Last year, having our continental feeder team based in Europe for its first full season presented numerous challenges to both riders and staff. The team was able to pick up 8 race victories on the African continent, including 3 u23 national titles but it was the strong performances in the European u23 events where our riders developed best. The most significant moment of the year came at the Coppa della Pace where Keagan Girdlestone was involved in a life-threatening crash. The highlight of our season has been to see the progress Girdlestone continues to make with his recovery, and having his good friend Ryan Gibbons graduate from the Continental Team into the World Tour squad for the 2017 season.
Ethiopian champion Hafetab Weldu, Getachow Astbha, Joseph Areruya, Samuel Mugisha, El Mehdi Chokri and Louis Visser will be the new young faces joining our feeder team for the 2017 season. Each of these riders was carefully handpicked by our management team after showing consistent results and promise over the last two years.
Continuing with our feeder team for their second year is double South African u23 champion, Stefan de Bod as well as Nicholas Dlamini, Metkel Eyob, Amanuel Gebreigzahbier and Jun Rey Navarra. With the average age in the team just 21 years old, we believe we have the best young talent the continent of Africa has to offer.
Just as exciting as the new prospects we have signed is the addition of South African coach Andrew Smith to our continental squad management team. As Head Coach of the UCI World Cycling Centre Africa, Smith has been instrumental in the development of a number of African riders, many of them having already graduated to our World Tour team. Currently based in Aigle, Switzerland at the UCI World Cycling Centre, Smith's experience and mentorship will be key in transforming this talented group of riders into Africa's next generation of World Tour professionals.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental has already got its season underway with a preseason training camp in the Western Cape, South Africa. The u23 South African National Championships will be the team's first key objective before competing in several domestic events in South Africa until mid-March. The feeder team will then relocate to our training base in Lucca, Italy until the season concludes at the end of October.
2017 Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental
DE BOD, Stefan - South Africa (20yrs)
DLAMINI, Nicholas - South Africa (21yrs)
VISSER, Louis - South Africa (18yrs)
ARERUYA, Joseph - Rwanda (21yrs)
MUGISHA, Samuel - Rwanda (19yrs)
ASTBHA, Getachow - Ethiopia (20yrs)
WELDU, Hafetab - Ethiopia (20yrs)
EYOB, Metkel - Eritrea (23yrs)
GHEBREIGZAHBIER, Amanuel - Eritrea (22yrs)
CHOKRI, El Mehdi - Morocco (20yrs)
NAVARRA, Jun Rey - Philippines (24yrs)