Germany’s Gerald Ciolek made history on Sunday by winning one of cycling’s monuments, the Milan Sanremo race while riding for African team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung.
The race is the longest in the world at 298 kilometres. Sunday was especially hard as weather conditions forced organisers to stop the race after nearly two hours of racing because of snow and very low temperatures. The race was moved to a safer location with the run-in to the finish via the Cipressa and Poggio staying the same.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung also made history when Songezo Jim became the first black South African rider to race a WorldTour event.
Ciolek made it to the Cipressa, the second last climb of the day, in a select peloton. World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was the first to attack causing several riders to go off the front. As they crested the Poggio, the day’s final climb, Ciolek followed the two pre-race favourites, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard).
This formed what would be the winning move of the day. Ciolek outsprinted Sagan (second) and Cancellara (third) for what is the African team’s first victory at a WorldTour level.
ÔÇ£It’s unbelievable,ÔÇØ said Ciolek after crossing the finish line. ÔÇ£This is an unbelievable success for us and just an incredible day. We just came here as a wildcard and now we’re standing here with the trophy. This is great. I knew I had to follow all the best riders on the Poggio and it worked out perfectly
ÔÇ£When I chose this team, people wondered why I would join a Pro Continental team but it’s just been unbelievable. The coaching and staff on this team is so professional. I have never seen management care so much for the riders. I am happy to be on this team,ÔÇØ an elated Ciolek concluded.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung is the first ever Professional Continental team from the African continent and thus gained a wildcard entry into the race, to compete against the top 19 teams in cycling.
ÔÇ£To win the first major classic ahead of Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara through these weather conditions is amazing,ÔÇØ said team prinicipal Douglas Ryder. ÔÇ£We were coming into the race hoping for a top 20 but every rider gave everything they could to help Gerald.
ÔÇ£I think the dedicated coaching and support he gets is what he has needed in his career. He needed to be the number one rider and have a team built around him and we are incredibly fortunate that he chose our team. He knew when he chose our team that he would race for Qhubeka and that’s greater than just winning races. He is really inspired to race and help others.ÔÇØ