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Gallery: MTN-Qhubeka train on the snow-lined roads of Italy

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It wasn't all serious work out there, Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) rides through the gauntlet with his own snowball

It wasn't all serious work out there, Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) rides through the gauntlet with his own snowball
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Some of the riders looked happier than others

Some of the riders looked happier than others
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Plenty of space for team equipment at the MTN-Qhubeka service course

Plenty of space for team equipment at the MTN-Qhubeka service course
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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"You call that a snowball", Gerald Ciolek about to do some serious damage

"You call that a snowball", Gerald Ciolek about to do some serious damage
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Former Giro d'Italia time trial stage winner Ignatas Konovalovas (MTN - Qhubeka) takes to the hills

Former Giro d'Italia time trial stage winner Ignatas Konovalovas (MTN - Qhubeka) takes to the hills
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kristian Sbaragli and Ignatas Konovalovas (MTN - Qhubeka) are starting their season this weekend at Trofeo Laigueglia

Kristian Sbaragli and Ignatas Konovalovas (MTN - Qhubeka) are starting their season this weekend at Trofeo Laigueglia
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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No guessing who owns which bag. MTN-Qhubeka riders get the custom treatment on their cases

No guessing who owns which bag. MTN-Qhubeka riders get the custom treatment on their cases
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) is looking to lead his new team throughout its first Pro Conti season

Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) is looking to lead his new team throughout its first Pro Conti season
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) not fussed about the cold conditions in Italy

Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) not fussed about the cold conditions in Italy
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Plenty of warm clothes for the day's training ride as Ferekalsi Debesay Abrha makes some adjustments

Plenty of warm clothes for the day's training ride as Ferekalsi Debesay Abrha makes some adjustments
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Debesay and Ciolek still on the front of the group

Debesay and Ciolek still on the front of the group
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The MTN-Qhubeka team line up for a team shot before rolling out for training

The MTN-Qhubeka team line up for a team shot before rolling out for training
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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There weren't too many opportunities to lean into corners today as Kristian Sbaragli gingerly sweeps the bend

There weren't too many opportunities to lean into corners today as Kristian Sbaragli gingerly sweeps the bend
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The winter conditions were not enough for Martin Reimer (MTN-Qhubeka) to put gloves on

The winter conditions were not enough for Martin Reimer (MTN-Qhubeka) to put gloves on
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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ndreas Stauff (MTN - Qhubeka) paid particular attention to keeping his neck and head warm today

ndreas Stauff (MTN - Qhubeka) paid particular attention to keeping his neck and head warm today
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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As the day warmed up so did Andreas Stauff (MTN-Qhubeka), joining the 'no glove' club

As the day warmed up so did Andreas Stauff (MTN-Qhubeka), joining the 'no glove' club
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Johann Van Zyl and Youcef Reguigui (MTN - Qhubeka) form part of the contingent kicking off the European season this weekend

Johann Van Zyl and Youcef Reguigui (MTN - Qhubeka) form part of the contingent kicking off the European season this weekend
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ferekalsi Debesay Abrha and Martin Reimer (MTN - Qhubeka) take a turn on the front

Ferekalsi Debesay Abrha and Martin Reimer (MTN - Qhubeka) take a turn on the front
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

This weekend marks the start of a historic moment for Africa's first Professional Continental team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung. The Italian one-day race Trofeo Laigueglia will be the first official outing in Europe for the squad that has big ambitions for the coming season.

Team management obviously felt the best way to prepare for the 196.5km race was to spend time familiarising the weekend's eight-man squad with the harsh European climate around the streets of Lucca, Italy. It was also an opportunity for the riders to strengthen their relationships before embarking on a big spring campaign.

"This race is a nice way to start our season with it starting at the sea and it usually has a great atmosphere and a lot of big names on the start list," director sportif Jens Zemke on the team site. "The pressure is low for us, but the motivation is high. For half of the team it will be the first time they race with big teams and some famous stars, which were their idols growing up. Some teams, the media and the crowd will be surprised when they see how professional our setup is and I think we'll bring some new colour to the cycling peloton."

MTN-Qhubeka has received invitations to a number of big races including Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo with Laigueglia set to open the team's season.

"Training has been great so far," said team captain Gerald Ciolek. "We started with riding many kilometers in South Africa in December then I had 3 good weeks of training in Mallorca just after New Year and right now we're at the training camp with the team in Lucca, Italy.

"There's just 8 riders here in Lucca, and we're the 8 who will be sticking together for the next races. What I've seen so far from the level of the guys makes me excited for the future. I think we can head into the next few races with confidence."