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by Shane Stokes
November 25, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
Long anticipated, the UCI has confirmed that MTN-Qhubeka/Team Dimension Data will step up to WorldTour in 2016. The team was invited to speak to the UCI’s Licence Commission last week and, on the basis of that meeting plus paperwork submitted, its step up to the top level of the sport has been approved.
“This is incredible,” said Team Principal Douglas Ryder. “I am so happy for this team, our partners and all the staff and riders that have worked so hard over the years to keep building this team to push beyond the boundaries and believe that anything is possible.
“To get this news on our training camp in Cape Town as we are bonding with our new team for the future is simply the best motivation to move forward into 2016.”
The team has described it as a historic day in the world of cycling, and with reason. It will be the first time Africa will be represented at the very top level of the sport, and shows the progress the team has made in recent seasons.
It rode its first Tour de France this season as a result of a wildcard invite, but will now have automatic right of entry to it and other WorldTour races.
“While we were always hopeful of making it into the World Tour, the excitement of today’s announcement has been met with great joy among our team, partners and fans across the world,” said the team.
“The realisation of this dream has only been made possible by years of hard work, strategic partnerships, incredible riders producing exceptional performances and support staff. We are delighted to rewrite the history books and place African cycling at the highest level in World Cycling.”
The team had a strong 2015 season and has boosted the chances of going to an even higher performance level next year through the signing of riders such as multiple Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish. He will be joined by Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel in moving to the squad, and will link back up again with former team-mates such as Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Together with the move of Rolf Aldag, who comes from the management squad of Cavendish’s current Etixx – Quick-Step squad, the nucleus of the old HTC Highroad sprint setup will be at the team.
Cavendish and others will hope that this will lead to a return to the point where he was clocking up multiple stage wins in the Tour de France. He currently has 26, and is still targeting the all-time record of 34 held by Eddy Merckx.
Dimension Data will be the title sponsor of the team next season. It, Deloitte, Sapinda, Cervélo, Rotor and the other backers give it the financial clout to be able to join the WorldTour. It will also continue supporting the Qhubeka charity.
As previously reported here, the team will also have a Continental team located in Lucca, Italy.
Like Ryder, Dimension Data CEO Brett Dawson welcomed today’s news.
“As the title sponsor, we’re extremely proud to be part of the team’s iconic rise from one of the five wild cards teams to ride in this year’s Tour de France to World Tour status,” he said.
“We look forward to accelerating our journey together and continue to play a role in developing African riders into professional cyclists who will compete in some of the world’s greatest cycling events.”
The team is currently holding a training camp in South Africa and planning towards 2016. The certainty of having automatic entry to all the top level races will make this planning much easier.