South African team announce first contract ahead of 2013 Pro-Continental plans
Volta a Portugal stage 1 winner Jay Thomson has signed for MTN-Qhubeka for the next three years. The 26-year-old, currently riding for the US-based UnitedHealthcare team, lead the 10-stage race for three days before relinquishing his position at the end of stage 4.
MTN-Qhubeka is currently building their roster ahead of the 2013 season, where they will apply for a Professional Continental license and race a predominantly European-based schedule.
"Jay is a great all round rider that can TT, sprint from a small group and ride all day in breakaways," said Team Principal Douglas Ryder.
"He is best suited for hard European races and he will be a key component of our team’s European racing programme next year.
"He has been working the last 3 years for other riders in races all around the world and now he can focus and specialise on races that suit his style of riding with team support to get him the results we all know he can."
It’s a welcome return for the South African Thomson who spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the MTN team. Since then he has ridden for FlyV Australia where he won a stage at the Tour of Langkawi before heading to Bissell Cycling for 2011 - after the collapse of the Australian FlyV team.
"I really think Doug and Team MTN-Qhubeka have taken things to the next step. With the team competing at a Professional Continental level it’s the logical choice for a guy like me to come back and grow with a team that’s going places," said Thomson.
"And besides, who wouldn’t want to be on the first Professional Continental team coming from their own continent. I'm excited and all of South Africa and Africa should be too."
Qhubeka’s "Bikes for Kids" initiative will see riders like Thomson, involved in the project which aims to provide bicycles to children of rural communities. The project has distributed 100,000 bicycles since 2004
"I will definitely get involved as much as I can with the project. I can't think of a better way for a cycling team, and as a cyclist, to give back to the community and besides, we might find a world champion from one of the children that gets a bike from the project," Thomson said.