Prominent figures in the worlds of cycling, entertainment, and politics are paying tribute to Sule Kangangi, the Kenyan cyclist who was killed in a crash during the Vermont Overland gravel race on Saturday.
“Heartbreaking,” wrote Chris Froome,a four-time Tour de France winner, on Twitter. “My thoughts are with Sule’s friends and family. RIP Sule Kangangi.”
Kangangi, 33, crashed at high speed during the 59-mile race, which looped through West Windsor, Reading, and Cavendish, Vt. Race organizers offered their condolences Sunday to Kangangi’s loved ones and supporters.
“Vermont Overland is completely heartbroken by the tragic death of Suleiman ‘Sule’ Kangangi during The Overland yesterday,” said Vermont Overland director Ansel Dickey in a statement. “He was a kind friend and an inspiring and heroic athlete to his teammates and the gravel cycling community at large. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, his friends, Team Amani, and the people of Kenya who are mourning his loss today.”
Kangangi was riding in his fourth and final race of his team’s American tour, according to his team, Team Amani. He competed in races in Colorado and Nebraska with teammates John Kariuki and Jordan Schleck on other weekends in August.
“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 realization of his dream,” Team Amani said in a statement posted on Instagram and Facebook.
“Sule is our captain, friend, brother,” the team said. “He is also a father, husband, and son. Gaping holes are left when giants fall. Sule was a giant.”
Over the weekend, Kenyan sports commentator Sean Cardovillis said he was devastated to learn Kangangi had died.
“Waking up to terrible news this morning,” he posted on Twitter. “Kenya’s top cyclist has died in the USA while competing in a gravel race in Vermont. This chap was seen as the successor to the legend David Kinjah, the man who discovered Chris Froome in Kenya. RIP Sule Kangangi.”
Kangangi’s death marked another tragic loss for the close-knit off-road cycling community, already grieving the death of Mo Wilson, a Dartmouth University graduate and prominent gravel cyclist who was fatally shot in Texas days before a race she’d been favored to win.
An Austin, Texas woman, Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, was arrested in June in Costa Rica on a fugitive warrant charging her with first-degree murder in Wilson’s slaying. Armstrong has pleaded not guilty and is being held on $3.5 million bond.
Kangangi was a well-known athlete in his home country, with Rachel Ruto, the wife of President-Elect William Ruto, writing on Twitter that “Kenya has lost a champion.”
“My heartfelt condolences to his family, and the entire cycling community, that has lost a talented cyclist, a mentor, and a friend,” she wrote.
Critical Mass Nairobi, a cycling advocacy group, said it has “lost a hero,” and filmmaker Mbithi Masya, co-founder of the NBO Film Festival, remembered the cyclist as “really something else.”
“And he was just getting started,” Masya wrote. “He inspired many on that bike.”
An online fund-raiser for Kangangi’s family had raised more than $40,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Sule Kangangi was not only the Captain of Team AMANI but also a leader in African cycling,” the fund-raising page stated. “His dream of bringing East African cycling to the world was becoming a concrete reality these last few weeks as he had the opportunity to race in the US for the first time (Leadville 100, SBT GRVL, Gravel Worlds, and Vermont Overland).”
Kangangi’s teammates were grief-stricken by his death, the message said.
“After the final race of this inaugural US visit, when the team should have been celebrating John Kariuki’s win and Jordan Schleck’s 3rd place, we find ourselves in mourning, grappling with the huge loss of a great cyclist and tremendous human being,” the appeal said. “Please give generously to support Sule’s family as they grieve and bear the short- and long-term costs of losing a dear husband and father.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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