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MTN-Qhubeka Tour of Utah blog

Songezo Jim in Utah

Songezo Jim looks on the bright side

By:
Cycling News
Published:
August 10, 2013, 20:05 BST,
Updated:
August 13, 2013, 21:08 BST

South African misses out but enjoys American experience

We came to USA to do Tour of Elk Grove and Tour of Utah. I think the two races are very good for us and we would love to be back for them.

Elk Grove was a three-day tour and we had good race. Then we started the Tour of Utah which was our main goal as we hare here to finish high on GC. It's been bittersweet though. We had bad luck on stage 2 as we lost Louis Meintjes to a crash. He knocked his head really hard but we were all relieved to see he was OK once he got back from the hospital.

The bad luck kept coming our way as I crashed with 10 kilometres to go on stage 3. It was on a long downhill and my bike went over the side and it took forever to get it out.

Our team car was in the front group so I lost time but finally got my bike back. Unfortunately the left shifter was broken so I couldn't
even go on the big ring. It meant I didn't make the time cut by less than a minute and that was the end of my Tour of Utah.

I heard that people like Jens Voigt were campaigning for me to be back in the race and some of the other RadioShack guys. They are our Trek brothers so I appreciated that. The referees didn't budge though. Who are they to not listen to Jens Voigt haha.

It's not the end of the World though and Tsgaby Grmay is flying the flag of us. He is still in the top 20 of the race and second in the young rider competition. I';l be watching and routing for him on the next mountain stages. Now I am changing my focus to the rest of the year as we have a lot of racing to come. Let's hope it gets better from here. I would also like to say thanks to the American people. We've been received so well at the race and everyone has been so friendly.

Johan van Zyl and Louis Meintjes of MTN-Qhubeka have made this breakaway a success, followed by Qin Chen Lu, Kohei Uchima, eventual stage winner Zachary Bell, Takero Terasaki and Gordon McCauley.

Tour of Utah blog: Unlucky return to America

By:
Louis Meintjes
Published:
August 09, 2013, 14:12 BST,
Updated:
August 09, 2013, 18:18 BST

Louis Meintjes on crashing out

Last year was my first time in America. I raced for two months with ‘Team Simple Green’, thanks to Daniel Belling for hosting me that time.

I was really looking forward to coming back and doing the Tour of Elk Grove and Tour of Utah. Tour of Elk Grove wasn’t really a race that suited me but would help me with my build-up to Utah.

I was really surprised with the level of the riders at Elk Grove and the race turned out to be much harder than I was expecting but it was a really fun race and a nice vibe with the locals supporting the race. I am also pretty sure I got some more bike handling skills as stage one had 260 corners.

My preparations and training leading up to Utah was really good. It was also a race that was to my strengths and the team was really supportive in trying to help me get a good result.

Unfortunately early in stage 2 I was involved in an accident. I was left unconscious for a while and got taken to hospital. I was released later that day and doctors sounded confident that I had no broken bones or serious damage to my head, but it was race over for me. I am really disappointed that I lost the opportunity of racing in Utah but my motivation remains high. There's still a good couple of months of racing to come and I want to finish my first season as a professional well.

It was great to watch stage 3 of Utah on TV and see Tsgabu Grmay make it over the big climbs and finish with all the favourites. Watching it hurt more than my crash because I really wanted to be there but I was so happy that he represented us there. I'll be supporting the guys for the rest of the weekend and hoping for something special.

The MTN-Qhubeka team line up for a team shot before rolling out for training

MTN-Qhubeka Blog: Wesemann's Aggression pays off

By:
Cycling News
Published:
August 08, 2013, 2:11 BST,
Updated:
August 08, 2013, 3:12 BST

South African rider spents 125km off the front

America is just like the movies. It's crazy how it's just like you see on TV. This is my first time here and when we first got to Elk Grove it was everything we've seen on tv for years. Garage bands blasting music, people coming out on their lawns to have bbq's (not braai's like we call it), they drink beer and cheer you on. The atmosphere is just unbelievable. They've all got perfectly manicured

 

homes. Utah is completely the opposite. It's just desolate, red rock, really beautiful area. It's like the Karoo in South Africa only much bigger and spectacular. It's just amazing and really beautiful, pretty much like a postcard.

I was really happy to get some TV time on stage 2 and get into the breakaway. After the first KOM, Michael Hepburn and I flew down the descent and got a gap. I won't call him a fatty but he's not a climber, just like me. The bunch knew we weren't a threat and they let us go, knowing they would catch us later. Eventually I went off on my own on the last climb and at the end of the day got given the jersey as the most aggressive rider. Did I look happy on the podium? Because I was.

The altitude in Utah is just crazy. You think you have a lot of power and going well until all of a sudden it hits you and you feel like you are breathing through a straw. We are adapting to it now but the first few days was a shock as you think you have power then you look down at your SRM meter and the power you're putting out is pretty low.

Racing is getting better for us as we're adapting to the conditions. We will keep being aggressive and show what our team is about. If you keep knocking on those doors, eventually one will open.

 

Ethiopian champion Tsgabu Grmay (MTN-Qhubeka) provides an autograph

MTN-Qhubeka Utah blog: An Ethiopian in America

By:
Cycling News
Published:
August 05, 2013, 19:40 BST,
Updated:
August 07, 2013, 7:49 BST

Tsgabu Grmay flies his flag in the USA

We’ve been in America for almost a week now. The travel has been really long as I was home in Ethiopia and flew to Italy to meet up with the rest of the team before flying to America. We’ve been in Chicago for the Tour of Elk Grove the past few days and so far I really like the country. Everything really is bigger and better here like they say. It’s a big country and much as you expect or like you see on TV. The people have been great so far. We’ve felt very welcomed here which is nice because for most of the team it is the first time we’ve been here.

We spent three days racing in Elk Grove but the racing was flat so it really wasn’t suited to most of the team we have here, but it was good nonetheless. We’re here with Kristian Sbaragli our sprinter and he got a couple of top tens on the road stages so it was fun for us climbers mixing it up in the sprints and setting him up. Good preparation for the Tour of Utah I’d say. I am ready for the race as my feeling is really good. The race will have some hard climbs, which will be good for us, and I am looking forward to racing against the WorldTour teams, which are starting. I hope for myself that I will have a good performance.

It was great to be in my Ethiopian champion kit for the first time. Everyone kept stopping me and asking me which country’s flag is on my back. It’s nice to show the world our flag. They don’t really know where the country is but they do know about the good marathon runners we have. I am glad cycling is growing in Ethiopia so we can promote the country more and not just be famous for our runners. I really hope to give our country something to cheer about this week. Let’s see how it will go.

Author
MTN-Qhubeka Tour of Utah blog

The first truly African professional continental team will compete in North America for the first time, and take part in the Tour of Utah from August 6-11, 2013, bringing an international flair to the UCI 2.1-ranked race. The team celebrated its first WorldTour victory in March with the Milan-San Remo win by Gerald Ciolek, and will be looking to make a big splash in America.

South Africans Jacques Janse van Renseburg, Louis Meintjes, Martin Wesemann and Songezo Jim will be joined by Meron Russom of Eritrea, Tsgabu Grmay of Ethiopia, Algerian Youcef Reguigui and Italian Kristian Sbaragli for the race, and will share their experiences with Cyclingnews.