'I just kept on fighting until they burned me out in the legs' - Ugandan cycling’s great hope on his World Championships debut

Kamya Richard of Masaka Cycling Club opens up on his journey from racing in Kampala to the Glasgow Worlds

Kamya Richard with his Cervelo time trial bike
(Image credit: Ross Burrage / Masaka Cycling Club)

Sometimes in sport, the best lessons don’t come from finishing on the top step of the podium, but from finding yourself the underdog: there in the heat of competition but not quite having enough to overcome your rivals and revel in the glory of a medal winning ride.

The junior ranks of cycling are no exception, something 18-year-old Ugandan Kamya Richard found out during his World Championship debut in Glasgow last weekend.

Richard, who rides in Uganda for the Masaka cycling club, travelled to Glasgow to make his first Worlds appearance with one of Masaka's patrons Ross Burrage.

After missing an early move that split the main field in the race, Richard was pulled from the action having lost time on the leaders, but as he tells Cycling Weekly, he now knows what he needs to do in order to follow in the footsteps of African WorldTour stars like Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay in the years ahead.

"Even just starting out riding in the bunch was just very amazing for me," he told Cycling Weekly.

"Every rider was there fighting for position and for me, I just ended up looking on and going to the back. I didn't get a chance to get in front of the peloton as it was very, very difficult for me. The other guys were just so much faster," he said, adding that the experience was "fantastic" and one which he "learned so much" from.

“Most of my life back in Uganda, I thought that I was the best junior rider, but last Saturday I soon realised who the best juniors are in the world.”

“In Uganda when we've been watching the Tour de France, we think 'ahhh we can go with those guys. They are not much better than us,' but here only the juniors go and show me what I'm missing,” he adds with the biggest smile in Scotland, clearly full of gratitude for just having the chance to test himself against his peers.

A surprise phone call 

Kamya Richard after the road race

(Image credit: Ross Burrage / Masaka Cycling Club)

Prior to travelling to the championships, Richard had never left Uganda before; recalling the moment he found out he’d been selected for competition, he told Cycling Weekly: “One day I was home from training and I was just sitting on my bed,” he explains. “Chairman Mirro [Masaka cycling club chairperson and founder] called me. He said 'hey Richard', I said 'yes chairman' and he said 'Richard, you've been selected for the Scotland World Championships' I just couldn't believe it and started crying. I got up, thanked God and said ‘Mum, I'm going to Scotland!' It was just unbelievable.”

Before Richard leaves Scotland, he’ll ride Friday’s men’s junior time trial in Stirling and have the opportunity to test himself at the highest level once more.

He explains that without the influence of Burrage, Sam Mutton - who has been instrumental in introducing Masaka's riders to the Zwift platform - and his coach Owen Fidler, his experiences at the Worlds would never have been possible. 

“Before the road race, Ross [Burrage] told me that whenever they leave you, just keep on fighting,” he says. “I listened and just kept on fighting until they burned me out in the legs. It just showed me that everything that the coaches were telling me at home, it was very true."

Kamya Richard

(Image credit: Ross Burrage / Masaka Cycling Club)

Back at home, Richard regularly races in the Ugandan capital Kampala, where the team is rapidly building a reputation as being one of the best in the region - thanks, according to Richard, to the expert guidance of Fidler.

“The races we're used to riding in Kampala can be very tough on us,” he says. “But then we got Coach Owen, he taught us how to ride in a race, the tactics that you need and then we started winning in Uganda.

"We always say that if you didn't get the first position at least try to have two riders on the podium. Now our team is very very strong. Even in Kampala they're now saying our team is very organised and very strong and one of the best.

“When I heard I was coming to these worlds, I went straight to Coach Owen and said 'Coach Owen, I need to work on myself. Can you help me to get to the level of these guys, because I'm not anywhere,'" he adds. “But now after this I'm ready and I have learned so much.

“Everything Coach Owen told me, now, I've seen it with my own eyes and I now know how to get better and ready for next time." We'll be watching. 

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Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.