The Thunderstruck alias THITIMA ready to conquer SBITT 5
I am hours away from the year’s first cycling event. I went to see my great friend and mentor Ndatha for some last minute advices. Into the discussions, I remembered that I needed to convert my helmet into an aerodynamic helmet. I bid him farewell and raced back home with The Dopemaster. Looking at The Thunderstruck and testing the firmness of the Superman TT Bars MAK-1, I was without doubt unsure of how they will perform tomorrow for I had not yet tested them.” However way it goes, I will give it my all,” I assured myself. Air pressure check, brakes check, drivetrain check. Military Merc said he does not want to hear ‘proverbs’ from me come race day and I agreed with him on this. Last SBITT was my most challenging, not this time, no. Now, to address the headwind blockage, I had taken some used plastic water packs left behind by Mzee Kamau’s traditional dowry ceremony weeks ago. Believe me, ever seen Charles Mbugua invited me for the event a month earlier after I decided to take a year’s leave from my one true love, I was crank revived. Thinking way ahead, with great references to my past failures, my passion was re-ignited. Suffering builds character, failures build success. Using red and black insulating tape, I put my creativity skills to use. That excitement of solving problems my way entices me. Before I knew it, I had created something ….unique. I even inserted a small pipe to act as a cooling vent as I realized that hot air was getting trapped inside the almost sealed helmet. How I do such things, I don’t know, but they always work. Lights off at 12:20am, sleep is in need.
The Venom Bat Specialized TT Helmet, something unique right here
The hour of reckoning is here. Patched atmosphere of blue, white and grey, the weather favored us for now. It’s time to ride the Classic to Thogoto. I can feel the weight of the TT bars laying long and front, I’m feeling the strain as I climbed ILRI and into the A104 but this is because I’m riding my road bike for the first time in the new year (My first mistake). I get to test my aero position assisted with the bars. My long arms stretched out perfectly just as I had measured but the bolts are not as firmly tightened as expected. I with had to adjust and fix that at the start line. I entered the best of the bypasses just as two cyclists came in from Gitaru.” Are you racing?” One of them asked.” Yes I am.” “How long and how far to the start line, because we are to start at 8:31am.” He further probed.”It’s 5kms away so if we all hurry up we will make it there in 6 minutes.” I concluded as I increased my cadence. This trailer slowly passed me as it garnered speed. Draft or no draft, I chose not to. A mud track followed suit to tailgate the former, I still chose not to draft. I did what I’m good at. Hands firm and stretched out like Graehme Obree in ’93, gear ratio at 50*11 and with the gradient at 4% decline, I felt for the first time what time trail specialists feel on that air slicing posture. THITIMA became an arrow at 55kph, the air on both sides of the drop bar became like boards, stabilizing the road bike. I felt supported by invisible forces and all I had to do was push my cadence up higher. Both trucks had left me with a 70 meter gap, now I was getting closer to overtaking them. I passed the mud truck and got in front. I looked back to get the view clearance to overtake the trailer and like a joke, I overtook it with so much glee.” Whooo Hooo!!” I shouted as the trailer’s rolling wheels kept moving back with every accelerated pedal-stroke. That was all I needed to feel to be assured that my personal victory was at hand. I got 6 minutes before I get released by Alex Tibwitta. The two cyclists arrived 10 minutes after I left them.”I thought you guys were drafting behind me,” I asked with that cheeky smile of mine.”No way, you were too fast, that speed of yours we could not,” he said while shaking his head. They immediately took off after taking their race numbers.
Race number check, waiting for my countdown to rock the bypass
The air was already electrified. Hot bikes and endorphins, hyped muscles ready to test their capabilities.” Number 46!” Allan Gogo alias G.A shouted on.”Weeh Sam, hebu line up.” He added. Tibwitta was actually happy to see Thunderstruck as he is a veteran in cycling, having rode such models back in the day.”Okay Number 49, you have 10 seconds.” The countdown continues, I clip in my left boot, hands on the hoods, eyes focused like a cheetah on the hunt for some delicious impala. The countdown hits zero, I’m released and off I go, steadily gaining momentum as I approach Thogoto Drop. Gears at 50*11 once more, on aero mode and the wind blew fast and deafening. The speed bumps felt like one instead of three, a show that my speed is high. A saloon car struggles to pass me as it wants to turn left at Dagoretti Interchange. I zoom past the first group of marshalls like a blur. I attack the 7.6km segment to Ngong Road, still on aero and I’m feeling comfortable. A familiar Audio car zooms past me with passengers screaming my name.”They came, they actually came.” I reached the next segment in 9 minutes as Team Pedalpower team mates cheered me on to keep up the pace. I look back and no one was on sight.”We rock this bypass Thunderstruck,” in my mind I added, motivating myself more. The headwinds were weak as I raced against my former self. A guy tried crossing from Kibera to the other side while I’m dropping superfast. I had to yell or else 12 inches of super-flying steel bars would be embedded into his chest. I finished the second segment in 13 minutes as I passed the two Gitaru riders into the third and most challenging segment of them all: The corridor of Kamiti Plains strong winds. Our Kenya Cycling Patriot, Nicole, cheered me on. The headwinds were very calm, what a relief this was to me. I could see my 2019 self struggling in the monstrous headwinds that drained me before Ole Sereni. Now, I’m enjoying the sweet corrections of my mistakes, I’m flying to personal victory. My fastest time into the midway point was 37 minutes, I’ve got two kilometers to go and my timer is saying I’ve done 27 minutes of riding. I caught my first victim with 50 meters left to the interchange just as Amos Kamau jetted out of nowhere and used his heavy weight to rise up the bridge with ease and drop passed the descending trailer into Mombasa Road. I followed suit, succeeded and marked my time on the midway point: 31 minutes, a new fast record.
