Kenyan riders celebrate Froome's Tour success
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Kenyan riders in yellow jerseys stood with their arms held high and fists clenched in triumph on Sunday in Nairobi. One performed a risky handstand on his bike in an acrobatic celebration along the dusty streets of Chris Froome's home city.
Members of Froome's first cycling club lifted their sodas and beers and cheered as they watched the Kenya-born Froome on television toast his current team with a glass of champagne during the Tour de France's final stage in Paris.
The riders from the Safari Simbaz club stamped their feet on the wooden floors to celebrate Froome's first Tour victory.
"For his great achievement, we are going to a have a great party with a ride through the routes Froome loved to trek in while he was in Kenya,'' said David Kinjah, his first cycling mentor. "Chris Froome's victory has energized us.''
Even before the largely ceremonial last stage Sunday when Froome clinched the Tour title at the Champs-Elysees, hundreds of Kenyan riders had already celebrated with a procession of their own through Nairobi. Thousands of miles from Paris, about 300 cyclists followed the parade led by the dreadlocked Kinjah in a yellow shirt. He helped Froome, then a skinny schoolboy, ride the hills just outside the city.
Some of the celebrating riders, like Kinjah, wore helmets, sunglasses and sleek cycling clothes. Others just wore shorts and sneakers. All were smiling.
"It is not a race guys, OK?'' Kinjah said. "We are just celebrating the yellow jersey.''
The joyous procession reflected what turned into an expected ceremonial ride for Froome and his Sky teammates to his title, the pinnacle for a rider who first learned his trade with Kinjah in Kenyan hills and valleys surrounded by coffee and tea plantations. Now, Froome has reached the summit of his sport on the famous boulevards of the French capital in the 100th edition of the Tour.
"It's a great feeling, you know, and it is beyond what words can say. It is very humbling and it is great,'' Kinjah said. "We can feel the energy all the way from France being transferred to us here in Kenya.''
Schooled in Nairobi and later South Africa, Froome represented Kenya as a professional cyclist before taking the nationality of his British parents. But in Kenya, where distance running and soccer far outstrip cycling for popularity, the riders have claimed his triumph as historic for his original country. They are calling him Kenya's first Tour winner.
"It's so strong, so amazing. It's a wonderful, wonderful feeling,'' Kinjah said. "It's just unbelievable. Beautiful, beautiful. It's going to change a lot of things for sure, not only in Kenya but all over Africa.''
After their procession, Kinjah and other riders from Safari Simbaz cycling club gathered to see the finish on television. They'd watched every stage of the two-week trek and cheered Froome through every time trial and climb of his dominant Tour.
Froome didn't forget his roots. He rode with a Kenyan flag on his bike and sent a message on Twitter during the race to promote Safari Simbaz.
"I hope that energy will carry these young men to great achievements,'' said Kinjah, pointing to the younger riders of Safari Simbaz.
AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed from Johannesburg.
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