11 June 20134
South Africa’s Team MTN-Qhubeka will be on the starting line of the 78th Tour du Suisse on Saturday, eager to test their mettle against many of the world’s leading cyclists over the course of nine days.
The challenge will be great, as many of those riders will be in peak physical condition ahead of the Tour de France.
‘Incredibly important race’
“The Tour of Switzerland is an incredibly important race for Team MTN-Qhubeka,” Team Principal Douglas Ryder said in an interview on the team’s YouTube channel on Tuesday.
“The Tour of Switzerland is the fourth-biggest stage race in the world of cycling. It has huge media coverage around the event,” Ryder said. “It is one of the final preparation races for the big teams in terms of the Tour de France, and so it was critical for us to get into that event.
“We’ll bring a fantastic team there, because it is the kind of event that suits our riders. It’s very hilly and it’s good for our African and European riders.”
Vuelta a Espana preparation
MTN-Qhubeka will be using the Tour du Suisse to prepare for the Vuelta a Espana, which along with the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia make up the sport’s three Grand Tours.
The Vuelta will be raced for the 69th time this year, taking place from 23 August to 14 September.
One of the major aims of the team’s participation in the Tour du Suisse, besides good results, will be to run a smooth operation ahead of the three-week race around Spain.
Making a mark
Assessing where Team MTN-Qhubeka could make its mark in Switzerland, Ryder said: “In the first few days, we’ll look for Gerald Ciolek to potentially win a stage because he can really get over the mountains and the smaller climbs.
“Going towards the end of the tour, the last two stages, which are mountain-top finishes, we’ll be looking to Sergio Padilla, Linus Gerdemann and, obviously, Louis Meinjties [to excel].”
Testing oneself against the best
Meintjies, the silver medal winner in the under-23 road race at the UCI World Championships in September 2013, said in a Soundcloud interview released on Tuesday that he was eager to test himself against the best.
“I’m really looking forward to racing the Tour of Switzerland. It will be my first World Tour stage race, so that will be something new for me,” Meintjies said.
“I am really looking forward to seeing how I cope with that level [of racing] day after day.
“There are some serious mountains there, so there are some good opportunities there [to do well]. Hopefully the legs and the form will be good, so that I can see what I can do.”
South African and African cycling fans will be able to follow the fortunes of Team MTN-Qhubeka in the Tour du Suisse on SuperSport, which will deliver a delayed broadcast of Saturday’s first stage, followed by live coverage of every other day, through until the finish on Sunday, 22 June.