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EF Education-NIPPO ready to race

By Cape Epic, 10/15/21, 6:15PM HST


Kenya’s Kenneth Karaya has stepped up to race alongside EF Education-Nippo’s Lachlan Morton at the 2022 Absa Cape Epic. In doing so, the 25-year-old follows in the tyre tracks laid down by legends of the Untamed: David Kinjah and Davidson Kamau Kihagi.

Lachlan Morton had been set to ride with Alex Howes, but a broken finger put pay to the American’s dreams of taking on the Absa Cape Epic. This left Morton in search of a partner, which soon led him to Kenneth Karaya. A member of Team Amani, a bicycle racing team which focuses on more than just winning bike races, which recently rose to prominence through their involvement with the Migration Gravel Race, in the Maasai Mara. 

“Alex [Howes] and I were devastated when we heard he’d be unable to race” Morton recounted. “It wasn’t easy to find motivation to search for a new partner when we’ve been on this journey so long. Kenneth [Karaya] has been racing with Team Amani, whose programme I’m familiar with. I know they really need racing opportunities. So, I figured it would be a perfect match and reached out hoping it would work out. I’m really looking forward to racing with Kenneth and it gives me a renewed appreciation for what a privilege it is to have to opportunity to race here.”

Karaya, like Morton, is a multi-discipline cyclist. The 25-year-old had a symbolic passing of the torch moment in June when he beat Kenyan and Absa Cape Epic legend, David Kinjah, to the Sokoke Forest Mountain Bike title. Kinjah, and Davidson Kamau Kihagi, played pivotal roles in the first five editions of the Untamed African MTB Race. The pair became well-known for long-range attacks; which though spectacular in nature, sadly failed to ever yield a stage victory.

“Yeah, Sokoke is local race and I managed to win” Karaya smiled. “I had participated in it before and finished 5th so this time round I was really happy to win. I know quite a bit about the Absa Cape Epic. Kinjah and Kamau [Kihagi] raced 5 consecutive editions on their used aluminium bikes, no tubeless set-ups and with normal brake pads – which they said was quite the struggle because their brake pads would wear out on long descents! Despite those challenges, they still managed to finish in the top 20, which is not bad! It has been a real benefit for me to be able to learn from their experiences before heading to South Africa.”

“Mountain biking is growing in Kenya… just slowly” he continued. “We are getting more races every year, which is a good sign. However, the Migration Gravel Race is one-of-a-kind. It’s the first race to bring the best riders in the world to Kenya and it was huge for me personally; because I never had the opportunity, before, to race with big guys like Ian Boswell. It was a big boost to professional cycling in general in Kenya.”

“For me, to race the Absa Cape Epic is a huge opportunity! It's something I really used to dream about” Karaya added. “Racing beside a legend, like Lachlan [Morton], is really unbelievable. What I know for sure is that this will be an unforgettable experience, that it will be hard and that I will do my best.”