Christopher Froome stood atop the podium on the Champs-Elysees to accept the yellow jersey of overall Tour de France champion as a Briton, but as a man born in Kenya and educated in Johannesburg, South Africa, he is very much considered an African, especially by the cyclists from that continent whom he inspires to follow in his footsteps.
South Africa's MTN-Qhubeka team is aiming to follow up Froome's performance with the first appearance by a truly African team in the Tour de France, and for team principal Doug Ryder, the momentum of African success in this year's Tour is buoying his ambitions.
"The yellow jersey being worn by Daryl Impey, becoming the first South African and African ever to wear it, and then for Chris to take it over and become the first African to win the Tour de France will change the sport on this continent forever," Ryder told Cyclingnews.
"For our African pro team this a huge milestone as it will heighten the focus of cycling on the African continent which will provide our riders with more opportunities so we can continue to show the world the talent emerging from Africa."
Ryder and his team partner with Qhubeka, a non-profit that provides bicycles to people in South Africa in exchange for community service, and between this initiative and the development programme of his racing team, he is helping to raise the profile of cycling and the sport in Africa. The Tour victory of Froome can only help the cause.
"What seemed impossible is now possible and this victory will open the eyes of so many children across Africa who did not consider cycling as a sporting option."
Ryder is a staunch supporter of Froome, and discounts the speculation that his dominating performance could only have been achieved through some sort of illicit means.
"Chris's rise to fame has been gradual although he showed huge promise early on in the Tour de L'Avenir," Ryder said. "Then with the odd bout of Bilharzia thrown in, he has taken years to get to this level which I believe means he will continue to improve as time goes on.
"He is an exceptional athlete who really believes he can achieve anything and that I believe differentiates him from his competitors. So few athletes believe in themselves and in the work they put in. Sky have definitely set the benchmark in challenging everything in cycling and working hard on every element for marginal gains from coaching to high altitude training camps to clothing and equipment. This is the new way of cycling and it is fantastic."
The MTN-Qhubeka team's rise to fame has been equally as meteoric, and in its first year in Europe as a Professional Continental team, it delivered a victory in Milan-Sanremo with Gerald Ciolek. A Grand Tour participation is in the team's future, it is only a matter of when and which one.
"For our team it is incredible and our riders have been inspired and motivated by Chris and Daryl and we look forward to getting the opportunity to race a Grand Tour in the next year. We are working hard on that."
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