The cycling world was in mourning over the weekend after the news broke that leading Kenyan professional cyclist Suleiman ‘Sule’ Kangangi died after a heavy crash during a gravel race in the United States on Saturday.
33-year-old Kangangi, a pioneering figure in Kenyan gravel racing after a decade of success on the road, was racing the Vermont Overland race as part of the newly formed Team Amani, a squad of off-road racers from Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
Kagangi was one of the driving forces behind both the Team Amani project and the growth of gravel racing in Kenya, spearheading the Migration Gravel Series, which has attracted the likes of Laurens ten Dam and Ian Boswell to the country’s off-road events, as well as mentoring and developing the talents of Kenya’s new generation of aspiring racers.
Before turning his attention to the dirt, Kangangi raced for UCI Continental squad Bike Aid on the road and finished on the podium of the 2017 Tour of Rwanda.
“I’ve always had a dream of going to the Tour de France,” he told VeloNews last year. “When I started cycling, that was the dream. But now I’m 32, that dream is fading quickly.
“But I realized, I’m used to these gravel roads, this is part of me. I don’t have to go find them. If I want to go training, I just take my gravel bike and I’m already there. It shows, you can always change your dreams. You start imagining yourself winning. Why not change my dream and go for something which is realistic for me?”
Team Amani yesterday paid tribute to their “giant” Kangangi following his tragic death.
“Sule is our captain, friend, brother. He is also a father, husband and son. Gaping holes are left when giants fall. Sule was a giant.
“Instead of leading us at the front of the pack, he will now lead us as our guiding pole star as we press forward in the realisation of his dream.”
Rachel Ruto, wife of Kenya’s president-elect William Ruto, tweeted: “My heartfelt condolences to his family, and the entire cycling community, that has lost a talented cyclist, a mentor and a friend. We will all miss him as an individual. Kenya has lost a champion. Rest in peace Sule.”
Leading pros, such as Kenyan-born Chris Froome and off-road star Lachlan Morton, who raced with Kangangi in multiple gravel and mountain bike events, also paid tribute: