This is interesting and fun

In spite of these conditions, 21-year old Florence Nakaggwa is out training in the outskirts of Masaka, a town 80 miles south-west of the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

She cycles between 30-60 miles (50-100km) each day, switching from tarmac to the red soil of village roads.

Earlier this year, Nakaggwa became Uganda’s first female rider to receive a professional cycling contract, signing with Team Amani, a racing collective fiercely pushing for inclusivity for riders across east Africa. Based in the Netherlands it has sister clubs in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda.

The team provides her with 900,000 Ugandan shillings (about £200) a month, equipment, clothing and representation at races around the globe.

Now, I’m not all that sure about what is really required for bicycle racing. In the physical sense that is. Yes, obviously, some ghastly level of fitness and willingness to train and all that. And I’d guess the equipment and at least a modicum of decent roads etc.

I could be persuaded though into believing that what is required for cycling is not that far away from that required for long distance running – lungs and hearts. Which would make those upland areas of East Africa a natural recruiting area.

So, anyone who knows more about this than me want to weigh in? Are we going to see cycling teams scouring as the football lot have been doing these past few decades?

19 thoughts on “This is interesting and fun”

  1. welllll….. yes and no…
    Thing is, professional cycling doesn’t pay that much. Not a shade of the salaries seen in soccer, and that’s for the Big Boys. Girls even worse, of course.
    And the ones that do become professionals have been training since they were little tykes, survived their Amateur Days, and have been scouted.

    There’s an overlap in requirements/training with endurance sports, but it’s still pretty specific, and outside of ..well.. a couple of european countries, the sport doesn’t have much status. It’s not unlike cricket or rugby in that sense.

    As for the “highland advantage”… Almost all the serious teams do a fair part of their training high up in Spain, France, or Italy. For obvious reasons.. And if the team doesn’t, individual rider will..
    So not much to be gained Out Of Africa there…

    My bet is part of this particular case is the “inclusivity” thing, with an extra heaping of Do-Gooderism.

  2. Nothing conclusive, of course, but IIRC the cyclists on “Superstars” were hopeless at other sporting activities- they could hardly walk it seemed! ISTM that that goes against the likely skill set of East Africans, for biological and environmental reasons. They may have the heart and lungs, but do they have the power? Dunno.

  3. Someone does something most of us would consider to be a ‘hobby’ but one they enjoy and are relatively good at wants to get paid for doing so.

    Same as Olympians and all the other assorted ‘athletes’..

  4. One requirement for a cyclist that hasn’t been mentioned so far is power they can put onto the pedals and the power to weight ratio. It’s expressed in watts and watts/kg. Pro cyclists’ power stats are freakish compared to normal folk. And it’s not just absolute max power – it’s the power level that can be sustained over long hours and then repeated daily for weeks.

  5. Hamstring and quad endurance, lots of slow twitch muscle. @Geoffers has it right. Good cyclists have nothing upper body. Unless they’re track sprinters…

    I’m fit can walk and run well, but the switch to cycling was a real shock. I’m still trying to persuade my hamstrings they want to work *that* hard for such a long time. Particularly uphill.

  6. I saw an interview with Hoy ( or someone) and he said that track and road cyclists are radically different in their builds and can’t easily cross over. It is something to do with the explosive nature of track against the endurance of road.

    To this end. I suppose that Africans would fall into the same categories as in other sports. The more muscular, shorter tendoned Westerners would make good track cyclists and the Easterners who live on mountains and require less oxygen would do the road work.

    Anyway it boils down to opportunity – pro cycling is a pretty expensive sport and GB is successful because lottery money pours into it. It is an advantage of money and technology that the West has over other parts of the world.

  7. Cycling 30-60 miles a day doesn’t seem significant for a “professional”. On the Tour de France they average about 100 miles a day for 3 weeks.

    A friend of mine in his mid to late 50s works part time and cycled 11,000 miles last year. Mostly with his older cycling buddies. That puts him averaging 30 miles per day.

  8. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    Big difference between track and endurance. The former being the only sport I ever had any natural ability at. When younger I used to love going out, my tubby body atop humongous thighs, on a steel framed (!) racer, to overtake lycra louts. I’d let them pass again then repeat.

    For everything else, there’s Mastercard.

  9. Which sports are most boring: distance running, swimming, cycling?

    Which most interesting: rugby, cricket, football?

  10. Dearieme – you’re describing triathlon! I’ll admit it’s not the most thrilling spectator sport but it’s fascinating and challenging to compete in. In my case,why be shit at one sport when I can be shit at 3?

    I completed an “Ironman” triathlon this year. That’s not relevant to the discussion but it’s something I’m very proud of… 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile hilly bike ride and then a full marathon. In one day.

  11. What’s required for Tour de France levels of cycling is freakishly large thighs. Presumably there’s a genetic component to how easy this is to achieve, so since human genetic variation is greatest in Africa, it’s plausible you’ll find the makings of champions there – though there’s no reason to suspect that it’ll be large regions full of suitable candidates. And, of course, suitable genes are not sufficient – you also need equipment and lots of training. Otherwise they might end up as doctors, lawyers, farmers, or anything else.

  12. “human genetic variation is greatest in Africa”: this is one of those true statements that’s designed to mislead. The variation comes mainly from a few tiny tribes: Bushmen & Hottentots in South Africa, Pygmies in the Congo, and Hadza in Tanzania. Apart from the Hottentots who are (or were) herders, they’re all hunter-gatherers.

    I’ll bet that none of those peoples are practicing professional cycling.

    (I’m assuming that even the cheating twats who advertise that sort of argument exclude the white men of North Africa and the Malays of Madagascar. Though I wouldn’t bet on it.)

  13. What was the name of that rapper bird who played the White House’s crytsal flute ? She had pretty scarily big thighs.

  14. Ironman champion Chrissy Wellington spent a lot of time cycling in the Himalayas before taking up triathlon.

  15. A: pro teams are indeed starting to recruit in Northeast Africa. A light muscular body with a high capacity for oxygen absorption is just the thing.
    B: track cyclists have been “emerging” from West Africa for decades but haven’t really got quite there. Track cyclists probably have a stronger emotional need for being part of a culture than road racers. They can’t train alone the way road racers can.

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