We were racing in this event when this tragedy happened. The feeling in the restaurant after the stage is one I cannot put into words. You hear about riders dying all the time – it’s a part of what we do and we know that, somewhere, at the back of our minds – but when it happens so close it is something else.
We were there when the Kenyan Riders manager, Rob Higley, gave an incredibly moving speech about the founding of this remarkable team, and about how they found their first riders, having their portly founder be carried up a local mountain on the back of these kids’ delivery bikes to see if they could beat a set time.
By all accounts, the lad who died, John Njoroge Muya, was a good man. He not only looked after his own family on his salary but also looked after 4 nephews and nieces. We know that riders pass all the time, and we know that in many cases their families suffer not only spiritually but also financially, but this is one case that we felt especially because we were there, and it is one chance for those of us who were present to give something back.
The John Njoroge Muya Fund was set up largely by the amazing efforts of Tom Simonson, Scott Lawson and the team behind the Kenyan Riders.
Below is the official press release announcing the fund, with directions on how to donate. I’ll leave you with these words from Tom:
“If you are moved to donate, or even just help spread the word about this, especially if you are a cyclist and know folks you think will care, that’s greatly appreciated.
“And if not, that’s ok too, I know that there are so, so many worthy causes out there, and money is tight on top of that all around. But if you take one thing away from this, it’s yet another reminder of the value of living and loving fully, richly, and deeply however that looks and feels to you – cause we’re all on a very slender thread here.”
John Njoroge Muya, 29, died as a result of injuries sustained after a collision with an oncoming car on the afternoon of October the 19th at the Tour of Matabungkay, a three-day stage race in the Philippines.
A member of the Kenyan Riders cycling team, Njoroge was leading after winning the opening time trial. It was his first time ever to wear the leader’s jersey in a race. In the official statement that marked Njoroge’s passing, his coach, Rob Higley, said that Njoroge had been overcome with pride when he pulled on his yellow jersey at the start of day two.
Njoroge hailed from Kenya’s Central Province and got his start in cycling by carrying 50kg milk containers up to fifty kilometers from his home on the family bike, providing an strong endurance base for his professional career.
Njoroge’s best previous result was third overall at the 2012 UCI Tour of Rwanda. He had recently competed in both the time trial and road race at the Commonwealth Games.
Sadly, Njoroge leaves behind a wife and a one year-old baby boy.
A fund has been set up to assist Njoroge’s family, the proceeds from which will go not only to assisting those Njoroge leaves behind but also (if immediate needs are met) to create a scholarship program in Njoroge’s name that will fund secondary education costs for promising young Kenyan riders.
The hope is that these funds will allow these young people to attend school while training and racing with the Kenyan Riders squad.
The fund, hosted by MoreThanSport.org, was created by cyclists who participated in the race alongside Njoroge and his team. It will be overseen and supervised by members that include the founders of the Kenyan Riders, their main financial supporters as well as the team manager and coach, with further direction from the creators of the fund.
To date some $2,373 of the target of $20,000 has been raised.
Please go to http://www.morethansport.org/partner/kenyanriders to learn more about how to make donations.
More can be read about Njoroge’s remarkable start to his cycling career (and indeed about the remarkable story behind the genesis of the team) on the official Kenyan Riders website. You can also show support by going along to the Kenyan Riders facebook page.