Behind Milan-San Remo victory, a mission
A top 20 finish. That was Team MTN-Qhubeka’s goal headed into last weekend’s Milan-San Remo, according to team principal Douglas Ryder.
How about first place instead?
Team MTN-Qhubeka’s Gerald Ciolek’s stunning victory, in atrocious conditions against cycling’s true hardmen, shines a light on this upstart team and its inspiring mission. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung is the first ever UCI Professional Continental team from the African continent. A wildcard entry into Milan-San Remo, the team made history with Ciolek’s victory. It also made history when Songezo Jim became the first black South African rider to race a WorldTour event.
The team, which rides Zipp wheels and SRAM drivetrains, aims to provide opportunities for African riders to excel at the highest levels of the sport while promoting Qhubeka, a South African non-profit organization that provides bicycles to rural children in return for work done to improve their communities. Qhubeka – an Nguni (Zulu, Xhosa) word that means “to carry on,” “to progress,” “to move forward” – is a beneficiary of World Bicycle Relief.
We reached a still-elated Douglas Ryder to chat with him about this milestone team victory:
Zipp: What does this win in Milan-San Remo, one of cycling's “Monuments,” mean for the team and its mission?
Douglas: For us, the first victory was getting a wild-card entry into the race, to then go on to win it is absolutely incredible. The win has put our team and its cause, Qhubeka Bikes for life as well as African cycling, on the map. This victory will inspire riders across Africa knowing that it is possible to compete against the best in the world like Songezo Jim did.
Kids look up to sporting icons. Gerald and Songezo are racing to mobilize kids on bikes, and there will be many eager to follow in their footsteps.
Douglas: Together they are the fastest combination, according to our head mechanic Casper Bester, for a race that is windy with short steep climbs.
Zipp: Any overall comment on how your bikes performed on such a chaotic day under such harsh conditions? How about the team’s morale going in?
Douglas: Even with the weather our team morale was high. They felt honored to be on the start line with that company. After the neutralized section everything was frozen, from riders to bikes, but when our mechanics checked the bikes the (SRAM RED – 2012) gearing and drive train all worked and needed very little attention to get the riders going again. The rolling resistance on Zipp Firecrest wheels with 25c tubular tires is incredible and our riders are loving the feel of the bikes.