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SA cycling stars ready to roll as MTN-Qhubeka makes TDF history
- Updated: January 15, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
African cycling has truly come of age with MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung’s wildcard invitation to ride the world’s most prestigious race, the Tour de France, later this year.
The announcement means that the African outfit have reached the pinnacle of world cycling just eight years after the formation of the team and it is also the highlight of team principal Douglas Ryder’s life.
‘When I received a text message from Christian Prudhomme saying welcome to the Tour de France asking me to call him back, I simply could not contain myself, I shouted to my wife and then things started going crazy. I have been waiting my whole life for this news.
‘The pressure over the years of getting partners and riders to believe in this dream is finally a reality. We have so many people to thank that have been a part of this journey and I know our riders and staff will be the most motivated team in the world right now ahead of our second training camp starting this weekend. We will not only ride in the Tour, we will compete and we will have the support of the whole continent behind us.’
It’s the first time in the 101-year history of the race that an African registered team will line-up for the global classic. They were one of five teams that received wildcards, the others being Europcar, Cofidis, Bretagne-Seche Environment and Bora-Argon 18.
The race starts in Netherlands on 4 July and ends 21 stages and 3344 kilometres later in Paris.
More good news for MTN-Qhubeka is that they also received an invite to the Critérium du Dauphiné, a World Cup event and a crucial part of the run-in to the Tour.
Road to Rio 2016 got hold of two very excited MTN-Qhubeka members shortly after the news broke.
Said Louis Meintjies, 2013 World Under-23 road championships runner-up and a man whose success over the last two years has brought much positive news to the team: ‘I’m super excited. It’s really good for the team and really good for African cycling.’
Team members have taken a positive approach to their year’s preparations, planning as though their inclusion was a certainty.
‘I’ve pretty much been training as if I was going so it was really nice to hear that we have now got the invite. I’m real motivated and actually looking forward to putting in all the hard work.’
Team-mate and sprinter Reinardt Janse van Rensburg echoed the sentiments. ‘We’re all very excited. I think it’s a dream come true for everyone involved, as well as African cycling fans. I hope this inspires people all over the continent to dream and achieve.
‘I think everybody made the plan that we will receive a wildcard so it doesn’t change our plans, but what it does mean is that we can now write our plans in stone for the upcoming season.’
Final world rested with Cycling SA president, William Newman: ‘I’m sure I speak on behalf of the whole nation in saying how proud we are of Doug Ryder and Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung on receiving the wild card invitation into the world’s premier stage race. This is a massive achievement for cycling, not only in our country but for the continent as well. We wish his team great success in the lead up to, and during the Tour.
‘They have the support of the whole cycling fraternity and the nation on achieving this historic milestone.’