Three weeks and a few days ago, Daniel Teklehaimanot of MTN-Qhu-beka and Eritrea, was the first to roll down the start ramp in the opening time trial of the Tour de France in Utrecht.
Yesterday, Teklehaimanot and his teammates rolled around the cobbles of the Champs Elysees in Paris, the race behind them, the memories saved and the future impossibly bright. MTN-Qhubeka powered by Samsung have been the revelation of this Tour, a favourite of the fans and, for now, of many of the other teams.
They have made friends, raised money to put children on bicycles and changed perceptions. They have, in a typically South African way, punched above their weight.
Yesterday came the news they intended coming out with a bigger punch as they were linked with signing Mark Cavendish, the British sprinter and former World Champion. Cavendish, currently with Etixx-Quickstep, the team that carries the logo of the Klein Constantia wine farm in Cape Town, is out of contract at the end of the season. The Isle of Man rider won the green points jersey at the Tour in 2011 and before yesterday’s final day of the 2015 event, had won 26 Tour de France stages.
“We had some discussions with Mark’s manager but it’s all about funding and there are a whole lot of things that go with it,” Doug Ryder, MTN-Qhubeka team principal and founder told Cyclingnews.com.
“For us, what is important is the culture that fits into the team and the value that it can bring. We’re not going to change our culture, we’re not going to change the strategy of our team. Those things are really important to us.”
That funding could come with a new deal with Dimension Data who are the technology partners of ASO, the owners of the Tour. MTN, their long-time sponsors, are said to be not renewing their contract at the end of the year.
MTN-Qhubeka, currently registered as a Pro Continental team, are weighing up a move to the World Tour ranks, the elite category of professional cycling, which would guarantee them entry into the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Tour of Spain, as well as the major classics and other stage races.
“We have to speak to the UCI on August 1,” Ryder told Cyclingnews.com. “The rules can be a little bit loose because they would love another World Tour team but that decision has got to be made in the next two weeks.
“Once the Tour de France is finished we’ll have a sit down with our partners and strategise and plan for that and so we’ll know in the next two weeks if we should go World Tour or if we should stabilise the team with what we have at the moment. We’ve always taken small steps to go up and we never want to embark on something we can’t sustain. That will probably be the only factor that could see us not making World Tour next year.
“All the young talent will come from Africa but if you want to go World Tour then you have to have a lot of depth,” Ryder said. “The classics is where we want to bring in more depth; we want to bring in more riders who can win races.
“The classics are the oldest most famous races in the world and with massive amount of exposure in terms of media and people that watch them and we want to get our Qhubeka charity to as many people as possible.” – The Star
Source: IOL – Cycling
Sky’s the limit for MTN-Qhubeka