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African aces set to shine

Johannesburg based outfit MTN-Qhubeka will be represented by some of Africa’s top cyclists at this year’s Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia from 24 February to 4 March.

Covering 1 415 kilometres over 10 stages, the Tour de Langkawi is one of Asia’s biggest cycling races. It attracts competitors from around the globe and is a favourite among many teams.

The MTN-Qhubeka team for the 2012 Tour de Langkawi comprises athletes from around the African continent, including four black African riders (Adrien Niyonshuti from Rwanda, and Jani Tewelde, Meron Russom and Tesfai Habtariam from Eritrea) and two South African riders (Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Dennis van Niekerk).

Van Niekerk and Janse van Rensburg are no strangers to the race, with Van Niekerk finishing fourth overall in 2011 and Janse van Rensburg finishing sixth in 2009.

The MTN-Qhubeka team will compete against 21 other teams, including Tour de France teams Garmin-Barracuda, Astana (including team leader and Tour de France yellow jersey wearer, Alexander Vinokourov) and EuropCar (with previous Tour de France King of the Mountains winner, Anthony Charteau).

Douglas Ryder, MTN-Qhubeka Team Principal, rode the Tour de Langkawi seven times as a member of the South African national team, finishing fifth overall in 1996 and winning the KOM competition in 1998.

ÔÇ£I have always enjoyed the people and the hardness of the event in which South African riders have done well,ÔÇØ says Ryder. ÔÇ£There have been two South African victories; David George winning in 2006 and Ryan Cox in 2005 for Team Barloworld. This year sees the first truly African team participate, and with this event favouring the climbers, it will be great to see how our team will perform against one of the best fields ever assembled.ÔÇØ

According to MTN-Qhubeka team coach, Dr Carol Austin, the focus for MTN-Qhubeka at the race will be Stage Five (Genting Heights), where the team hopes to establish itself in the GC (General Classification) and the team competition. “Janse van Rensberg, Niyonshuti and Van Niekerk are amongst Africa’s best climbing talents,ÔÇØ she says. ÔÇ£They have been training hard over the past two months, and their SRM power data confirms their current form.

“Eritrian neo-pros Russom, Tewelde and Habetarium joined our team mid-January. They have rapidly adopted our team’s high-tech training methods and their performances in hard, specific interval training sessions confirm their depth in conditioning. The Tour de Langkawi will be their first major international stage race outside of Africa. They’re aggressive, fearless competitors and will be eager to earn the respect of their global competition.”

ÔÇ£I am very excited to be taking this team to Langkawi,ÔÇØ says team manager, Kevin Campbell. ÔÇ£They are talented, excited and determined to do well. These riders will earn the respect of their more illustrious counterparts with their performance in Malaysia.ÔÇØ