MTN-Qhubeka aim to light up 2015 Tour de France if handed wildcard

Eritrean Cyclist Merhawi Kudus - Tour de France 2015
Eritrean Cyclist Merhawi Kudus – Tour de France 2015

Eritrean Sport News: Merhawi Kudus is MTN-Qhubeka’s hot new climber from Eritrea

Team to target stage wins and possibly Green Jersey

The battle for Tour de France wildcard places will hot up next week when the official 2015 race route will be presented in Paris and Brian Smith will be eager to make a case for MTN – Qhubeka’s inclusion when he meets ASO representatives.

To bolster their chances of selection, the South African team has signed a number of high profile riders from the WorldTour ranks, with Edvald Boasson Hagen, Steve Cummings, Theo Bos and Tyler Farrar among the new recruits. Having made the team’s Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta, the Tour de France is the next objective, and Smith believes that the squad will bring a rich blend of talent and excitement, as well as their unique story.

While nothing can be taken for granted in terms of ASO’s wildcard selection – which is likely to be made in the spring of next year – MTN’s chances look very promising. There are currently only 17 WorldTour teams for 2015, therefore creating five wildcards, instead of the typical four.

“We’re not going to take anything for granted when it comes to the Tour de France wildcards with ASO. I don’t know what they’re going to do with the fact that there are probably going to be 17 WorldTour teams. I think it means that they’ll have to look at five spaces. Cofidis will I’m sure be there, Bretagne, IAM, Bora, who rode well this year, and are key for German cycling, are all in the mix as well,” Brian Smith told Cyclingnews.

Much could hinge on MTN’s meeting with ASO, where they will present their image, ethos and plans for next year, along with a potential line up for the race.

“We’re going to tell ASO this but we’re not looking at the GC at this stage. I’d like to think that the Green Jersey is an option to target but we’ll certainly be riding for stage wins. We could bring the first African team to the Tour de France and from that the minimum would be to win a stage,” Smith added.

“We then have the African climbers in the team and we want to give them the opportunity to really show what they can do in the mountains. I believe in the riders we have and the talent. We can light up stages of the Tour and we bring this incredible story to the Tour. We’re putting African kids on bikes and being at the Tour de France would help that immeasurably.”

One potential idea that Smith will showcase to ASO involves the French media visiting Africa with the planned aim of publishing the race to a wider audience. It’s hoped that this will inspire more African children to take up cycling. For Smith, the team is about results and performance as it is about Qhubeka’s work and legacy.

“We can make history with the team and riders we have if we’re at the Tour de France. You have to remember that there’s also a large percentage of French speaking Africans. They don’t have access to the Tour de France so we’re going to present to ASO a few ideas, for instance a French radio station going to Africa and bringing the race to that African community.”

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