Cape Town - Top SA cycling outfit Team MTN-Qhubeka has secured one of the ultimate invites in world cycling - a spot in the 2014 Tour of Spain, more popularly known as the Vuelta a España.
Africa’s first professional-continental cycling team will participate in the 69th edition of Spain’s most prestigious race for the first time.
Team MTN-Qhubeka will join 21 other teams at the Vuelta, which will take place from Saturday, August 23 to Sunday, September 14, 2014, and will cover a total distance of 3 181km over 21 stages.
MTN SA Chief Marketing Officer Brian Gouldie heaped praise on the team: “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.”
The Vuelta a España announcement comes after both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France 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.
Speaking shortly after receiving the news, Team Principal Doug Ryder said: “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.”
“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.
“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,” concluded Ryder.Gerdemann, the experienced German rider who along with local hero Pardilla will have a key role for Team MTN-Qhubeka in Spain, had this to say about the news: “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.”