21 January 2014
Team MTN-Qhubeka completed its first race of the season in Gabon on Sunday, with new signing Linus Gerdemann finishing fifth overall in the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, Songezo Jim picking up the award for most combative rider, and Ferekalsi Debesay winning the fourth stage of the race.
“I’m really happy with how things went,” Gerdemann declared at the end of the final stage.
“To finish in the top five in my first race for over a year is good. I came here to get some racing in the legs and I felt very strong. I was also surprised by the level of the racing here. I think it was a very good advert for African cycling.
“I wasn’t surprised by Ferekalsi’s win at all because from the first day he was so strong,” Gerdemann added. “The guys on the team are incredible and have huge potential and myself and John-Lee [Augustyn] in particular used his experience to help the younger guys.
“I am excited for the season ahead,” he concluded.
The South African team was aggressive throughout the race and made the main escape of each day, which was the plan explained Sports Director Kevin Campbell.
“Overall the team rode really well and we were in the racing every day, except for maybe today,” he said.
“The guys were working well together and they really gelled, which is great for the first race of the season. Ultimately we would have liked a little more, but it doesn’t always go according to plan.
“We’re happy to have won a stage,” Campbell added. “This is our third participation in the race and we’re happy to walk away with a victory.
“We would have liked to achieve more in GC [general classification] and place a rider on the podium, but there was some really good opposition here this year.”
Team MTN-Qhubeka will next turn its attention to training camps in South Africa and Mallorca, Spain, where the riders prepare for the South African National Championships and the European season, which is set to get underway shortly.