A Kenyan cyclist died while competing in the Vermont Overland bike race in West Windsor on Saturday, Aug. 27, according to social media posts.
Sule Kangangi, 33, was riding at a high speed in the Vermont Overland race when he apparently crashed.
“Vermont Overland is heartbroken by the tragic death of Suleiman ‘Sule’ Kangangi during The Overland yesterday,” Ansel Dickey, owner of Vermont Overland, said in a statement on Aug. 28. “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.”
Attempts to contact Dickey weren’t successful. Terence Burke, a spokesperson for Dickey, declined to comment further.
The Vermont Overland is a 59-mile bicycle race that traverses back roads in Windsor County with 6,600 feet of climbing, according to the race’s website.
It starts and ends at Ascutney Outdoors in Brownsville and benefits the Reading/West Windsor Foodshelf and Ascutney Outdoors.
About 900 cyclists participated in the event this year.
Kangangi, a father and husband, was seen as a leading athlete in Kenya. He inspired other Kenyans to try the sport of cycling.
“Bringing these races to rural areas might inspire young boys and girls to aspire to a different kind of future,” Kangangi wrote in Bikepacking.com in 2021.
Kangangi was also the captain of Team AMANI, which is dedicated to removing barriers that prevent Africans from competing in cycling. The Vermont Overland race was the last in a series of races Team Amani competed in as part of its inaugural visit to the United States — a “dream” that started in August, according to the team’s social media.
“Sule is our captain, friend, brother,” Team AMANI posted on Facebook. “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 realization of his dream.”
The news of Kangangi’s death garnered national and international attention.
Rachel Ruto, the wife of Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto, said on Twitter she was shocked to learn of Kangangi’s death.
“My heartfelt condolences to his family, and the entire cycling community, that has lost a talented cyclist, a mentor and a friend,” she wrote on Aug. 28. “We will all miss him as an individual. Kenya has lost a champion. Rest in peace Sule.”
As of Monday, Aug. 29, nearly $40,000 had been raised for Kangangi’s family on GoFundMe.
“We find ourselves in mourning, grappling with the huge loss of a great cyclist and a tremendous human being,” reads the GoFundMe page.