Serame Taukobong Chief Marketing Officer at MTN SA says, “As proud sponsors of Team MTN-Qhubeka, we are pleased to announce our pursuit of the African dream to get the first African cycling team, with predominately African riders to race in the Tour de France. This dream has the potential of unlocking vast opportunities for cycling in South Africa and in the entire continent.”
The announcement has garnered support from the highest echelons of cycling. Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI (the international governing body for the sport of cycling) gave his support in a video message recorded specially for the event. McQuaid notes that while the UCI acknowledges the history of cycling in Europe, the sport belongs outside the continent too and says that he believes Team MTN-Qhubeka is a team that can bring Africa to the Tour de France.
“To register Africa’s first UCI Professional Continental Team is great for the riders on our team who have worked so hard in building their performance to this higher level of racing which shows in their results over the last 12 months,” explains Team Principal Doug Ryder. “The plan is to race a dual program in 2013, one in Europe and the other in events that span the other continents, with the intention of raising the awareness of cycling on the African continent and how, through Qhubeka and World Bicycle Relief, we are mobilising change, one bike at a time in Africa.”
Anthony Fitzhenry, Founder of Qhubeka, says the organisation is delighted with the MTN-Qhubeka team’s result so far this year. “We are thankful to MTN for their support of the team and Qhubeka, and we will put all our efforts and resources into helping the them to continue to achieve their impressive goals, including an African Tour de France team and mobilising many more children on bicycles throughout Africa,” he says.
Respected Tour de France commentator Phil Liggett also voiced his approval of the announcement. “I’m all for the day when an African team rides at the Tour de France” he says. He adds that while Team Barloworld included South African riders, they were registered in the UK. “We’ll give the honour of being the first African team to MTN-Qhubeka,” he smiles.
The MTN-Qhubeka Tour de France dream has caught the imagination of riders, media and fans in South Africa, the continent and even around the globe. As the announcement was made, MTN-Qhubeka was trending on Twitter throughout the country. The MTN sponsorship of the African Tour de France campaign seems like a match made in heaven. “Our vision is to see an African rider wearing the yellow jersey, or a recipient of a MTN-Qhubeka bicycle becoming a bona-fide professional cyclist,” says Taukobong. “The possibilities are endless and we are very excited to get the wheels rolling.”