Cycling in Ghana can be a frustrating experience for those who aspire to great things in the sport.
From a lack of government support where public infrastructure is concerned to a dearth of awareness from mainstream media and limited private sector participation, the dream to go professional can die quickly.
This weekend, over 239 riders felt the wind in their faces, the thrill of top prizes at stake, and the feel of a world-class professional race when the PruRide Accra came around.
Put together by Prudential Life Insurance Ghana, the race covered a distance of 99.7km and was given its massive media push by Joy FM and the Multimedia Group.
“The idea for this came from a desire to see a healthier population, and it’s just our way of contributing to that,” Frances Ofori, head of marketing at Prudential Life, tells Joy Sports. The headquarters of Prudential Life is in London, where it is the power behind the annual, world-famous Ride London racing event. Proceeds from this race go to the Ghana Heart Foundation.
It is that UK race that has birthed smaller versions in African nations such as Zambia and Ghana. “For us, PruRide Accra is to show our commitment to excellence and make cycling more accessible to Ghanaians. That’s why we invested in races for both amateurs and professionals,” chimed Mokobi Aryee, CEO of Prudential Life.
Sunday morning came. At 11am, the amateurs hit the road. Theirs was a 30km race which the participating British High Commissioner, Iain Walker, noted in his distinctive Scottish twang, was “definitely not an amateur distance”.
But the aching muscles of the riders may have been assuaged by the scenic route taken: starting from the Black Star Square, through the 28th February Road, Liberia Road, Independence Avenue, Accra, the African Union Monument, Independence Avenue, Castle Road, Starlets 91 Road and then back to Black Star Square.
There were nine loops, and by the fifth, several of the racers were begging for air. Proving to be a hardy athlete, however, was Alexander Allotey, who averaged a speed of 40 km/h to win the amateur event. His performance earns him a ticket to participate in next year’s prestigious Prudential RideLondon race. Allotey crossed the finish after 44:56.03.
Bismark Aryeetey, Mark Twum, Joseph Neequaye and Michael Randolf finished second to fifth and got themselves some consolation prizes ranging from cash to trophies.
The race for the professionals was incredibly heated. Through the same route of iconic national symbols and streets, the pumped, huffed and groaned. This time, it was live on radio (Joy FM) and television (JoyNews) and streaming live on Facebook.
99.7km meant 30 loops, and in the end Frank Akuffo (pictured in main image with Mokobi Aryee), an unemployed young man, rode his way to the second ticket on offer for to next year’s RideLondon.
“I’m so happy. So happy. I have been riding for a long time, but this is one of the best days of my life because I’ve won in my own backyard, among my own people!” he said to an adoring crowd.
When he said ‘in my own backyard’, the emotional Akuffo was referencing his locale, Osu, where he has lived all his life. “This was a tough race, but I did it. I am a champion, and I am very happy. Honestly, this is one of the best-organised races I’ve seen.”
From second to fifth were Lawrence Adjei, Anthony Boakye Dankwah, Newton Coffie and Isaac Sackey, who left with prizes ranging from hotel stays to cash offerings and trophies.
Will there be another PruRide Accra? “Never say never,” said Cherise Ige, Chief Financial Officer.
We’ll take that as a yes. The Multimedia Group is the official media partner for PruRide Accra, Ghana’s biggest urban cycling race.
Story by Ghana/Joy Sports/Gary Al-Smith