The founders of Migration Gravel Race aim to encourage cycling tourism in Kenya’s Massai Mara National Reserve while supporting sub-Saharan athletes through squads like Amani Racing Team. By offering something outside the usual safari and hotel tourism in the region, promoters hope to create a new revenue stream with local residents directly involved in the event decisions and planning processes.
According to a quote on the race site, “East African cyclists come across a lot of bottlenecks when it comes to competing in international cycling races. We are trying to break down these barriers for the purpose of making cycling more inclusive and accessible, to men, women, and children.”
The Migration Gravel Race will cover 650 kilometers (404 miles), stretched between four days of semi-supported racing. The Massai Mara National Reserve is by no means flat, with average daily elevation gains of 1,900 meters (6,234 feet) for the four stages, totaling 8,000m (26,247 feet) of ascent. While entries for this year’s race are nearly closed, there are hopes for the event to grow in 2022. There are also hopes that one of our editors will experience the race first hand. Entry fees are €650 for locals and €950 for international competitors.
The four-stage event rolls over singletrack, gravel, across fields, and through towns, all planned by a team of adventure-tourism experts who have been curating experiences in the region for over ten years. The course is semi-supported, and organizers have taken great precautions to make sure the athletes are safe as they cross the home of a diverse wildlife population. Riders will receive a safety briefing and GPS tracking device, and the courses will be dotted with supply points for fuel with rangers to help guide the way.
The race promoter we spoke with said that the local Kenyan riders have a clear advantage given their expert bike handling skills. They have been pedaling heavy city bikes through this same dirt on their way to school since they were kids, and apparently, their technical bike prowess is quite remarkable.
Team Amani and the Migration Gravel Race were founded by an American human rights lawyer who regularly works in the region and is pushing diligently to support local athletes. One aim of the team is to give east African athletes a pipeline to professional MTB and road racing around the globe. A second goal is to work alongside locals to build bike tourism that doesn’t require additional farming, construction, or vehicles in the pristine reserve environment. Watch out for an in-depth interview with the race founder in the coming weeks.