Hot on the heels of completing a fantastic debut season on the international cycling stage in 2013, Africa’s first professional-continental cycling team, Team MTN Qhubeka p/b Samsung, will participate in the 2014 Vuelta a Espa├▒a, the 69th edition of Spain’s most prestigious race for the first time.
Team MTN Qhubeka p/b Samsung will join 21 other teams at the Vuelta, which will take place from Saturday 23 August to Sunday 14 September 2014, and will cover a total distance of 3181 kilometres over 21 stages.
MTN SA Chief Marketing Officer Brian Gouldie heaped praise on the team: ÔÇ£As proud sponsors of Team MTN Qhubeka, it is with great pride and jubilation to see the team secure a berth at the Vuelta a Espana. To witness the first African cycling team accepted to participate in such a big, international cycling event is testament to the capability of the team and the talent among the riders. Hard work has paid off in only the second year of this exciting team cycling on the international arena. We wish everyone at Team MTN Qhubeka well for the Vuelta and we will continue showcasing our support and commitment towards the team and the development of cycling as a whole in Africa.ÔÇØ
The Vuelta a Espa├▒a announcement comes after both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France controversially declined to offer a place to MTN-Qhubeka in favour of local European teams. The team has grown massively in popularity since making its debut as a professional Continental team in 2013. The Vuelta will be an opportunity for the team to garner more fans and showcase their ability to compete with the world’s best and bring something special to a sport that’s all-too-often dogged by scandal and bad press.
Speaking shortly after receiving the news, Team Principal Doug Ryder said: ÔÇ£It was always our dream and ambition to take an African registered team to the highest level in world cycling, be that the biggest one day races, the Monuments, and the Grand Tours. To be accepted into the Vuelta is the beginning of the realisation of that dream.
“Our dream goes way beyond riding and performing well in these races, which is the enabler to bring thousands of people in communities in South Africa onto Qhubeka Buffalo bicycles to further their lives. MTN has supported this dream to move Africa forward and with millions of eyeballs focused on the team in the Vuelta this dream will start to become a reality.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£The team will focus on stage wins as well as the points jersey with Gerald Ciolek, who is a strong rider who can climb and sprint and the stages might suit his style of riding so this will be a focus. Sergio Pardilla and Linus Gerdemann will aim for a top GC result and they will be ably supported by our African riders who will animate the race in the 13 mountain stages.
ÔÇ£For the Vuelta the goal is to have at least 50% of our start list representing riders from the African continent. Riders from the African continent make up 70% of our team’s total roster. This is a significant contribution we are making in developing talent and providing world class infrastructure for African riders to compete in the World Tour,ÔÇØ concluded Ryder.
Linus Gerdemann, the experienced German rider who along with local hero Sergio Pardilla will have a key role for Team MTN Qhubeka in Spain, had this to say about the news: ÔÇ£As a team we were hoping for the Giro d’Italia, but now the Vuelta becomes my big goal and the team’s big goal for the season. To be a part of the first African team to ride a Grand Tour in cycling is an honour, the African riders are incredibly talented and great climbers so the Vuelta will suit their riding style and I know by then they will be super-motivated to be a part of the team and make cycling history.ÔÇØ