The Continental Marco Polo Cycling Team has decided to change its focus from Asia to Europe and Africa for the upcoming season. The team will be registered in Ethiopia and compete in races in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany as well as stage races in Africa, Asia and Southern Europe.
Helping to develop riders in Ethiopia will be one of its primary goals. Sports director Gilbert de Weerdt said in a press release that he believes the Ethiopians can gain the skills they need to succeed in the European peloton. "This year we have seen that, already in their first season, the tiny climbers from Ethiopia can survive most of the races over here. I am curious about the step these guys are making towards next season and also how good the new African riders will be. We will make sure that the program is on pro level and that they are well guided," De Weerdt said.
Team owner Gudo Kramer explained the move: "Looking back, one could say that we have never reached the full potential of Chinese cycling. I prefer to focus on the brighter side: when we came to Chinese races first, we used to be the only European team. Years later, we managed to bring Fuyu Li to Discovery Channel and qualify China for the Olympic Road Race in Beijing.
"Asian cycling has become a very international cycling scene now – and it is our mission to help non-traditional cycling countries to develop. From that perspective, we have been successful.
"After ten years, we have evaluated what we are doing and we expect to add more value to African cycling then we were able to in China – now that there are seven Chinese Continental Teams and several very international races."
The organisation had already been involved with the Ethiopian Cycling Federation through the charity foundation Bike4All, and is currently seeking industry partners to support the team.