Tinkoff-Saxo head to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Team hopes 90 per cent of the 80 riders and staff will reach the summit

Eighty riders and staff from the Tinkoff-Saxo team will travel to Tanzania in central Africa on Friday for their five-day team building camp and hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The team hopes that 90 per cent of the riders and staff will reach the 5,895 metre-high summit, to spark the tripling of charity donations from its sponsors and technical partners. Donations will be doubled if 70 per cent of the team completes the five-day hike to the tallest mountain in Africa. Team owner Oleg Tinkov has covered the €200,000 cost of the trip, with the donations being shared between the Matonyok Parents Trust orphanage and the Arusha Cycling Club. Fans and supporters can also donate via the team's official Facebook page.

Team leader Alberto Contador will be joined by new signings for 2015 including Peter Sagan, Ivan Basso and Robert Kiserlovski, while new staff members Bobby Julich and Sean Yates are also expected to be part of the group. Team manager Bjarne Riis has taken his riders and staff to the wilds of northern Denmark, Israel and South Africa in the past.

"I want to put everyone in a different environment to see how they react," Riis told Cyclingnews when he announced the team building camp.

"It's not about being first to the top, indeed some people won't make it to the summit, it's about seeing how people deal with problems under stress, how they work together and who are the natural team leaders. We have similar situations at the races and so it can only make us a better team.

"It's not only about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It's about integrating new people in the team and laying the foundations for 2015."

For some of the riders, the trip has brought an early end to their holidays. Contador recently underwent minor surgery on the knee he injured during the Tour de France but said he is looking forward to the trip.

"I'm curious to see what it'll be like because it's something new for us, something really different. We might be a bit disorentated at first but I like the idea of it." Contador told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The riders and staff have been preparing for the trip and will be supplied with special equipment for the cold conditions at the snow-covered summit. They have been advised to have the Hepatitis A vaccine before traveling.

"The biggest problem will be getting used to walking for six to eight hours a day with a rucksack. That's why I've been walking in the woods near my home," Daniele Bennati told Gazzetta.

"Blisters could be a real problem and walking could hurt our tendons but we've been supplied with good equipment. We've got to take a sleeping bag because we'll be sleeping in a tent."

A five-day trek

The team will gather in the city of Arusha, meet with riders from the Arusha Cycling Club on Saturday morning and then begin their five-day trek from Machama Gate. The trek will start at an altitude of 1828m and reach the Karanga base camp at 4040m after four days of trekking for between six and eight hours. The trek to the summit will begin on Tuesday night, with the the team reaching the top in small groups on Wednesday morning.

The path to the summit is not difficult but temperatures during the night can reach -25C. The altitude will be the biggest problem. The gradual climb will help the riders and staff adopt to the rarified air but some could suffer from altitude sickness.

"The climb to the summit is via a path and isn't difficult or dangerous," Paolo Rabbia, an Italian mountain climber told Gazzetta.

"The big problem is the altitude sickness, that causes a lack of breath, headaches, nausea and dizziness. It's important to pace the ascent to help the altitude adaption. The team's schedule means they shouldn't have any surprises."

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