Video: MTN Qhubeka’s Tour of Rwanda campaign covered in detail in episode three of African Bicycle Dream
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Video: MTN Qhubeka’s Tour of Rwanda campaign covered in detail in episode three of African Bicycle Dream

by VeloNation Press at 12:01 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Video
 
Squad looks back on 2013 season and ahead to what it hopes will be first-ever Grand Tour participation

MTN qhubekaAt the end of its most successful season to date and weeks before the Giro d’Italia makes a decision about which squads it will invite to the 2014 race, the MTN Qhubeka team has released the third instalment of its fine African Bicycle Dream documentary.

Episode three focuses on the team’s recent campaign in the Tour of Rwanda, as well as giving an overview of the Pro Continental squad’s season, its aims and its hopes for the season ahead. Riding a Grand Tour is a central part of that, but so too continuing the growth that the team has enjoyed and the example and encouragement it has provided to others from Africa.

“What this team is doing for African cycling is creating a culture and demystifying what we have always watched on the TV screen,” said Qhubeka donor relations manager James Louter. “We have watched the Tour de France, we have watched the Giro d’Italia and it’s always someone else doing it. We [African people – ed.] are not quite sure how it is done.

“This year the team is in Europe and we are also here in Rwanda. People can then see ‘they are just like us’ and they can do it. We hope that will create a huge amount of inspiration to African talent here, current and in the future.”

Although he’s not African, German rider Gerald Ciolek played a very important role in 2013 and hopes to do so again next year. He quickly repaid the team’s investment in him by taking a stage in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen and then stunning the peloton with a fine victory ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) in Milan Sanremo.

That win, in one of RCS Sports’ own events, showed that the team had arrived at a new level. Ciolek went on to win stages in the Bayern Rundfahrt, Tour of Austria and Tour of Britain, while Sergio Pardilla grabbed a win on stage four of the Tour of Portugal and Kristian Sbaragli was successful on day one of the Tour of Korea.

Mix in national championship titles by Jay Thomson, Tsgabu Gebremariam Grmay and Konovalovas plus a run of late season wins in the Tour of Rwanda [by Thomson, Johan Van Zyl and Louis Meintjes] and the Sharjah Cycling Tour [by Youcef Reguigui] and its clear why morale is much higher heading into 2014.

Meintjes’ silver medal in the world under 23 championship is also encouraging, as it suggests the team has one of the most promising young riders in its ranks.

He was part of the squad which competed in the Tour of Rwanda in November. He said that the relative inexperience of some of the African riders leads to peculiarly-timed attacks, and consequently a much more aggressive pattern of racing than is seen in some other countries and continents.

“These are some of the hardest races I’ve done,” he said, speaking during the third episode. “I definitely think there is potential. There are so many countries and so many riders who haven’t been spotted before because they don’t have the opportunities to go to the big races.”



The team’s press officer Xylon van Eyck said that competing in Africa is very important for the squad, not least because of the example it can set. “Our passion has always been to develop an African world champion, and fundamental to that is racing in Africa,” he said.

One of the riders who enjoyed the most attention from the public was the Rwandan Adrien Niyonshuti. He lost many of his family members to the massacres which took place in the country in 1994, but recovered mentally from that trauma and became a pro rider.

More recently he suffered a deep vein thrombosis at the start of the season, thought to have been caused by complications from long distance flights. Having to stop racing and training was a confusing and frustrating time for him, but he made an earlier-than-expected return to racing in the Rwandan tour.

“My injury was tough for me and actually for my team as I was supposed to start racing in February of this year,” he says in the documentary. “The day I was supposed to go the training camp in Lucca was the day I found out I have a blood clot called DVT. I had to stay home for a few months with no training.”

In the video above he speaks in depth about this testing moment and his return from that, as well as about his aspirations heading forward.

Other riders also list their goals, with Meintjes saying an invite to a Grand Tour ‘would really be a dream.’ He’s not the only one who feels that way, with the team, its staff and many in the wider cycling community hoping that history will be made in 2014.

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