Tour de Machakos: A Small Town Vying to Become a Cycling Mecca

It’s a well known fact that Kenya has some of the best (if not the best) runners in the world. Now, we might also be in the process of training some of the best cyclists.

Machakos, a small town 56 kilometers southeast of Nairobi, is vying to become East Africa’s most challenging cycling hub. The town is at elevations of 1,000 to 1,600 meters above sea level and riding here is anything but effortless. For this very reason, Kenya’s biggest road race, the annual “Tour de Machakos,” was hosted here last week for the second consecutive year.

This year’s race saw over 130 registered cyclists – doubling the amount of last year’s entrants. Among the entrants was Cyrus Wambua, 23, who was born and raised in Machakos and has been cycling since he was a child. Wabua said that his mother inspired him to pick up the sport.

“My mother got inspired by that strong guy from Tour de France, the Lance Armstrong,” Wambua told VOA News recently. “So I used to read documentaries and when we were a small kid, they used to tell us that one day you’ll race like Armstrong.”

The race’s organizer Alex Tibwitta is convinced that Machakos is the ultimate location for cycling. He says that Machakos has it all: nice hills, well-maintained roads, good descents and a supportive community.

“I’m pretty confident that with the right nurturing, this is definitely the best place to base a sort of cycling in Kenya,” he said, noting that the race covers over 400 kilometers around Machakos County. “And probably in East Africa.”

Professional Kenyan cyclists Samuel Ekiru, 27, and Joyce Nyarurii, 33, won this year’s races superiorly. But in a place like Machakos, winning is not everything.

“I like cycling so much because as a sport, it always keeps you busy in that you avoid bad company, don’t take drugs…it’s a source of living,” Wambua said. “You can earn something from the cycling event and you push your family, you do your things, and that’s all.”

Originally from Sweden, Chris is a journalist with an extensive interest for African culture and the arts.