The 2013 season is off to a magnificent start for the World Cycling Centre in Africa, with its team winning the title of South African Champions in the team time trial in Nelspruit on Friday.
The Team MTN-Qhubeka World Cycling Centre Africa was composed of two South Africans (JC Nel and Calvin Beneke) and four Ethiopians (Estifanos Gebresilassie, Alem Grmay, Tesfu Redge et Getachew Yohans) for this event, open to several nationalities.
âThis performance is a reflection of our values, since our Centre trains riders from all over Africa,â underlined the Director Jean-Pierre Van Zyl. âIt is the fruit of an intense preparation over more than two weeks during which are athletes have been living, eating and training together in our base in Potchefstroom , South Africa.â
Two days later, the team made its mark with an offensive tactic in the road race of the South African Championships, which was won by Jay Robert Thomson (MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung). Janiver Hadi (Rwanda) and Richard Laizer (Tanzania) applied a lot of pressure in the first 70 kilometres, prompting the runner-up Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung) to comment afterwards: âOur feeder team made the race really hard on the first two laps.â
This winter, the UCI Professional Continental Team (second division), Team MTN-Qhubeka established a partnership contract with the World Cycling Centreâs (WCC) African satellite which gave rise to the Team MTN-Qhubeka World Cycling Centre Africa.
The WCC has built up a chain of formation: according to an agreement, the best riders from African countriesÂ can join the Centre in Potchefstroom; the best of them compete in African events with the MTN-Qhubeka reserve team; of these, some are sent to the WCC in Aigle (Switzerland) to perfect their training; the very best may then have the opportunity to turn professional with MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung.
âOur system has contributed enormously to the motivation of our riders,â observes Jean-Pierre Van Zyl. âThey are more attentive, they concentrate 100% and progress rapidly.â
Since 2005, the World Cycling Centreâs African satellite has trained more than 500 athletes, including Eritreans Daniel Teklehaimanot (Orica-GreenEdge) and Natnael Berhane (Team Europcar) as well as Algerian Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung).
Jean-Pierre Van Zyl explains that the African centreâs partners and suppliersÂ have helped the athletes step up a level this winter. âWe are more professional, closer to the life of a professional cyclist,â he said. âWhen our best riders compete in well-know events in Europe, they will all be able to master the basic tactics, speak English and work with an SRM [power meter â Ed].â
The next major objective of the Team MTN-Qhubeka World Cycling Centre Africa is the Mzansi Tour fromÂ AprilÂ 17 to 21, a new South African event on the UCI calendar. The team will then embark on its first trip to Europe at the end of May or beginning of June, for a minimum of six weeks.