Next year MTN-Qhubeka will have a somewhat different name but their goal will remain the same.
For the riders in yellow it does not matter whether they race on tar or on dirt or even fly over jumps during BMX-races. Their goal will always be to do the best they can.
Needless to say that 2010 was a good year for the MTN-Qhubeka riders. Of the 167 races in which they competed, they managed to win 102. In total the riders achieved 203 podium finishes.
What was impressive is that they have won ten South African titles (road, mountain biking and BMX) and two Africa road championship titles. Sifiso Nhlapo won a silver medal at the World BMX Championship in Pietermaritzburg.
Doug Ryder, team owner, is quietly confident that his riders are capable of even better performances in 2011.
The challenge he puts to his riders is to aspire to be South Africa’s number one team in each of the categories in which they compete. In order to do that they will have to win their respective national championship races as well as the important classics.
But for MTN-Qhubeka cycling is not just about winning races. As sponsors they firmly believe in trying to make a difference in disadvantaged communities.
A unique aspect of the team setup is an arrangement that 5% of all the prize money won by their riders during races, as well as the rider endorsements will be used to buy bicycles for kids in disadvantaged communities.
Qhubeka is a non-profit organization (founded by the ICT infra-structure distributor, Axiz) that raises funds for the donation of bicycles to children and caregivers in developing communities, who have no transport and have to walk long distances to school.
What makes the project unique is that the bicycles are not merely handed over to the communities. Qhubeka finances about 75% of the cost of the bicycle, while the recipient has to provide or earn the other 25%. This gives them a better sense of ownership and involvement.
The initiative has not only distributed some 40 000 bikes since it was launched in 2004, but it has also reduced the cost of children’s school commuting by 75% in the communities it services; reduced the sports infrastructure cost per child by 90%; increased micro-finance loan recipient earnings by 500%, and increased healthcare worker visits to orphans and vulnerable children by 400%
Ryder has big plans for the men’s road team. He will make sure his riders get exposure to international racing. That is why the men’s team is registered as a UCI Continental team.
Basically the team will, until June, compete in an international tour each month. Apart from the tours in Africa – Gabon, South Africa, Morocco and Ivory Coast the riders will also be participating in Olympia Tour (UCI 2.2) in Holland, Gironde (UCI 2.2) in France, Circuito Montanes (UCI 2.2) in Spain and the Boucle de la Magenne (UCI 2.2) in France.
In the build-up to the World Championship in September in Denmark, Ryder plans to give his u.23-riders a two-month riding stint in Europe to ensure that they are properly prepared.
MTN-Qhubeka’s biggest new signing is undoubtedly Arran Brown who is at the moment one of the best sprinters. During the past two years Brown has managed to win the Argus, Amashova (twice) and the 94.7. He is the only rider who has been able to win the three big classics in the same calendar year.
In all likelihood Brown and Janse van Rensburg will become the new “terrible twins” of South African cycling who will dominate the local racing.
Judging by his results towards the end of the year, it would seem that Janse van Rensburg has the makings of becoming one of South Africa’s best tour riders. He proved in Rwanda and during the Clover Lowveld Tour that he can climb, time trial and sprint. The safe bet would be to predict that Janse van Rensburg will win quite a few stages in the tours in which he will compete.
Ryder should be complimented for the number and caliber of youngsters he has signed. The average age of the road team is about 23.
Christoff van Heerden and Dennis van Niekerk are the two most experienced riders.
The rest of the road team are: Bradley Potgieter, James Tennent, Stanley Namanyana, Lotto Petrus, Adrien Niyonshuti, Dylan Girdlestone, Martin Weseman, Charles Keey.
As far as the women’s road team is concerned, MTN-Qhubeka also opted to give young riders a chance. An-Li Pretorius and Lylanie Lauwrens, who only recently came to their own as professionals, are the two most experienced riders in the team, along with Lise Olivier who rode for Bizhub this year.
Sarah Chemaly, who won the South African Junior Tour for women, might just be next year’s surprise factor. It will be only the second year that she will be cycling seriously. Until the beginning of last year she was a ballet dancer who did spinning to help her to keep fit.
The other riders in the women’s team are: Jeaun Mari Breytenbach and Charlotte van der Merwe.
As far as mountain biking is concerned there cannot be any doubt that MTN-Qhubeka’s Yolandé Speedy, Mariske Strauss and Eszter Cluer will totally dominate the local racing scene.
In the beginning of this year there was a time when, if Speedy did not win, Strauss was victorious. Cluer was the only rider who could spoil their fun in the dirt.
Erdelyi-Cluer comes from a strong track running and multisport background and is the 2007 Xterra European Champion. After winning the 2008 SA Xterra Championships in Grabouw, she picked up a serious knee-injury which made it difficult for her to continue with her running career. She had an operation on her right knee in September 2008. After rehabilitation on her knee she decided to focus her energies on XC mountain biking, hoping to represent Hungary at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
As far as the men’s mountain biking team is concerned, it will be interesting to see if Adrien Niyonshuti can at long last pull off a victory in the MTN ultra-marathon series. This year he was one of the most consistent riders and he achieved top-five finishes every time he raced. He also won two of the races in the Nissan series.
Having Paul Cordes, a seasoned veteran, as a teammate definitely counts in Niyonshuti’s favour. Cordes will unashamedly sacrifice himself if he could help Niyonshuti win a race.
Keey will also be doing some mountain bike racing.
As with road cycling, MTN-Qhubeka should be complimented on the international programme that they have put together for their mountain bike team. The riders will be competing in five of the six Cross-Country World Cup events.