The Chairman, Organizing Committee, Abuja Mountain Biking Festival, Richard Brownson, has expressed his desire to discover and groom champions in mountain cycling through local and international competitions. In this exclusive interview with Daily Trust, Brownson, a member of Chaingang Cycling Club – the only mountain cycling club in Nigeria, spoke on preparations for today’s mountain biking festival in the city of Abuja, challenges faced by the club and the need for corporate organizations to come on board.
What is the level of your involvement in sports, especially cycling?
As a young man, I was into sports, especially football but it was for leisure not for money. I love sports and when I came back to Nigeria after 15 years, I wanted something different and I chose cycling. Even after I chose cycling, I didn’t want the regular cycling and I chose off-road cycling and that was how I met Chaingang online.
What’s the mission and vision of the Chaingang cycling club?
Chaingang cycling club is Nigeria’s foremost mountain biking and off-road cycling family located in Abuja. The club was established in 2016.
It is a community that grew from about four members to more than 120 people. It is a fitness club that has to do with a friendly environment that has so much to do with networking and empowerment of communities that people don’t know exist in Abuja.
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We make sure that we live a mark behind in any community we pass through. We have been involved in some school projects in these communities. Our club basically is involved in corporate social responsibility as well as an NGO. We are not backed by the government but by individuals who contribute to the cause.
We have joined forces with cancer drive and have done tree planting. We are still doing things with focus on the inner cities of Abuja. There was a time we went past Karu and there is a waterfall no one knows about. We want to discover places that people don’t really know exist in Abuja, to create a tourism hub. However, we are open to sponsorship as we bid to impact on these communities.
Is there any form of partnership with the sports ministry or Cycling Federation of Nigeria?
We have met with the Cycling Federation president, that was before the indoor cycling competition in Abuja. We played a role in that competition as we have managed to become one under the federation and we will continue to do that. It is work in progress and they will be a part of our tournament.
This tournament was scheduled to hold on Oct 1. Why was it postponed?
It was a rainy period at that time and it was muddy as well. The Abuja terrain played a part as we considered the mountains that will be muddy and it was going to be dangerous. So, we looked at the potential injuries that could be sustained and we had to prevent that. We are going to have a successful competition.
So, what is this event all about?
The event is a first of its kind, off-road/MTB cycling event designed to bring professional cyclists and cycling enthusiasts together to celebrate the sport and culture of cycling through healthy competition.
The club advances off-road cycling for fitness, promotes fun, unity and camaraderie and also undertakes projects that promote social good and development.
What steps have you taken to ensure that the race is successful?
The competition starts from 7am and ends when the last person comes back. We have broadened the scope of the competition as we are having a cycling clinic as well. This is where we teach every person that has a knowledge of cycling which will be in batches. It is what we do every month normally at the national stadium but this time, it will be part of our activities that day. We will be teaching a lot of kids including the elderly ones how to cycle.
We have the FRSC to maintain traffic. The Police have been informed and the Red Cross will be part of the exercise. In our midst, we have about 10 medical doctors including the director of Garki Hospital, who will bring in their expertise.
Have you designed a route for the race?
The starting point is Jabi Lake from where we would move to Life Camp, to Karsana, to Gwarinpa back to Karsana, and then back to Life Camp. It’s about 40km.
Do you have kids that train during your weekly programs to become world champions?
We have kids amongst us that we groom. We have families who come with their kids. We also have kids we see on our trails and this is why we set up cycling clinics where we take them up for international competitions. This is why we are holding this tournament, to show the world what we have and see the ones that can be discovered. As we groom them, we take them to international levels.
In all these, what are the challenges you face?
We are the ones funding ourselves and part of this competition is to expose ourselves for possible sponsorship. We have some sponsors but we need more. This is our maiden edition and we are the only off-road cycling club in Nigeria. When we get sponsors, we can now begin to think of more events. Off-road cycling involves going into mountains, bushes and not on main roads. We only pass through main roads to get to these terrains.
Our bicycles are special types. It’s a mountain type and different from regular ones. We buy them from overseas. They are not cheap at all. A rough estimate of a used bike is about N500,000 while a new one depending on the type can cost almost $2000 to $10,000. They are just like cars. We don’t just buy any bike as there are categories of bikes.
Looking at the expensive cost of these bikes, how will an average Nigerian be able to partake in this cycling?
People can hire our bicycles for N1000 but the ones we sponsor have free access to them. We are doing everything possible to encourage Nigerians to embrace this exciting sport.