‘We are better prepared’
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.
HARD WORK Chris Froome of Great Britain and Team Sky will be eager to repeat last year’s feat