Sam and The Thunderstruck at 50kph on the 3rd segment, Ngong Road-Langata Road
I attacked the rise back to the bypass and tried catch up to Amos and that’s when I got hit by the strangest weather pattern of them all: Headwinds!! “What the hell is this? Headwinds from the West! HOW!!” I exclaimed. I was now furious, Amos just punched through it and kept distancing himself from me. Now I could feel the strains of the steel TT bars on my quads. Onto the other side, strong rides were closing the gap. Barnabas, James Gachanja, Jose Tapout , Salim Hussein, Steve Strong and many more were going to be hot on my heels. Already I was feeling half drained with 22 kilometers to go. I reached Langata Road in 41 minutes, Nicole and Dokta Jonte cheering me on to keep the pace high. I could not, I was losing my rhythm. I already saw Leakey Hero, David Ndatha, Suleiman Kangangi, Ndungu Wa Keiya, Alex Main and the remaining top champions dropping down the last segment to the turnaround.”Whatever the case, Leakey cannot catch you again,” I asserted myself, giving myself hope just as the police quickly set up a checkpoint to collect bribe money for this dry month’s general expenses. I maneuvered through and push forward. Kibera Climb slowly peeped to the left, I am in no good shape to attack it as I usually do. My calculations and expectations have turn into air as fast as fake promises from Kenyan politicians. Jose Tapout finally caught up with me and seeing him too struggle in the wind gave me morale to struggle further. It doesn’t pay well being lightweight when the wind is against you. I watched him zoom away at the slight drop after the climb with his support motorcycle chasing him. I went aero for this stretch, my knee joints starting to heat up. I used the white line to gauge myself and my pace but being mindful of the many trailers on the road with us today.”So many on a Sunday, that’s not right.” Here came James Gachanja passing me by with a 2 meter distance as if he was afraid he would knock me off. Well, he is a towering champion, I’m just a little Sam on a steel bike.
The struggle was for real, fight till the very end (Credit to Dokta Jonte)
Its now 60 minutes into the race as I reached Ngong Road. James just kept shrinking slower than Ant Man, but nevertheless, shrinking and disappearing into the green horizon. “79 minutes, will I truly make it?” I asked myself as the chances started dwindling. By now a pack of strong riders should have been passing me as if I was a beginner.”They must be suffering as well,” I said to myself. The right corner before the last major climb, Thogoto, was nearing with every drained pedal-stroke. By now the clock already reached 80 minutes.”It’s done, I cannot make it, I will have to do this climb under 6 minutes.” Here came Steve Strong, pushing his 59 year old perfectly conditioned frame on perfect aero mode. Clad in his signature skin suit, he looked like a Tiger Shark in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean on prey assault. I chased on after the seasoned warrior, Thogoto seemed to take eons to end. Each crank revolution felt like I was on Jupiter. Really slow. The last 200 meters I’d usually sprint but how, after facing the headwind demons for 20 kilometers plus. Steve already crossed the finish line to finish in 1 hour 14 minutes for a man his age. Age is officially just a number in 2020. Last 10 meters, 5 meters and I was done in 1 hour 25 minutes, my second fastest record in this event’s history.
That smile tells it all, the fun was worth the fight
Not my best but I did 23.3kms in 31 minutes dropping to Ole, that comes to 45.1kph average speed. For me, that is my victory. I came, I rode and I conquered that which I could. As for the set fastest records for both men and women, they were literary shattered. Suleiman Kangangi took the crown with 59 minutes and Joyce Nyaruri at 1 hour 20 minutes. I’m going back to the drawing board to re-invent or upgrade my winning strategy, till next year’s edition I shall be sharpening my steel claws.
If only Graehme Obree could see what I did, geniuses are worlds apart