South African team aiming for Giro d'Italia
The South Africa-based Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung team presented its members for the 2014 season at the MTN Innovation Centre in Johannesburg on Monday. All 25 riders on the Pro Continental squad's 2014 roster were present as well as all major partners and supporters.
Team Principal, Douglas Ryder, reflected on the success the team achieved in 2013, highlighted by Gerald Ciolek's victory at Milan-San Remo, and looked to the future: "We ended 2013 as the team with the second most victories from all Professional Continental teams. It's a remarkable achievement in our first year in this division. The challenge now is to keep being innovative and improve our high performance culture in the team. We've assembled a group of athletes that we're very excited about and are building our season around a Grand Tour debut."
The team is hoping to get a wildcard invitation to the 2014 Giro d'Italia. If successful MTN-Qhubeka would be the first African team to contest a Grand Tour. The squad launched an online campaign last week called #GetAfricaToTheGiro, urging supporters to help increase its social media numbers and share the team's message.
"The last few weeks has been quite nice to bond with the team," said John-Lee Augustyn, a new addition for 2014. "It's nice to see the different cultures. The launch was really nice to get to know some of the new sponsors and finally reveal the new kit. The #GetAfricaToTheGiro campaign with the pink hands was amazing to see in person for everyone and there's so much excitement around the team.
"I've been on a few professional teams and from what I have seen in the sport, this team is so different. It's so professional and it usually takes a year or two for a new team to establish itself but the team has had an incredible 2013 and there's no reason why we can't reach our goals for 2014. We've got an incredible roster and I am looking forward to the next few years."
Inaugural street race
On Tuesday, the team spent time in the Vosloorus community just outside of Johannesburg with Qhubeka as the first street race took place. The initiative is to encourage and promote cycling as a sport and the event was funded by prize money donated by the MTN-Qhubeka team.
"I am absolutely delighted about how the street racing went today," said Anthony Fitzhenry, Qhubeka's founder. "It's a concept that we've developed over the last three or four years. It is also great to have Team MTN-Qhubeka here as inspiration to our young street racers about how they can use a bicycle to change their lives."
Qhubeka is a non-profit organisation which gives out bicycles in return for work done to improve communities, the environment or academic results. More than 40,000 bicycles have been distributed since 2005, providing a life-changing boost in mobility for the recipients.
"It gives the riders the opportunity to see what they're racing for everyday," said Douglas Ryder of the street race. "They see the impact they're making on the ground and they inspire new young talent in Africa that cycling is an option as a profession.
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