After important Ciolek victory, MTN Qhubeka set to make history in Tirreno-Adriatico
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Monday, March 04, 2013

After important Ciolek victory, MTN Qhubeka set to make history in Tirreno-Adriatico

by Shane Stokes at 9:30 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tirreno-Adriatico
 
First ever African team to compete in WorldTour race

Gerald CiolekMorale boosted by Gerald Ciolek’s impressive win on the final stage of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen yesterday, a psyched MTN Qhubeka team will like out in Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday and will make history in starting the race.

The team’s wildcard invite means that it will become the first-ever African squad to ride a WorldTour event, and reflects both the ever-growing globalisation of the sport and also an important step forward for the squad itself.

It has pinpointed becoming a WorldTour team as a medium term goal and the riders will know that taking a stage in Italy - if that is achieved - would do much to both get other wildcard invites this year, and also to underline that it is of the level to be considered for further top licences.

“The 2013 Tirreno–Adriatico will see the first African registered Pro Continental Team take the start in a WorldTour event,” said a proud Douglas Ryder, the team principal. “I want to thank RCS Sport for having a great vision of globalising world cycling and for giving our team the opportunity to participate and race against the best cyclists in the world.”

The team’s co-sponsor Qhubeka has the goal of putting underprivileged people onto two wheels and thus, indirectly, it could have a very considerable effect on grassroots racing on the continent and on the future growth and development of the sport.

“When you are racing to mobilise people on bikes in Africa, you have more motivation than racing for yourself,” Ryder explained, saying that the team has fully embraced that role. “Our riders are looking forward to the challenge.”

Ciolek has shone in the past but after a couple of quiet seasons, appears to have found a new lease of form since his move to the MTN Qhubeka squad. He illustrated that he was in good shape earlier this year with fifth place in the Trofeo Laigueglia and then eleventh in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, then returned to the top of the podium yesterday when he outsprinted Adrien Petit (Cofidis), Bobbie Traksel (Champion System) and the rest of the main bunch to the line.

“I am very tired now but feel great at the same time,” Ciolek said after his success. “There were narrow roads and it was quite technical towards the finish which suits me perfectly. I had the perfect leadout from Ignatas [Konovalovas] then my last guy was Andreas [Stauff] and he just lead me out to 250m to go and I just had to finish the job.”

Having crashed the day before, hitting the line first showed how things can turn right around. "Cycling is amazing. One day you have all the bad luck and then the next day you are on the podium,” he said.

Ciolek will be one of those competing in Italy, and will be joined in a leadership role by the Spaniard Sergio Pardilla. Also present will be the newly-crowed South African champion Jay Thomson, who will unveil the jersey in the Italian event.

All three riders have shown fine form this year, with Pardilla netting third overall in the Tour de Langkawi. He’s got strong climbing ability and will relish the tougher stages in Italy.

Directeur sportif Jens Zemke has said that everyone is fired up to prove themselves. “The appearance at Tirreno-Adriatico is our first big highlight. In Italy we want to justify our invitation to our first WorldTour race with a good performance. We will look to Gerald Ciolek in the sprint arrivals, and in the mountains, Sergio Pardilla will be our man.“

Also on the squad will be former Giro d’Italia time trial winner Ignatas Konovalovas, plus Andreas Stauff, Martin Reimer, Kristian Sbaragli and Jaco Venter.

The race starts in two day’s time with a team time trial in San Vincenzo.

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