Maart Gambia 2023 (English)

PaxX Gambia has existed for 10 years. So it was about time to travel back to Gambia for the third time with a PaxX delegation from Europe. The lucky ones were Gody Jacobs, Michaël Stippelmans and twin brothers Dieter & Steven Schol, along with Steven's wife Dorien. They experienced the wildest adventures that will forever stick in their minds.

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On March 12, 2023, together with PaxX Gambia, they organized the Tour of the Gambia in Gunjur for the very first time. The original planning was for two stages but this was eventually reduced to 1 stage.The course consisted of a large loop of 40 km. It was as flat as a pancake with hardly any bends but solid asphalt. However, the cyclists did still need to watch out for large potholes and sand strips in the road surface.
The flyer contained all the information needed to organize a race, except for the starting time. The plan was to start at 9.00 in the morning, but the race started at 14.00 in the afternoon. The police waited for a while....
But first the children were allowed to let off steam on their bmx bicycles. There were about 25 children at the start. They cycled about 5 km and were thrilled to be able to take part in a cycling race, which was a unique experience for them. As soon as the whistle blew, they sprinted off as if it were the last meters. After 5 km they were exhausted and one by one they crossed the line. But everyone made it to the finish and the children thought it was great fun.

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At the award ceremony, the winner received the beautiful yellow/red leader's jersey. Each participant also received a souvenir, drinks and gadgets. Their joy was evident on their faces. It was an experience they will not soon forget. We hope they keep cycling. PaxX Gambia will continue to support them in the coming years with cycling clinics.
After the kids had completed their race, it was time for the adults. It was a field of about 20 participants with mainly Gambians, but also a rider from Dakar (Senegal). Of course, there was also our own Gody Jacobs, albeit a bit nervous because of the heat and the less than comfortable bike he had received from the team. One woman also participated, the first female cyclist in PaxX Gambia.
The start took place in a sweltering 40 degree heat. Even for the Gambians it was too hot to race. Once we had left, we had to wait for the first attack. The group stayed together for a while until Ousman Jammeh had enough and chose to attack while Gody tried to control his fluid balance by drinking liters of water.

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With one big round, the competition jury didn't have much to do and they spent an hour and a half twiddling their fingers until suddenly the first rider, Ousman Jammeh, crossed the finish line. For some reason Ousman even got in front of the jury car and crossed the line before they did. The jury panicked and thus missed the finish of the winner. Fortunately, they were just in time to include the other riders in the result.
About an hour after the first rider crossed the finish line, the lone female rider crossed the line all alone. She was so exhausted that she had to be taken to hospital after the ceremony. She could barely stand on her feet.
In the official results it was also difficult for the competition jury to determine who finished second and third. However, the riders came scattered across the finish line and fortunately Michael had filmed the arrival. The discussion between jury and riders was able to be quickly decided.
Ousman Jammeh became the winner of the very first edition of the Tour of Gambia 2023. Gody Jacobs was sixth. Ousman Jammeh therefore received the yellow/red leader's jersey and a lot of useful cycling gear was given to other participants so that no one went home empty-handed.

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The individual time trial took place on March 18 around the Independence Stadium in Bakau. It became a local competition with 12 participants. The course consisted of 1 lap of 4.5 km. Dieter, Steven and Michael also participated.
There was 1 police motorcycle present to stop traffic. There were no signalmen. The course was not closed, which made it dangerous at times to swerve through oncoming cars or to zigzag through walking pedestrians. But they were also encouraged by the local supporters because they had never seen a white person on a racing bike. But it is precisely this that makes it part of the Gambian folklore.

Each rider started one by one. Dieter, Steven and Michaël each received a bicycle from the team, but the brakes worked properly on only 1 bicycle. It was then decided that the three of them rode the same bike, including the same shoes.
Ousman Jammeh was also the best in the time trial with a time of 6'18"28. Steven was fifth, Dieter eighth and Michaël tenth.
During the ceremony, the atmosphere was cheerful and full of laughter. Here too, every rider got something he could use. The riders were therefore grateful that they could taste a time trial, because this was something new for many, while Dieter, Steven and Michaël were very happy that no accidents had happened and they could retell their time trial.

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Steven and Michaël also had the opportunity to teach cycling in a school in Serekunda. There were 10 children's bikes available. They were given 15 minutes per class to give a cycling session. There were about 50 children in total. They explained why cycling was important and which are the most important parts of a bicycle. Afterwards they were allowed to let off steam on a bicycle course. Of course, they liked that the most and it was difficult for us to get them off their bikes. They all liked it very much, as could be seen by their smiling faces and energy. The intention is that the school now regularly organizes cycling lessons itself.

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In between the cycling projects, Gody, Dieter, Steven and Michaël also had some free time to explore the culture and the country. For example, they visited another school (where 21 children's bicycles will soon be delivered) and a fisherman's market in Tanji and took the ferry in Banjul. But there are still so many stories to tell. If you want to hear their stories, it's best to talk to them in person. Bet they can talk about this for hours? In any case, they were all deeply impressed by the country and lifestyle. They will never forget this experience. They are therefore open to traveling to The Gambia again, because there is still so much to do. Not only in cycling, but also in everyday life. To be continued....

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A special thanks to Dorien Schol for the beautiful photos (, to Fred & Wilma for the support before, during and after the race, to Pastor Seal Sylvester Jammeh who helped with accommodation, and arranged the cycling lessons, as well as provided logistical and mental support. And last but not least, thanks to Cherno Joof, the leader of PaxX Gambia for organizing the races and guiding the team.

Check out the full photo album of their trip here: