‘We are bet­ter pre­pared’

CityPress - - Sport - MARIZANNE KOK sports@city­press.co.za

A new name, a new spon­sor, a new hero and new dreams. But the same old goal: suc­cess on the world stage to aid the peo­ple of Africa.

The Di­men­sion Data cy­cling team burst on to the scene at the Tour de France un­der the ban­ner of MTN Qhubeka last year, and ac­com­plished more in their first year than they could have dreamt.

They ended fifth out of 22 teams, saw Eritrean Daniel Tek­le­haimanot wear the King of the Moun­tain jersey for four days, were vic­to­ri­ous in a stage of the race on Man­dela Day and were crowned best team in a leg on four oc­ca­sions.

That suc­cess places tremen­dous pres­sure on the team this time around, says team boss Dou­glas Ry­der. But they are equal to the task. This year, they are dream­ing big.

“We did every­thing we could to be ready for this tour. We are bet­ter pre­pared than ever be­fore be­cause we be­lieve in the old mantra that ‘the harder you work, the luck­ier you get’. We don’t have a sprinter who can go for the over­all ti­tle, but we be­lieve we can win a few shifts again, as well as one of the other jer­seys.”

The Di-Data team’s hard work paid off two weeks ago when they fin­ished the Cri­terium du Dauphine (one of the most im­por­tant in­di­ca­tors of suc­cess for the Tour de France) with two jer­seys.

The Nor­we­gian Ed­vald Boas­son Ha­gen walked away with the green jersey for points clas­si­fi­ca­tion and Tek­le­haimanot was King of the Moun­tain. In ad­di­tion, both were this week crowned na­tional time trial cham­pi­ons of their re­spec­tive coun­tries and are go­ing into the tour brim­ming with con­fi­dence.

The fi­nal nine who will rep­re­sent “Africa’s team” at the Tour de France will be an­nounced to­mor­row.

Three South Africans – Jacques Janse van Rens­burg, Reinardt Janse van Rens­burg and Jaco Ven­ter – hope to find them­selves in the team along­side big names such as Mark Cavendish, Tyler Far­rar from the US, Steve Cum­mings from Eng­land (who last year won a stage of the Tour de France for Qhubeka on Man­dela Day) and climb­ing spe­cial­ist Serge Pauwels.

The pres­ence of Cavendish, who has won 26 Tour de France stages, is a win­win sit­u­a­tion for ev­ery­one, said Ry­der.

“When he first got here, the young guy’s eyes were like saucers around him, but the role he has played in men­tor­ing cy­clists such as Jacques and Reinardt has been in­valu­able.

“He’s also very happy to be with us, so ev­ery­one wins. And re­mem­ber, he has more Twit­ter fol­low­ers than any other cy­clist in the world, more than 1 mil­lion, and that’s very valu­able to our Qhubeka ini­tia­tive.”

Qhubeka’s goal is to change the lives of as many Africans as pos­si­ble by get­ting them on bikes.

They have al­ready dis­trib­uted 2 800 bikes.

PHOTO: BRYN LEN­NON / GETTY IM­AGES

HARD WORK Chris Froome of Great Bri­tain and Team Sky will be ea­ger to re­peat last year’s feat

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