South African cycling is gaining great momentum this season. Earlier in the year, Gerald Ciolek won the Milan San Remo, and bang! Team MTN-Qhubeka was placed boldly on the international cycling map. Ciolek outsprinted great cycling names like Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara to take the victory in atrocious, freezing conditions.
Watching the final 3 kilometres where Ciolek executed his winning move was a goose bump moment, enough to fill any South African with pride as the recognisable “proudly South African” yellow colour of Team MTN-Qhubeka crossed the finish line with a fist pump.
From left – Team MTN-Qhubeka cyclists Songezo Jim, Gerald Ciolek, Serame Taukobong, MTN’s Chief Marketing Officer, Adrian Niyonshuti and Jay Thomson.
Ciolek announced that he has re-signed for another two seasons with the truly inspirational team. Beyond cycling for a pro-continental team, Ciolek is continuing his relationship for the cause behind the team – the Qhubeka foundation.
“At first I got a lot of questions about why I was riding for Team MTN-Qhubeka, now nobody is asking questions anymore. They can see how the team performs, and they know the great story behind the team, the story about getting kids on bicycles.”
Team principal Doug Ryder said that 3500 lives have been changed because they now have bicycles. “Five percent of our riders’ race winnings go towards the Qhubeka fund. We also auction off the prestigious jerseys, like yellow jerseys, that we receive from various races and Tours. Seventy percent of the team is riders from Africa, and we leverage the skills and knowledge from the 30% international team members to help fast track our local riders on the international circuit. This all supports the greater vision of improving people’s lives with a bicycle.”
In addition, Team MTN-Qhubeka’s associate sponsor, Samsung SA handed over a cheque for R2 million rand to the Qhubeka foundation. The money was raised on a percentage of sales on the Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets from MTN outlets to fuel the Qhubeka World Bicycle Relief Programme.
Popular local professional cyclist Songezo Jim, who started cycling at 14 years old, spoke about his early cycling days and the decisions he faced: “I had to decide between cycling or soccer, and I chose cycling. It was tough because my friends did not cycle, but now they are all interested in the sport and want to take up cycling when they see the success.
“The impact of having Gerald on the team has been great,” he continued. “He is very experienced and it is good for the youngsters that he is passing this experience on. It makes it easier for the team to move forward as a team – communication is key to our racing success!”
South African road cycling national champion Jay Thomson shared his experience of the freezing, sub-zero temperature in the Milan San Remo race, especially since he only had 4% body fat after slimming down before the start of the season. “Gerald has helped riders like me to help him, to make a success of the team. He is a great guy, very down to earth, and we are all treated the same. I feel at home as a South African rider on a South African team. Many youngsters dream of playing cricket for the Proteas, or rugby for the Springboks, but this is the same for cycling and a dream come true for me.”
Team MTN-Qhubeka will be heading off to London to race in the Ride London Classic on 4 August, with Utah, Portugal and Britain being big focus races over the next few weeks, building up to the UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Britain.
View Team MTN-Qhubeka’s race schedule here: http://www.teammtnqhubeka.com/?page_id=64