Hailing from disadvantaged communities around Nairobi City, life for underprivileged Kenyan youths is anything but easy. However, there is one man who refuses to accept that one’s surroundings should dictate their life’s path. This man is David Kinjah, known in the world of professional cycling for being the first black rider on a European cycling team and, more recently, his discovery and training back-to-back Tour de France champion Chris Froome.
Today, Froome is viewed by his African countrymen as a source of inspiration, and it is his shining example that Kinjah uses as a testament to the ability of sport to improve one’s standing in life. Words may not be able describe Kinjah’s passion for the transformative power of cycling, but even those wouldn’t compare to what he feels is his mission to help his less fortunate countrymen.
Just as he once taught Froome, Kinjah now spends his time introducing disenfranchised youths to the benefits of cycling – an initiative he’s named the Safari Simbaz project.
“In the future there will be the Kenyan runners beating the world, but also possibly the Kenyan cyclists doing well on the world cycling stage,” says Kinjah, under whose tutelage, young athletes are trained to become professional cyclists as part of the Safari Simbaz.
Regardless of their actual ability, Kinjah makes sure that everyone involved imbibes the sport’s values of discipline, camaraderie and perseverance. In addition, Kinjah trains his charges in bike maintenance and life skills that will enable them to stand on their own two feet as guides and bike mechanics.
To date, Kinjah has dedicated over two decades of his life to professional cycling, living simply in the same tiny hut where a young David Froome would sleep on the floor between grueling training sessions. These days, the majority of Kinjah’s wages, race winnings and corporate sponsorships are spent on supporting, training, feeding, and clothing the Simbaz.
Characteristically optimistic, Kinjah holds steadfast to his dream that one of his Simbaz will follow Froome’s example and lead their nation to further successes on the international racing circuit. “Kenyan cycling is still at grassroots, and that’s a good thing because there’s not much politics. We do it at our own village level and we are happy, but the future looks bright.”
Tour De France ambitions notwithstanding, there is no denying that cycling in Kinjah’s village has grown beyond his original intentions: in teaching the Simbaz cycling and life skills, he has given his young charges something far more valuable than a means to escape poverty – he’s given them hope.