MTN saves the day for McLeod

MTN Cycling signed Ian McLeod, just one week after his contract with the French-based Le Française des Jeux was not renewed. McLeod was the only South African to race for a ProTour team in 2007. He'll race for the domestic MTN squad, with its UCI Professional Continental Team status in 2008, in mostly African and Asian countries.

"It was a no-brainer signing Ian. He's a high quality rider that's been on a ProTour team for the past three years. He doesn't have to prove himself. He will be a huge asset to our team," explained MTN Cycling team owner, Douglas Ryder, himself a former South African national team captain and 1996 Olympian.

"I'm really grateful to MTN and Douglas for the opportunity," said McLeod. "To have raced 2008 on my own would have been tough, especially in a team sport like cycling. I'm looking forward to adding some depth to the team, particularly in the stage races and tough one-day races."

The two-time Vuelta a España finisher has been dogged by injuries for the past two years. He tore a quad muscle in a crash in 2007, but related injuries followed and then he crashed and broke his collarbone in stage five of the 2007 Giro d'Italia.

"I'm riding pain-free again which is a great feeling and plan to achieve some good form for the start of the racing season in January," he smiled. "I'm excited about the Giro del Capo and the Tour of South Africa, which are both UCI-ranked tours. I believe we'll have enough depth and talent in the team to give the international teams like Barloworld a good go."

According to Ryder, McLeod has yet to reach his peak and is hoping that one year with MTN Cycling will give him a springboard to get back into the European peloton. "Talent like Ian's must be nurtured and not lost to South African cycling. I want to see him achieve his potential and hope that his time with MTN Cycling allows him to regather himself for another shot at a ProTour team contract in future."

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