Team MTN-Qhubeka received a wild card to participate in the 2015 Tour de France on 14 January. This marks the first time in the 101 year history of the race that a team from Africa will participate.
Upon receiving the news, the team tweeted the following:
— Team MTN-Qhubeka (@TeamMTNQhubeka) January 14, 2015
South African Douglas Ryder, the teams principal said: “I have been waiting my whole life for this news.”
Ryder formed MTN-Qhubeka in 2007. While he hoped to build a roster mainly made up of African cyclists, the 23-man team is not solely comprised of Africans. Cyclists from Australia, the United States and Europe will ride alongside team members from Algeria, South Africa, Rwanda and Eritrea.
Ryder has praised the talents of South African Songezo Jim, the first black South African to compete in a UCI World Tour event in 2013.
“I wouldn’t be surprised in the next three years that a black African rider will be on the podium in a Grand Tour,” said Ryder.
He has every confidence in his team despite concerns that the team may be under-prepared for the bunch.
“When you are riding in Africa the road goes in one direction for 50 miles, you might see an ostrich or a buffalo. In Europe you have three-metre wide roads, hundreds of riders, towns every 20km with traffic furniture and roundabouts. In our first year, five riders broke their collar bones. You need time in the peloton to get that rhythm.”
MTN-Qhubeka promotes the Qhubeka Foundation’s work in giving bikes to rural villages. In isiXhosa, qhubeka means to move forward. According to Qhubeka’s website, over eight million children walk to school each day and more than two million walk for longer than 30 minutes each way.
Two Africans competed individually in the Tour de France in 2013. Daryl Impey was the first South African to hold a yellow jersey and Kenyan Chris Froome, who was born to British parents, went on to win the race. South Africa’s previous biggest success in the Tour came in 2007 when Robert Hunter became the only African cyclist to have won a stage.
Ryder said that MTN-Qhubeka will not only ride in the race, but will compete with “the support of the whole continent behind us”.
Photos by www.facebook.com/TeamMTNQhubeka