African cycling is taking another step forward. This coming Wednesday, Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung will take on its first season highlight at the Itallian race Tirreno-Adriatico (March 6-12, UCI WorldTour). This is the first time in the history of international cycling that an African team will start in a WorldTour race, the highest ranking of the UCI. The Professional Continental team will be led by their German team captain Gerald Ciolek and Spaniard Sergio Pardilla. And for the first time, newly-crowned South African road champion Jay Thomson will wear the jersey with the national colours at a UCI race.
“The 2013 Tirreno–Adriatico will see the first African registered Pro Continental Team take the start in a WorldTour event. I want to thank RCS Sport for having a great vision of globalising world cycling and for giving our team the opportunity to participate and race against the best cyclists in the world”, said team principal Douglas Ryder. “When you are racing to mobilise people on bikes in Africa, you have more motivation than racing for yourself and our riders are looking forward to the challenge.”
Pardilla will start the race on the back of a succesful debut for the team in Le Tour de Langkawi where he finished third overall. The Spaniard was supported by an outstanding team, which also won the team ranking in the Asian race.
Despite being hampered by sickness, team captain Gerald Ciolek has showed good form during the early part of the season by winning the final stage in Three Days of West Flanders and sprinting to eleventh place in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and fifth place in Trofeo Laigueglia.
“Our team presented itself very well in the first races of the season and brought in noteworthy placings. Everyone on the team worked perfectly together and was highly motivated for the races,“ said sport director Jens Zemke. “The appearance at Tirreno-Adriatico is our first big highlight. In Italy we want to justify our invitation to our first WorldTour race with a good performance. We will look to Gerald Ciolek in the sprint arrivals, and in the mountains, Sergio Pardilla will be our man.“
The race starts Wednesday with a team time trial in San Vincenzo and ends seven days later with an individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic Sea. One of the highlights of the “Race of the Two Seas” is the mountaintop finish at Prati di Tivo on Saturday.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung has a dedicated website for the race on its Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/TeamMTNQhubeka/app_351105568338242
Tirreno-Adriatico (Italy) – (March 6-12): Gerald Ciolek, Ignatas Konovalovas, Andreas Stauff, Martin Reimer, Jay Thomson, Kristian Sbaragli, Jaco Venter, Sergio Pardilla
Staff: Jens Zemke (Directeur Sportif), Brent Copeland (Directeur Sportif), Bastian Buffel (Soigneur), Hagen Bernutz (Soigneur), Ian Blackburn (Soigneur), Nierie Daniele (Mechanic), Heiko Heinrici (Mechanic), Casper Bester (Mechanic), Francesco Bonnini (Bus Driver)