24 July 2013
Team MTN-Qhubeka has announced the contract extension of star German rider Gerald Ciolek. The team captain declared himself happy in the team’s environment and has opted to stay with Africa’s first UCI Professional Continental team through 2015.
“We’re delighted that Gerald has extended with us,” team principal Douglas Ryder said in a statement on Monday.
“He’s made a huge impact on our team, not only with his results but also with mentoring the younger riders. They’re excited to have a captain that is down to earth and takes the time to share his experience. We now look forward to increasing our race program as we build towards our first Grand Tour.”
There are three Grand Tours in cycling: the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana.
Racing for a higher purpose
Team MTN-Qhubeka races to raise awareness for the Qhubeka foundation, an organisation raising funds to mobilise people on bicycles in Africa. Racing for a higher purpose was one of the main attractions for Ciolek.
The 26-year-old hit the headlines when he claimed the biggest victory of his career in March by winning the Milan-San Remo Classic, one of the five “Monuments” of cycling. The Monuments are considered to be the oldest and most-prestigious one-day races on the calendar.
“I always said I would like to stay with this team,” Ciolek said in the statement. “As a professional cyclist you always look for other options but in the end I am really happy that I can go forward with this team.
‘A great team’
“When I first found out about the team last year, I discovered a great team with great character and performing on a high level and I really like this,” Ciolek said.
“I think we had a really good year and now we want to build to go to an even better level next year. We are very ambitious as a team and want to grow and become the first African team to race the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.”
After making its World Tour debut in 2013 and finishing atop the podium of Milan San Remo, with 11 victories in total so far this year, the team has made clear its ambitions to race a Grand Tour in 2014.
Ready for a Grand Tour
“We have a very competitive team for a Grand Tour already. If we get all the guys into good shape, I think we have the potential to go to a three-week stage race and do well. Not just the experienced guys but even the younger guys,” Ciolek reckoned.
“It’s amazing working with the younger riders and how they follow the advice of the more experienced riders 100 percent. It gives us, the more experienced riders, confidence when they follow our advice.”
Serame Taukobong, MTN’s chief marketing officer, commented: “We’re very excited that a world class rider like Gerald has extended his stay with Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung.
‘One of the best’
“As an organisation we are always looking for new and innovative ways to improve and the team mimics that. In Ciolek we’ve acquired one of the best riders, a true ambassador for our brand,” Taukobong said.
“With our support we have managed to bring him into an African environment and he has flourished which shows how the continent is growing.”