The squad of Milan-San Remo winner Gerald Ciolek will make their first appearance at the Giro del Trentino today when the Italian four-day race kicks off with a testing double-stage day. Ciolek will not be competing in what is considered to be a final warm-up ahead of the Giro d'Italia but Africa's first Professional Continental team, MTN-Qhubeka, is expecting to be up there amongst the best and will send a batch of climbing talent led by Spaniard Sergio Pardilla - who finished 6th overall in 2010 - to ensure they achieve their objectives.
"This is the third time I will ride this race," said Pardilla. "It's a race that I really like. It is a hard and attractive tour that suits my conditions. I've always done well in this race and I would like the chance to win a stage and do well overall. The rivals are very good, but we'll go with a great team and aspire to the fullest."
The five-stage race will also see two of the team's most promising riders Tsgabu Grmay from Ethiopia and South African 21-year old Louis Meintjes make their European debut after enjoying strong starts to the 2013 season.
Grmay has finished inside the top-ten at each of the tours he's raced this year starting with fifth at La Tropicale Amissa Bongo - won by Yohann Gène (Europcar), 9th at Tour de Langkawi and most recently won a stage and finished second-overall at Tour de Taiwan.
Meintjes has enjoyed an equally impressive start to his neo-professional career; 10th at Amissa Bongo, victories in the South African U23 national titles on the road and in the time trial and 4th overall at Tour de Taiwan.
Director sportif Kevin Campbell is confident the team will perform well during the race but also understands that as one of the final races before the Giro, that many of the teams and riders will be close to top condition. That being said, the climbers on hand for the race will be more than capable of supporting Pardilla in the his GC bid.
"Like many of our races this year in Europe, the main goal of our team is to grow and learn and gain experience," said Campbell. "The best way for our young riders to learn is to rub shoulders with some of the best riders in the peloton, but we will also be doing our best to get a good result for the team. The younger riders will be supporting Sergio and hopefully also have opportunities to perform on individual stages. Our team showed in Malaysia that we have some exciting young climbing talent and Sergio will be well supported. As this is one of the final warm up events before the Giro we know the top riders on all the other teams will be close to top form. We will have our work cut out for us to get any results, but I am confident we will be in the thick of the action everyday."
MTN-Qhubeka for Giro del Trentino: Tsgabu Grmay (Eth), Songezo Jim (RSa), Louis Meintjes (RSa), Sergio Pardilla (Spa), Jacques Janse van Rensburg (RSa), Meron Russon (ERI), Youcef Reguigui (ALG) and Johann van Zyl (RSa).