3 April 2014
Africa’s first Pro-Continental cycling team, Team MTN-Qhubeka, is going from strength to strength following a successful international debut season, and has now been invited to participate in the Vuelta a Espana.
The Vuelta, Spain’s most prestigious race, is one of the three Grand Tours, the others being the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.
Team MTN-Qhubeka will join 21 other teams at the Vuelta, which takes place from Saturday, 23 August to Sunday, 14 September, and will cover a total distance of 3 181 kilometres over 21 stages.
‘Our dream and ambition’
After receiving the news of the team’s inclusion, Team Principal Douglas Ryder said in a statement: “It was always our dream and ambition to take an African registered team to the highest level in world cycling, be that the biggest one day races, the Monuments, and the Grand Tours. To be accepted into the Vuelta is the beginning of the realisation of that dream.
“Our dream goes way beyond riding and performing well in these races, which is the enabler to bring thousands of people in communities in South Africa onto Qhubeka Buffalo bicycles to further their lives.
“MTN has supported this dream to move Africa forward and with millions of eyeballs focused on the team in the Vuelta this dream will start to become a reality.’
Detailing the team’s approach, Ryder added: “The team will focus on stage wins as well as the points’ jersey with Gerald Ciolek, who is a strong rider who can climb and sprint, and the stages might suit his style of riding, so this will be a focus.
“Sergio Pardilla and Linus Gerdemann will aim for a top GC [general classification] result and they will be ably supported by our African riders, who will animate the race in the 13 mountain stages.
“For the Vuelta the goal is to have at least 50 percent of our start list representing riders from the African continent. Riders from the African continent make up 70 percent of our team’s total roster. This is a significant contribution we are making in developing talent and providing world class infrastructure for African riders to compete in the World Tour,” Ryder concluded.
The experienced German rider Linus Gerdemann commented: “As a team we were hoping for the Giro d’Italia, but now the Vuelta becomes my big goal and the team’s big goal for the season.
“To be a part of the first African team to ride a Grand Tour in cycling is an honour. The African riders are incredibly talented and great climbers, so the Vuelta will suit their riding style and I know by then they will be super-motivated to be a part of the team and make cycling history.”
‘Great pride and jubilation’
MTN South Africa Chief Marketing Officer Brian Gouldie heaped praise on the team: “As proud sponsors of Team MTN Qhubeka, it is with great pride and jubilation that we see the team secure a berth at the Vuelta a Espana.
“To witness the first African cycling team accepted to participate in such a big, international cycling event is testament to the capability of the team and the talent among the riders. Hard work has paid off in only the second year of this exciting team cycling on the international arena.
“We wish everyone at Team MTN Qhubeka well for the Vuelta and we will continue showcasing our support and commitment towards the team and the development of cycling as a whole in Africa.”
The Vuelta a Espana announcement comes after both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France controversially declined to offer a place to MTN-Qhubeka in favour of local European teams. The team has grown massively in popularity since making its debut as a professional Continental team in 2013 and the Vuelta will be an opportunity for the team to garner more fans and showcase their ability to compete with the world’s best.
Team MTN-Qhubeka, which prides itself on developing and supporting African athletes, supports Qhubeka, a non-profit organisation, which uplifts rural communities by enabling children to get to school in time and return home with enough time to study and do their homework through the provision of Buffalo bicycles, which are purpose-built for African conditions.