Chris Froome’s overall victory on Sunday, in the 100th Tour de France, is a huge triumph for Great Britain but perhaps many in UK do not know that much of his success goes back to his childhood in Kenya and that Froome had even ridden for Kenya in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne
With his second-place finish at the 2012 Tour de France, Chris Froome burst onto the biggest stage in professional cycling. But the career as a cyclist started thousands of miles away in a tiny village on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.
“As a child, it’s got to be one of the best places to ever grow up,You’ve got so much freedom. I had my little bike and I would go out and see my friends. I just lived an outdoor lifestyle. We were about 30 minutes from the city, out in a residential area. On weekends, my mother would take me down to the Great Rift Valley road, which is very bush. A very rural area.”
Froome started racing on a mountain bike. When he was a young teenager, he met David Kinjah, who was the captain of the Kenyan cycling team. “With dreadlocks, Kinjah was a very flamboyant character,” Froome said. “He’s the one who got the spark in me about competitive cycling.”
While it has been 15 years since those first rides, Kinjah remembers it like it was yesterday. He first took Froome on trips through the country’s mountains and planted the seed that has led to his cycling prowess.
A 12-year-old Froome, grandson of British emigrants, lived with his mother, Jane Froome, in a small apartment in Nairobi. She had no car, little money, and worked multiple jobs in order to survive. Froome became part of the Safari Simbaz, boys from the neighbourhood, mostly orphans, who Kinjah trained — and still trains — in mountain biking and road cycling, and also taught in the repair of bikes so they could sustain themselves. Froome and Kinjah hit it off remarkably well.
Kinjah is extremely proud of Froome’s results, which include second at the 2011 Vuelta a España, second at the 2012 Tour de France, an overall win at the Tour of Oman, and second overall at Tirreno-Adriatico and now the golden prize of all, the winner of 100th Tour de France 2013.
So perhaps Kenya deserves much of the credit!