8 April 2014
Apart from the national championships, Team MTN-Qhubeka has yet to race in South Africa as a UCI Professional Continental Team. However, that will change on Tuesday when the team lines up for the Mzansi Tour in Johannesburg.
‘A very important event for us’
“As Africa’s only Professional Continental cycling team, with our head office in Johannesburg, South Africa and main sponsors being South African, the Mzansi Tour is a very important event for us,” MTN-Qhubeka’s Team Principal Douglas Ryder said in a statement on Monday.
“MTN and Samsung, as well as the many supporters of the team including MTN Club100, rarely get the opportunity to see the team racing in South Africa, so this will be a special event for the team.
“This team is proudly South African and we race all over the world to try and make a difference to many people through Qhubeka and the Bicycles Change Lives initiative.”
One of the favourites
The MTN-Qhubeka team will be one of the favourites to win the various categories, with national champion Louis Meintjies set to wear the national jersey in South Africa for the first time in two years. He will be joined by Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Merhawi Kudus, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Youcef Reguigui and Sergio Pardilla, who is returning from injury.
“In every race we participate in, we attempt to put the best riders forward to meet the demands of the race,” Ryder said of the team’s line-up. “We have a really balanced team of youth and experience coming to the Mzansi Tour and our intention is to race hard and try and win.
“We know we may be looked at as the favourites for the Mzansi Tour, but no race is easy and often when you are the favourites it is even harder because other teams can race against a favourites’ team. Nevertheless, we are looking forward to the event and will take each day at a time.
“South African cycling is at a high level. Last year in the Tour of Rwanda we were beaten by Dylan Girdlestone who is riding for Team Bonitas this year, so it will be a tough event.
‘Each stage is tough’
Assessing the route, Ryder added: “If I look at the stages, each stage is tough, even the team time trial as you would not want to lose any seconds to good climbers.
“The final criterium will be important for us and then the Queens stage on stage two, finishing in Golden Gate, is a short but steep pull on a narrow road, so that will split the field somewhat.
“It is a great route and well planned, so will make for exciting racing every day.’
Prologue Team Time Trial – Emmarentia Dam > Emmarentia Dam (5km)
A flat and fast circuit, with the main challenge coming in the skill of keeping the team together from start to finish through the seven corners
Stage 1 – Golden Gate > Clarens (140km)
An undulating course that will suit a puncheur, particularly with the short steep climb that comes to the finish
Stage 2 – Clarens > Golden Gate National Park (159km)
The race’s queen stage that ends with a mountain top finish in the Golden Gate National Park. Not the toughest finishing climb around, but enough to decide the overall classification.
Stage 3 – Bethlehem > Vanderbijlpark (201km)
A long but flat and fast stage. Definitely one for the sprinters, unless the wind picks up on the long straight roads.
Stage 4 – Blue Hills Estate Circuit (79,5km)
15 laps of a 5.3km circuit. Numerous corners will make a lot of accelerations quite taxing. A race for the strong sprinter.