On the world cycling stage, competitors from the continent of Africa are nowhere near their counterparts from the powerhouses of Europe and North America.
Grand tours like the Tour de France are very much run like massive corporations - the teams that compete in these races are incredibly wealthy, their gear is space-age with regards to the advanced technologies used and every calorie the riders consume is measured and recorded.
Riders from Africa cannot compete against the global benchmark.
But then there is gravel racing - a new genre of the sport (not road racing, not mountain biking, but riding bikes on dusty, gravel roads) that is disrupting traditional cycling.
In gravel racing circles, all of a sudden the playing field is a bit more even and Africa sure does have a lot of beautifully gnarly gravel roads.
Introducing the Migration Gravel Race in the Maasai Mara
This month, the Migration Gravel Race (MGR) brought together 100 of the world’s top cyclists in a four-day showdown on the rocky, red dirt roads of Kenya’s Maasai Mara. With a third of the entrants from east Africa, it was a rare opportunity for the region’s riders to show they can rival the best.
Against a backdrop of acacias and euphorbia candelabra trees, amid the zebras, giraffes, impalas and wildebeest of the savannah, the four-day race takes riders along 650km of rough roads, climbing above 3,000 metres. Each day, before the course is cleared by Maasai motorcycle sweepers, dressed in their traditional red plaid blankets, a helicopter goes ahead to check for elephants and buffalo.
Gravel racing is like packaged adventure, and where else in the world is there a better adventure to be had than in Africa.
The takeout from this is when the odds are stacked against you - resist the urge to play the game by somebody else's rules. Start from where you are and invite others to come play your game, with your rules.
Playing to the continent's obvious strengths should be the automatic default of any African brand's differentiation effort.
Here's to this, and other unique sporting adventures on the continent, going from strength to strength.