Cycling is a sport that’s present all over the inhabited world, but it’s more common in some continents than in others. In Africa, for instance, there is less of a presence of cyclists than in many other continents. But, is that about to change? What does African professional cycling look like at the moment?
Challenges for African Cycling Teams
The biggest challenge that faces African cycling teams is finding new talent around the continent. It’s not that that talent doesn’t exist, but it has more to do with a misperception about riding bicycles. Many young people, and even older generations, view bicycles as a tool for the poor who can’t afford a car and not something to do for sport or fun.
This has inhibited a lot of progress in many countries, but South Africa and Eritrea seem to be two countries actively working to put this to rest. Initiatives are being put in place by one cycling team, MTN-Qhubeka, to try to help change people’s perceptions of bikes from being used only by the poor to something that can improve the quality of life for everyone. If it catches on, they may also be able to discover new talent amongst a generation not afraid to ride their bikes proudly.
MTN-Qhubkea: Putting African Cycling on the Map
Cycling in South Africa has proved to be a fruitful effort for one team in particular, MTN-Qhubeka (now called Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka). Qhubeka is a word that means “progress” in the Nguni language, and it describes exactly what this team is striving for in their own country and internationally. This was the first African team ever to compete in the Tour de France, which happened in 2015.
Not only did they compete, but one of the Eritrean riders on the team was labeled “King of the Mountain” and donned the coveted polka dot jersey. Made up of Eritreans, South Africans, Ethiopians, and some Europeans as well, the team is hoping to continue to improve their international record and continue on in their success.
Continental Competitions in Africa
Competitions exist all around Africa currently, with many different regional circuits that host international races. Eritrea, South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Egypt are some of the better-known circuits for continental competitions. These circuits go all around the countries themselves and give riders a great tour of some of the incredible places to see while they ride.
So far, no other African team has managed to gain the same level of success at MTN-Qhubeka, although there are a few that have been successful in local and continental circuits. In the future, it’s hoped that South Africa’s most notable team has broken a barrier that will now lead to more and more African teams seen in prestigious international competitions, not just their own continental competitions.
Africa as a continent still has a long way to go when it comes to professional cycling, but MTN-Qhubeka is one team that’s showing the world that it’s possible for an African team to succeed!