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Gerald Ciolek (MTN), talking to the media after the stage.
Six African riders selected by Pro-Continental team
MTN-Qhubeka will make its grand tour debut at the 2014 Vuelta a España and have revealed the nine riders who will represent the team at the three-week race which starts on August 23. The team has selected six African riders and three European riders for the race which it will contest having received a wildcard invitation.
"I must truly thank Unipublic for giving us this opportunity to participate in La Vuelta a España this year," team principal Douglas Ryder said. "It is fitting that Africa's first ever team to race a Grand Tour starts the one Grand Tour that is closest to the African Continent. I am really proud of this team and how the riders have stepped up in the last two years.
"To have such a great team dynamic in our first Grand Tour with a strong representation from the African Continent shows how far this team has come and how all of our European riders have helped fast-track this team to success."
The team selected for the Vuelta contains just three riders who have ridden grand tours before. Sergio Pardilla has ridden three and Gerald Ciolek has ridden six grand tours while Daniel Teklehaimanot is the only African rider on the team to have a ridden a grand tour before - the 2012 Vuelta.
"It was a really tough decision to select the final nine riders as our team has riders that have so much to offer," Ryder continued. "Thanks to the management team and the staff who built the team up to this incredible milestone for African Cycling and to our invaluable title sponsor MTN who believed in the dream so many years ago. The recent support from Samsung helped us step up to another level and the Qhubeka Foundation gave us a reason to exist way beyond performances on the bike. Support our team through this journey as another chapter starts"
Ciolek won a stage at the 2009 Vuelta and explained that he is happy to be returning to the race.
"It's a great thing that we'll be at the start of La Vuelta, it is a big step forward for our team," Ciolek said. "I am personally looking forward to it too because I believe our team can perform really well at this race. It is a race that suits our team and especially our climbers can be successful."
Current South African road race champion Louis Meintjes has been looking forward to the Vuelta since the team received confirmation of its appearance.
"I am super happy to have been selected to race La Vuelta, I still can't really believe it," Meintjes said. "I think after La Vuelta I will only realise what it actually means. My main goal will firstly be to just reach the finish and after that I will definitely look to target one or two stages for a result. Of course I will help support Sergio for the GC on the mountain stages too."
Meintjes is one of four South African riders in the team and Jay Thomson explained his pride in being one of those riders selected for the team
"This is probably one of the proudest moments in my career to be on the start line of my first grand tour," Thomson said. "I just can't wait to get the ball rolling. Having 4 riders from South Africa is unreal and a total of six from Africa to start La Vuelta is something really special. Never before has this been done so it's a massive step for African cycling.
MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung for the Vuelta a España: Sergio Pardilla, Gerald Ciolek, Louis Meintjes, Jay Thomson, Jaco Venter, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Merhawi Kudus and Kristian Sbaragli.
Reserve: Ignatas Konovalovas