TEAM AMANI: AFRICA RISING
Introducing Team Amani and their mission to break the glass ceiling for African riders.
We are not about a right way or a wrong way but a new way! I want the world to know Africa is rising!”
Team Amani are a seriously competitive team made up of riders from East Africa and Europe who are only at the start of their journey. If their first couple of years are anything to go by, that journey is one we will want to be along for the ride on. At BUFF®, we are proud to be part of that and excited by the future for this impressive team of riders.
Less than 2% of WorldTour pros are African. Team Amani is removing the barriers that have prevented Africa from reaching the top before.
MBOGI AMANI - Mbongi translates as the word for crew or gang.
Many things are unique about Team Amani, not the least of which is the back story of their founder Mikel Delagrange. In his previous job at the Hague as a human rights lawyer, he spent a considerable amount of time in East Africa working. Like all cycling enthusiasts, he always looked for opportunities to ride on his travels. He immediately recognized the depth of talent in East Africa and the difficulties of reaching the top levels without being able to compete in Europe.
Maybe there is something unique about cycling in the sense that you're not in a kind of protected space. When you are riding your bike all over the world, you know, you're kind of vulnerable. And so, perhaps that experience makes you more susceptible or more open to your environment”
The team is spread across two continents and four countries, with a base in The Hague and clubs in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. One of the first people on board was team Captain Sule Kangangi who had spent several years on a pro team in Germany but had returned to Kenya shortly before the Covid pandemic hit. In common with many of his fellow East African riders, Sule had trained for years to compete in road races. Still, the lack of opportunities and the difficulty of traveling to Europe or the US proved an insurmountable barrier.
If we are serious about wanting to live in a better world, then we really need to expand that experiential space, to remove the barriers and have a human connection with people who are different. The extent that you can foster that kind of thing, even if it's in this micro space of cycling, is important, but it starts here. ”
Gravel makes a natural difference
Until recently, no matter how talented young riders in places like Rwanda or Kenya were, the chance to compete at UCI events was a very slim one. In the gravel world, however, things are a little different, and it’s in that sphere, along with mountain biking, that Team Amani has found their natural habitat.
Gravel is just more natural to us in Africa. I open my door; it’s just gravel outside, so I find it more natural for me than being on the road. We have more gravel than tarmac roads in Kenya. And now that we have established our Migration Gravel race, we are opening up that experience to the rest of the world”
Sule and Nancie Akinyi, the team’s lead female rider, are united in their team’s fierce ambition and deep commitment to nurturing younger, less experienced riders. Nancie wears her position as a role model to young female riders lightly alongside her ambitions to compete in the Olympics.
I always want to tell young female riders, especially here in East Africa, DO NOT GIVE UP! Everything will come together if you keep working at it because you can only win something if you're at the start line”
They are determined to see Team Amani succeed and are aware that raw talent is not enough unless it’s adequately nurtured and that sponsorship from companies like BUFF® is an essential part of taking things forward. They are serious competitors on an international level, not a local one. Their ultimate goal is to win, showing the rest of the world that East Africa is a cycling powerhouse to be reckoned with. We can’t wait to watch.
There will be races where we don't succeed. But let that be because we made mistakes, not because we didn't even get a chance. Now, we have good partners on board; basically, it's time for us to put up”