With the Tour de Langkawi boasting one of its strongest line-ups in recent years one might be forgiven in glossing over some of the so-called smaller teams, but the MTN-Qhubeka team posses some of the most exciting talents in the race, and have been dubbed the first 'truly African team' by their team manager.
The race squad comprises of athletes from around the African continent, including four black African riders (Adrien Niyonshuti from Rwanda, and Jani Tewelde, Meron Russom and Tesfai Habtariam from Eritrea) and two South African riders (Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Dennis van Niekerk).
Van Niekerk and Janse van Rensburg are no strangers to the race, with Van Niekerk finishing fourth overall in 2011 and Janse van Rensburg finishing sixth in 2009.
Douglas Ryder, MTN-Qhubeka Team Principal, rode the Tour de Langkawi seven times as a member of the South African National Team, finishing fifth overall in 1996 and winning the KOM competition in 1998.
"I have always enjoyed the people and the hardness of the event in which South African riders have always done well," said Ryder. "2012 sees the first truly African team participate, and with this event favouring the climbers, it will be great to see how our team will perform against one of the best fields ever assembled."
The team will be looking for a strong performance in the GC, and will also be targeting the key mountain stage to Genting Highlands.
"Janse van Rensberg, Niyonshuti and Van Niekerk are amongst Africa's best climbing talents," said the team coach, Dr Carol Austin.
"They have been training hard over the past two months, and their SRM power data confirms their current form. Eritrian neo-pros Russom, Tewelde and Habetarium joined our team mid-January. They have rapidly adopted our team's high-tech training methods and their performances in hard, specific interval training sessions confirm their depth in conditioning. The Tour de Langkawi will be their first major international stage race outside of Africa. They're aggressive, fearless competitors and will be eager to earn the respect of their global competition."
Team for Tour de Langkawi:
Adrien Niyonshuti (Rwa), Jani Tewelde Weldegaber (Eri), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (RSA), Meron Russom (Eri), Tesfai Habtariam (Eri), Dennis Van Niekerk (RSA)