Team MTN-Qhubeka have finished 23rd out of 32 teams at the UCI Road Race World Championship Team Time Trial event in the Netherlands, propelling its African cyclists from around the continent further into the international spotlight.
The trade team time trial is a new event that kicked off the week-long UCI Road Race World Champs programme in Limburg in the Netherlands. Team MTN-Qhubeka finished third of the UCI Continental Teams behind Itera-Katusha (Russia) and Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA).
The team was also only beaten by two of the UCI Pro Continental teams behind Rusvelo (Russia) and Argos-Shimano (Netherlands) ÔÇô a great achievement given MTN-Qhubeka’s plans to become a Pro Continental team in 2013.
ÔÇ£We took our preparations very seriously,ÔÇØ says MTN-Qhubeka Sports Director Jens Zemke. ÔÇ£We focused on core stability training, aero testing, positioning, doing recons of the circuit, pace strategy and material tests. With our good base of training and doing some races in between, it was possible to be close to some of the Tour de France teams. Our boys did a fantastic job and the staff also worked hard and concentrated to get every percentage out of this young and inexperienced team.ÔÇØ
Team MTN-Qhubeka Coach Dr Carol Austin is delighted with the team’s performance at the event, which she says was one of the team’s key goals for the season. ÔÇ£Our athletes fought hard to qualify, doing so through their podium performances in the Tour of Morocco, Gabon, Eritrea and African Championships.
ÔÇ£Since July we have focused specifically on this event. World class technology (Retul and CompuTrainer) was used to optimize the athletes’ TT bike set-ups and biomechanics. Specialisation training has included regular team sessions to develop the athletes’ threshold/VO2max conditioning as well as their technical skills. Daily team core training and stretching sessions have been ably led by our team soigneur, Basti Buffel. In early September Uli Schoberer (SRM Training Systems) performed an aerodynamics camp for us at the Buttgen Velodrome.
“The athletes’ bike set-ups were fine tuned with average power savings of around 12W. Most importantly, the data generated from this camp was used to develop our team’s race strategy on Sunday. This somewhat untraditional, science-based race plan proved critical to our race-day success.ÔÇØ
Austin notes that team trial is an event that MTN-Qhubeka can and must perform in as it builds the road towards its grand tours/Tour de France participation dream. ÔÇ£This baseline performance was solid, and knowing the realistic room for improvement I will be aiming for a top 15-20 performance in 2013,ÔÇØ she says.
UCI President Pat McQuaid hailed the event as a success and said he foresees it will grow in importance and strength in the coming years.
According to McQuaid, the trade team time trial events have been introduced to improve the depth of the world championships, giving trade teams an opportunity to compete in a set of events that previously dominated by national teams.
Team MTN-Qhubeka was the first team to qualify for the Team Time Trial event, which began in Sittard and ended in Valkenburg. ÔÇ£It was fantastic for us to qualify for the first World Team Time Trial Championships,ÔÇØ says Team Principal Doug Ryder. ÔÇ£To race in our MTN-Qhubeka colours and show the world what our African riders can do was a massive opportunity for us and it was definitely one of our biggest events this year.ÔÇØ
Ryder adds that the event was a challenge for the team, which rarely competes in team trial events, but he was proud of the results achieved. ÔÇ£We wanted to show everyone that this African Continental Team plans to go Pro Continental next year, which will be a first ever for African cycling,ÔÇØ he says. The 2013 team will comprise 70% African riders, 50% of which will be black African riders.
ÔÇ£It’s very exciting for us,ÔÇØ says Ryder. ÔÇ£It’s a big step for the team and for African cycling. We’ll be basing our team in Italy and we’re looking forward to taking on some of the sport’s bigger teams. African athletes have proved that they are the best middle-distance runners in the world and we’re looking forward to showing that African cyclists can compete at the highest levels of the sport very successfully too.ÔÇØ
Team MTN-Qhubeka is well-represented at the UCI Road Race World Champs, with athletes competing in various events. Ethiopian rider Tsgabu Gramy took part in the Individual TT event, while young Eritrean rider Jani Tewelde will compete in the Under-23 category.
Both Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg will compete for their country in the road race, and Reinardt will also compete in the TT event. Lise Olivier and An-Li Pretorius will represent South Africa in the Elite Women’s Road Race event.