This past Friday morning I dropped by the Accra sports stadium to check out the opening of the Tour of Ghana cycling race, running from April 1 to April 9. Apparently, there are a lot more bikers eager to do a road race in the country than I ever expected.
Arriving an hour or two before the scheduled start, there were already dozens of riders checking over their bikes, teams setting out on last-minute warm-up rides, and makeshift support vehicles getting set for the race to begin.
The nine-day tour is being sponsored by Cowbell, a major brand of milk powder products manufactured by the Promasidor food company. Since most of the riders appeared to be wearing Cowbell-logoed shirts, helmets, gloves, and biking shorts, it seems the company has taken its sponsorship duties seriously.
Or maybe they're just aiming for maximum advertising. In any case, the jersey colors for the different teams were delicious - Strawberry-milk-powder pink for one team, Mocha-flavored-brown for another, a bright green same as the Choco-Malt flavor's packaging for a third, and so on.
The number of colors and teams was impressive, a bigger tour than I would have thought: 10 teams of eight riders each.
Apparently, yearly national bike races have a bit of history in the country, though one hasn't been attempted since the early 2000s. "This day is historic for cycling in Ghana," Dennis Moore, Director of Communications for the Ghana Cycling Association, told me. "Here all attention is usually on football, but today is the beginning of a historic uplift for Ghana cycling."
|The inflatable Cowbell starting arch.|
According to the press kit, here are the Tour's nine stages:
Day 1: from Accra west to the town of Mankessim
Day 2: Cape Coast (famous sea-side slave castles) to the coastal town of Takoradi
Day 3: Asin Fosu north to the Ashanti-kingdom city of Kumasi
Day 4: Kumasi to the town of Sunyani
Day 5: a ride around the northern center Tamale
Day 6: riding south just below Tamale, from Buipe on the banks of the Black Volta River to Kintampo
Day 7: two separate rides around the towns of Kumasi and Koforidua
Day 8: through the hills around Koforidua
Day 9: from the town of Mamfe through the hill station of Aburi and back to Accra
So good luck all you Cowbell-colored riders. I hope to greet you at the finish line in Accra on Saturday.