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Road aces in Morocco

South African cycling outfit MTN-Qhubeka line up for the start of the UCI 2.2 Tour du Maroc in Morocco, a 10-day stage race that marks the start of a three-month period of racing abroad for the team.

The 2012 team that will take on the North African race comprises Arran Brown, Brad Potgieter, Dennis van Niekerk, Martin Wesemann, Meron Russom and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg.

MTN-Qhubeka has had some success here before ÔÇô┬áin 2011 the team racked up four stage wins with Brown and Janse van Rensburg achieving three of them, the team also finished second and fifth in the overall General Classification. This year, the men hope to improve on past results and cement MTN-Qhubeka’s positioning as the leading continental pro team. The Tour du Maroc also serves as preparation for a tough racing programme that will keep them away from home shores until 11 June. The 11-week schedule includes events in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg as well as a dual programme in Africa with races in Eritrea and Gabon.

In the last year Janse van Rensburg has gone from strength to strength, being crowned All Africa Games time trial champion, winning a stage of the Herald Sun Tour in Australia and ending in the top five (GC) on the Tour of Hainan in China. More recently he won the Argus Pick n Pay cycle tour in Cape Town.

ÔÇ£Team MTN-Qhubeka is ready to take the next step and perform at the European races,ÔÇØ says Sports Director Jens Zemke. ÔÇ£We will start with a tough program of UCI 1.1 races like Pino Cerami on 5 April and Rund um K├Âln on Easter Monday directly after arriving from the Tour du Maroc.ÔÇØ

Zemke notes that it will take a few days for the riders to adapt to the colder climate and harder, longer and tougher races. ÔÇ£But I have no doubts that we will surprise competitors in some races,ÔÇØ he says. ÔÇ£The men have showed an amazing will to win and they have already won some important races for us.ÔÇØ

The first stage of the Tour du Maroc kicks off on Friday 23 March from Tangier to Tetouan and is 130km. The team arrived in Morocco on 21 March and the cyclists have been using the time to acclimatise and prepare for the 10 days of racing.

The Tour du Maroc stages are as follows:

Stage 1 Friday 23 March 2012: Tangier to Tetouan ÔÇô 130km
Stage 2 Saturday 24 March: Ouezzane to Fez ÔÇô 150km
Stage 3 Sunday 25 March: Fez to Khenifra ÔÇô 152km
Stage 4 Monday 26 March: Khenifra to Midelt ÔÇô 144km
Stage 5 Tuesday 27 March: Midelt to Errachidia ÔÇô 126km
Stage 6 Wednesday 28 March: Errachidia to Tinerhir ÔÇô 137km
Stage 7 Thursday 29 March: Tinerhir to Ouarzazate ÔÇô 170km
Stage 8 Friday 30 March: Ouarzazate to Marrakech ÔÇô 190km
Stage 9 Saturday 31 March: Marrakech to El Jadida ÔÇô 179km
Stage 10 Sunday 1 April: El Jadida to Casablanca ÔÇô 120km

The remaining programme includes the following international events:

5 April Grand Prix Pino Cerami UCI1.1 ÔÇô Belgium
9 April Rund um Koln UCI1.1 ÔÇô Germany
21 April Arno Wallard Memorial UCI1.2 ÔÇô Netherlands
22 April Ronde van Noord Holland UCI1.2 ÔÇô Netherlands
24 ÔÇô 29 April La Tropical Amissa Bongo UCI2.1 ÔÇô Gabon
25 April ÔÇô 1 May Tour of Bretagne UCI2.2 ÔÇô France
4 ÔÇô 5 May Ronde van Overijssel UCI2.2 ÔÇô Netherlands
6 May Circuit de Wallonie UCI1.2 ÔÇô Belgium
8 May Challenge du Prince – Troph├®e Princier UCI1.2 ÔÇô Morocco
9 May Challenge du Prince – Troph├®e de l’Anniversaire UCI1.2 ÔÇô Morocco
10 May Challenge du Prince – Troph├®e de la Maison Royale UCI1.2 ÔÇô Morocco
16 ÔÇô 20 May Fleche du Sud UCI2.2 ÔÇô Luxembourg
26 ÔÇô 28 May Tour de Gironde UCI2.2 ÔÇô France
30 May 30 ÔÇô 3 Jun Tour of Eritrea UCI2.2 ÔÇô Eritrea
10 June Delta Zeeland UCI2.1 ÔÇô Netherlands

ÔÇ£We are very excited to be putting together this European racing programme that also sticks to our team roots by including the races on the African continent,ÔÇØ says Team Principal Doug Ryder. ÔÇ£We are hoping to achieve as many UCI points as possible to qualify a rider to the London Olympic Games in August and many more riders to the World Championship in the Netherlands in September. Our team is ready for this challenge after a very successful start to the year in the local calendar, national championships and Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia.ÔÇØ


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