From Kenya to Gippsland

An international flavour will pervade this year’s Lakes Oil Tour of Gippsland with an all-African eight-man team in the mix.

Inspired by the success of Kenyan long distance runners, the cycling team was founded in Iten, Kenya a small town renowned for producing world class marathon athletes.

Headlined by Tour of Rwanda podium finisher John Njoroge, the team is in the midst of its first Australian venture, following two years of competition in Europe and Africa, and has already contested the Santos North West Tour and a series of club events in Murwillumbah.

Australian-born head coach Rob Higley, who worked in Africa for 25 years coaching endurance runners, said the Tour of Gippsland was another stepping stone toward the long term goal of entering a Kenyan team in the Tour de France.

“It’s a really big dream and it may take a decade, I guess we just want to get into international cycling and we’re trying to bring them as much experience as possible,” Higley said.

“We went (to Europe) because there was a lot of extreme climbing events and we hit that so hard over the last two years I was afraid if we kept doing that we were going to destroy (the cyclists).

“Coming to Australia offers us a lot of shorter, faster events. A lot of criteriums, time trials and not such extreme climbing. (It’s) a chance to see how fast they can get against national class riders, state class riders and even club level riders.”

The Kenyans were competitive in the North West Tour, but Higley anticipated a tougher test in Gippsland.