoc. He thanked me as we went on the slight flats.
We came to a muddy pool covering the whole road and we had to be very careful on crossing it. My cyclocross came in handy as it zoomed on to like a Land Rover 110. The pressure on my lower back started to intensify slowly so I was forced to accelerate off the saddle and left the rest behind. They caught up after a few climbs and drops and here I was advised that we work as a team and that my pace was too high. We came to the next great descend, a sense of familiarity hit me, this was the same climb I mopped half of the Ugandan Team and where Davy Ngigi’s chain jumped of his 55t chainring. “So we will ride into Ngenda and Kiamwangi, better be watchful of the speed bumps,” I said to myself. In that thought, Sam and the other two cyclists were now heading further up and away from me. “Good grief, why is this hill tough on me today?” I asked myself internally. Legit reason: Thunderstruck is a masterful climbing steel road bike with a 50/40t crank. Stormbreaker has a 50/34t crank, meaning I’m spinning and burning energy faster than I’m used to. This cost me as then came another pack, 6 riders in total. To my right, I saw the colors of the mighty Thogoto Boys, Team Velonos. Leading the climbing pack was Gabriel Ambuko followed by Brian ‘Flames’ Njuguna. And look who was wise to hang on, its Nancy. All this time I was sure that they had dropped me.” Angel Gabu,” I called Gabriel. He was in his zone of focus, I smiled and used the challenge to my advantage and span up and away, much to Charles Mbugua’s cheers of us and his team mates. I felt my quads pinch hard, the pain was near unbearable but this is what I signed for, So I sucked it up, breathed slowly to heighten my lactate threshold and continued.
Sam The-Tourist, Gabriel Ambuko, Douglas Mwangi and Brian Flames
It was now a battle of who leads the pack: Gabriel or I. Flames was wise to hang behind Gabu, only attacking where necessary. Nancy, playing smart like a leopard, stayed at second last, maintaining her energy levels for the remaining 40 kilometers. We worked our way well enough to catch up with Samuel’s pack. Since this was my first time being ahead of so many riders, I was not smart to use the pack as an energy reserve. I saw a trend of the rolling hills and I launched an attack. I love being on my own and so I challenged the bunch to catch up with me. Playing mastermind-fully with the 50/34 crank, I descended with 50 and span up with 34. At one descend, I passed Antony Kuria who had stopped apparently. I would never worry about him, why? He always catches up no matter how far you leave him, hence the reason why I nicknamed him B2Bomber. I kept on until I reached a point where it was too much: I had burned my reserve. I took a mouthful of my fluid and ate my first banana, washed my moth with pure water and stuffed my mouth with my peanut mandazis. In my saddle-on meal, Gabriel managed to pull the bunch further and further away and that’s the last time I saw them. The right turn took us down the road from Mundoro and here is where B2Bomber exerted his drop-mode proficiency. Out of nowhere, my Batman senses told me ‘look back’ and there he was, using his towering weight to gain sonic momentum. Gaining speed and utilizing his 52/42 crank to specialized brutality, he zoomed away, telling me to tag along with him. I loudly laughed and shouted at him to catch Gabu and the rest. He vanished completely, this cycling Houdini. Then on the slight bends I saw him in the middle of the road. He had dropped his bidon and he was casually letting it rolled towards him. That confidence, that brash, is truly unbelievable. Knowing that you are too powerful, you neither flinch nor worry. That’s B2Bomber for all y’all, the Velo-Muscle. And true to his bravado, 3 minutes later He was hot on my wheels. Weight and momentum to his advantage, he cruised on. 34t cannot beat 42t and 50t will wear me out at this stage of the race. He went on away and away he flew. “Uh-oh, that sensing feeling again,” I gasped and a 3 man train speed past my left. A soft voice called out,” Get me back to the bunch!” It was Nancy. “Okay…where and when did I drop you!” I was shocked but it was time to play Big Brother once again. So I went in front of her and I used the last of my sprinting power to ensure that Champion Girl gets to whoop them proper. I go to 3 feet off the third rider. “I can’t push much further, go!!” I shouted as she charged fast and hanged on to the pack. B2Bomber was now cutting along Kiganjo’s turns as company and Nancy followed in pursuit. Right turn to a descend and that was the last time I saw them all, I was left alone.
Antony Kuria alias B2Bomber and Brian Flames Njuguna
The movement of crossing persons prompted me to reveal my Critical Mass. I’m not hitting people in my favorite pass time. I se the speed bumps, the very dreadful ones that costed me my steel victory. Once bitten twice shy, I slowed down and crossed over softly. Brian Thiru on the other hand was not wise enough as I found him mending a puncture. “Is it a snake bite?” “Yes!” “I knew it!” and I zoomed away. I passed by the boda-boda stand where I had to wait for 20 minutes for someone with a pump to rescue me in Gatundu Grind 100 race. Not today, I have a personal victory to achieve. I kept looking back to see who’s on drop-mode attack: no one in sight. I came back to the new road, 57 kilometers already done and rode up the last real climb where I picked up a rider struggling hard. I heard someone breathing hard to my right, It was Archie May, a towering rider with a Kobe Bryant physique.”What are you doing here, you should have been way ahead big guy!” “Naah I’m okay, its that group that I’m running away from,” he said as he looked back. “And they are climbers…” He added. That spells doom indeed. I looked back to see who are these cyclists that have gotten Archie spooked. It was Thiru and another rider, another one was 10 meters behind and they were launching an assault on the Gathondeki Man. Damn it, I could not shake them as they reached me. We struggled to pass the rider upfront, not Archie, for he completed the last climb and he dropped away like a meteorite. The last 20 kilometers to the finish line were a test of how fast my tired legs could carry me, but they were not tired, they just lacked the juice to sprint fast. Thiru widened the gap further till it became 200 meters. It was like he knew when I shortened the gap, I off saddled only for him to reciprocate a minute later. Theta hotel looked like forever to reach and Thiru & buddy were not making things easier for me. His competitor suffered a mechanical failure and he had to walk his bike. What a humiliation, just a few kilometers to victory, and like that I took his position and crossed the finish line in 2hours 33 minutes by my timer.
82kms of torture and Sam is still smiling, Cycling is true bliss
My back was a painful sore, my intestines felt like coming out but my legs were still fresh, not backing out. I congratulated Nancy for surviving the terrific male-storm like the champion that she is. I rode back to the hotel to mingle with my fellow pain & suffering brethren, talk about who attacked who, who got dropped, how many people crashed at the muddle puddle and so on. My hopes were that I be at top 35 or 30 at best. As James and I uber-ed back to Race Course, I napped on, exhausted from a job well done, I’m going back home with my very first competitive medal (at 31 years old) proudly dangling on my neck.
On to the next one, this is truly the Age of Winning.
My very first medal, earn by sweat and hard work