Team MTN-Qhubeka, which is registered in South Africa, has become the first African team to join the second division of world cycling; the highest level from any team on the continent after the International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed its status as a Professional Continental team for 2013.
MTN South Africa Chief Marketing Officer Serame Taukobong says MTN are fully behind the team following the incredible achievement: “As proud sponsors of Team MTN-Qhubeka, MTN is pleased that the dream of having an African team competing on the international arena and the possibility of riding the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France has now become a reality.
“At MTN, we aim to continue developing cycling talent in South Africa and the African continent and get riders that will take the baton from the current crop of cyclists and continue making waves internationally,” said Taukobong.
Team Principal Douglas Ryder said: “This is an exciting development for African cycling that has been years in the making. We’ve created a professional environment for riders from the continent of Africa.
“They have access to the best coaching and equipment in the world and they receive the opportunity to showcase their talent against the biggest teams in world cycling. Our dream remains getting to the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and developing an African world champion. This news is a step in the right direction.”
The president of the sports governing body, Pat McQuaid, sent a congratulatory message from head office in Switzerland.
“As UCI President I am extremely pleased to see this development. Having invested a lot of time and effort in recent years on developing our sport on the African continent, the UCI is certain that we will see in the coming years African cyclists compete, and compete successfully, in the major world events. Our thanks to all those who have made this possible and good luck,” said McQuaid.
Besides the professional team, Team MTN-Qhubeka’s infrastructure boasts many levels to encourage cycling talent in getting to a professional level.
“The Pro Continental team is the pinnacle but below that we have the MTN-Qhubeka World Cycling Centre Africa feeder team, the Qhubeka Academy team presented by MTN Club 100, the MTN Qhubeka Grand Prix and Qhubeka Street Racing”, said Qhubeka founder Anthony Fitzhenry.
“Our job at MTN-Qhubeka is to change lives through distributing bicycles and mobilizing children throughout Southern Africa. We have created a development path in all of our programs to take riders to the top level of the sport and that is just mind-blowing. To think getting to the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and World Championships could start with growing a tree is very exciting for us.”
MTN started its partnership with the team in 2007. The multi-national telecommunications company which operates in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East shares in the team’s vision of creating opportunities and changing lives.
“MTN wishes the team the best of luck during their demanding yet exciting international calendar year and we are confident that they will fly the African flag with pride,” added Taukobong.
For 2013, the team has a roster of 15 African and 6 international riders.
– Gerald Ciolek (GER) – Ignatus Konovalovas (LTU) – Sergio Pardilla (SPA) – Jay Thomson (RSA) – Louis Meintjes (RSA) – Johann van Zyl (RSA) – Andreas Stauff (GER) – Martin Reimer (GER) – Youcef Reguigui (ALG) – Kristian Sbaragli (ITA) – Ferekalsi Debesay (ERI) – Tsgabu Grmay (ETH) – Adrien Niyonshuti (RWA) – Meron Russom (ERI) – Jani Tewelde (ERI) – Songezo Jim (RSA) – Bradley Potgieter (RSA) – Dennis van Niekerk (RSA) – Jacques Janse van Rensburg (RSA) – Jaco Venter (RSA) – Martin Wesemann (RSA)