Confirmed yesterday as the first African outfit to be invited to the Vuelta a Espana stage race, after receiving a wild card entry, MTN-Qhubeka team principal Douglas Ryder was confident they would make their presence felt at the UCI Grand Tour event.
“The team will focus on stage wins as well as the points jersey with Gerald Ciolek (above), who is a strong rider who can climb and sprint,” Ryder said yesterday.
“The stages might suit his style of riding, so this will be a focus.
“Sergio Pardilla and Linus Gerdemann will aim for a top general classification result and they will be ably supported by our African riders.”
While they would rely on European riders to spearhead the team (Ciolek and Gerdemann are German and Pardilla is a Spaniard), Ryder confirmed the SA outfit maintained its intent of providing opportunities to African cyclists.
“For the Vuelta the goal is to have at least 50% of our start list representing riders from the African continent,” he said.
The Vuelta a Espana announcement came after both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France declined an entry for Africa’s first pro-continental outfit, in favour of European teams.