MTN Qhubeka Aims To Become The First African Team In The Tour de France Next Year

Eritrean Sport News: MTN-Qhubeka has Tour-sized goal for 2015

By Gregor Brown,

MILAN (VN) — MTN-Qhubeka, after racing the 2014 Vuelta a España, aims to become the first African team in the Tour de France next year.

The biggest goal for MTN Qhubeka is the Tour de France 2015
The biggest goal for MTN Qhubeka is the Tour de France 2015

“The big goal is the Tour for 2015,” team principal Doug Ryder told VeloNews. “The Giro d’Italia was our goal for 2014, but everyone knows what happened there with the unfortunate and disappointing miss. After the Vuelta this year, our goal is the Tour de France.”

The South African team made history in the Vuelta when it rolled off the start ramp in its yellow and black colors. Never before had an African team raced one of cycling’s big three-week stage races.

Prior to MTN, Barloworld flew South Africa’s flag, but it was registered in Great Britain and counted mostly non-African cyclists in its team. MTN is African at heart, which it showed with a nine-man roster at the Vuelta a España that included six cyclists from the continent.

Ryder hoped to field his team in the Giro d’Italia last May, but when the invitations for the second division teams were announced, MTN was overlooked in favor of home teams and also Colombia, with its Italian connection. What was “unfortunate and disappointing” for the team was that organizer RCS Sport invited Neri Sottoli, who had two riders test positive for banned blood booster EPO during the 2013 edition.

MTN’s future looks as bright as their yellow kits, thanks to another year of experience and several big signings. For 2015, MTN welcomes American Tyler Farrar (from Garmin-Sharp) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) — both of whom are Tour de France stage winners — Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), Theo Bos (Belkin), Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Giant-Shimano), and Steve Cummings (BMC Racing).

The team hopes that the riders’ experience in UCI WorldTour teams will rub off on its budding cyclists like South African Louis Meintjes and Eritrean Merhawi Kudus. The star power could also give them the extra edge needed to receive an invitation to the world’s biggest cycling race in July.

“Given the riders we signed and the Tour’s massive focus on the northern and southern parts, we are perfectly suited,” added Ryder. “We have a big classics focus in our team that is suited to the northern part and an African climbing group suited to the southern part of the race in the Alps and Pyrenees.”

Second division teams may participate in the grand tours alongside the WorldTour teams via wildcard invitations. Tour organizer ASO announced its four wildcard second division teams in January for the 2014 race. Bretagne, Cofidis, IAM Cycling, and NetApp-Endura received the nod.

ASO is expected to announce its wildcard teams again in January, but first it should name the ones that will compete in its Paris-Nice and Critérium du Dauphiné stage races.

“It’s about starting off the season well, being visible, showing that we can compete,” Ryder said. “I feel that we did enough in the Vuelta, showing guts and finishing with all nine riders. The Vuelta loved that passion and having a team rising above its level. We can continue to do that in the 2015 Tour.

“I hope we are standing at the head of the queue for the big ASO events now. That’s our goal, and the hope.”

Read more at http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/mtn-qhubeka-has-tour-sized-goal-for-2015_350775#HmD8z1bMMMhckjQ0.99

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