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RACING IN WEST AFRICA

It might be a climb with friends, the weekend ride, or the injustice of an undeserved overtake - We’ve all felt the instinct to race. No matter who you are and where you ride, it’s universal - the spark that ignites your effort, that starts your acceleration, that drives you to be your best.

Lunsar - a small town in Sierra Leone - but home to one of Africa’s brightest and most dynamic cycling scenes. Over the past 3 years, we’ve worked with the organisers of the Tour de Lunsar to support the race, raise its profile internationally, and with it, promote cycling in Sierra Leone. Backed this year also by Science in Sport, the race was garnering attention - and set to be bigger than ever.

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BIGGER AND BETTER THAN EVER

Yet 2020 took the race by surprise. Amidst the worldwide pandemic, with international travel banned and the infrastructure of Sierra Leone stretched, the call was made to reschedule. To scale back in order to come back stronger. In April, this year, finally, riders came together on borrowed bikes and often donated kit to represent their countries, and race for glory.

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Sierra Leoneans dominate the start list, with Lunsar’s homegrown riders firm favourites - Both over the local terrain, as well as with the roaring crowds of friends and family. This year saw a handful of Ugandans, Kenyans and Liberians enter - some covering more than 8000km to come and race.

As backers of the race, Le Col have provided leaders' jerseys for each competition - and this year, we wanted to put a spotlight on the talents emerging from this little known race.

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THE RACE FOR YELLOW

It was Sorie Koroma of Lunsar Cycling Team A who took the overall victory at the Tour De Lunsar, taking home the Le Col yellow jersey with it.

Despite not taking a stage win, Koroma’s consistency ensured that he didn’t lose any significant time to his rivals, riding his way into the leader’s jersey on the final day of the race. It was a display of patience and control from the new champion who will be looking to build on this win moving forward.

Koroma said. "I felt very happy to be declared the winner of the Tour de Lunsar and to claim the yellow Le Col jersey. I am really proud of my team, LCT. In the moment of being announced as winner, I was delighted."

Though Koroma ultimately took the title, two other riders had the opportunity to race in the Le Col yellow leader’s jersey: Osman T Kalokoh (Lunsar Cycling Team A) and Abu Sheik Sesay (Lunsar Cycling Team B).

Kalokoh, known locally as OTK, wore the jersey on stage two, having taken a brilliant stage win on the first stage. Unfortunately for his overall hopes, he missed a key move and what followed was a desperate struggle to keep hold of the race lead. OTK was pictured chasing hard, often alone in his attempts to regain contact with the leaders. He couldn’t do it this time, but he will be a force to be reckoned with in future editions.

After back-to-back second place finishes on stages 1 and 2, Abu Sheik Sesay wore yellow on stage 3. Unfortunately, like Kalokoh before him, Sesay lost time and ended up conceding the jersey to Sorie Koroma, although he did manage to hold on for second overall. Having come so close, the young rider will be disappointed not to come away with anything more from this year’s Tour de Lunsar – but taking the race lead will surely give him the opportunity in the Lunsar A squad next year.

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For Ibrahim Jalloh, his stage win on day 2 is something of a full circle story after the disappointment he suffered in the 2019 edition. Having been in contention for a the win in 2019 when Tour de Lunsar was a one-day event, Jalloh was cruelly ruled out by a mechanical issue and was forced to valiantly plough on with a broken wheel, eventually finishing 19th of 40.

Part of his comeback story comes courtesy of the rollers and turbo training equipment donated last year, enabling Jalloh to train hard throughout 2020 to come back stronger and make sure 2021 was different. With his commanding victory on the longest stage of the Tour de Lunsar, 2021 has already been bigger and better for the Lunsar A rider. Jalloh was a popular winner on the day and proves that persistence and hard work will eventually pay off.

THE RACE LEADERS

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The Le Col Blue Jersey

Perhaps the closest-fought battle of the entire week came in the women’s race and the hunt for the Le Col blue jersey. After forcing themselves away from the main group, reigning champion Isata Sama Mondeh and challenger Deborah Conteh came into Lunsar together. This meant that a two-up sprint would be on the menu for the huge crowd to enjoy. In the end it was Mondeh who successfully defended the Le Col blue jersey that she won in 2019 with Conteh settling for second yet again. It was a marked improvement for Conteh though, bringing the margin much closer than in previous years. If the trend continues, Mondeh is going to have her work cut out in holding off her rival in 2022.

The Le Col White Jersey

After three days of racing and three intermediate sprints, it was Ibrahim Jalloh who took the Le Col white jersey, further demonstrating the ferocious turn of speed that he possesses and adding more to his story of redemption. Each day’s sprint was hotly contested but Jalloh was simply too fast for his rivals.

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The Le Col Green Jersey

The first of the Le Col jerseys to be won during race week was the green one for young riders, taken by Ibrahim Kamara in the junior men’s race. The youngster showed his strength in the one-day junior race on the day before the first men’s stage, breaking away early and powering to a solo victory in Lunsar. This victory handed him the coveted Le Col green jersey, which means he follows in the footsteps of Moses Kamara – who won the classification in 2019.

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"This is the third year Le Col has supported the Tour de Lunsar, after providing winner’s jerseys for the 2019 race. In just two years, and in spite of COVID-19, the race has already grown immeasurably in both stature and ambition. We are delighted to see West African cycling growing, and can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for this well-loved race."

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"This is the third year Le Col has supported the Tour de Lunsar, after providing winner’s jerseys for the 2019 race. In just two years, and in spite of COVID-19, the race has already grown immeasurably in both stature and ambition. We are delighted to see West African cycling growing, and can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for this well-loved race."

Thanks to Tom Owen of Fausto and Matt Grayson for capturing this little known race.