Johannesburg - MTN Qhubeka has announced the riders it will base in Italy for the 2013 season, with their sights set on winning major races in the second division of world cycling.
"Our dream remains getting to the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and developing an African world champion," team principal Douglas Ryder said on Monday.
The team is Africa’s first International Cycling Union (UCI) registered professional continental team, with a blend of African and European riders.
"This is an exciting development for African cycling that has been years in the making," said Ryder.
"We have 70 percent African riders and 30 percent from Europe and there is no other team in world cycling that has this composition."
Riders like Gerald Ciolek from Belgium, Spanish road cyclist Sergio Pardilla, Martin Reimer of Germany and Lithuanian Ignatas Konovalovas had joined the team to share their experience of racing professionally in Europe.
"We have taken some really good European riders to come on board with mentoring and fast track the riders to success. They’ve ridden these races many times before and will give the local riders advice about the races."
The team had set itself the target of claiming 10 UCI victories and 10 race wins to show what African cycling was capable of on the global stage.
Ryder said they would not neglect races in South Africa.
"We have a feeder team based in Potchefstroom and they will race 100 percent locally in South Africa."
Meanwhile, MTN South Africa's chief marketing officer Serame Taukobong said it was fully behind the team.
"MTN is pleased that the dream of having an African team competing on the international arena and the possibility of riding the Tour de France has now become a reality," Taukobong said.
"We aim to continue developing cycling talent in South Africa and the African continent and get riders that will take the baton from the current crop of cyclists and continue making waves internationally."
MTN Qhubeka Team: Gerald Ciolek, Martin Reimer, Andreas Stauff, Ignatas Konovalovas, Sergio Pardilla, Jay Thomson, Louis Meintjes, Johann Van Zyl, Songezo Jim, Bradley Potgieter, Dennis van Niekerk, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Venter, Martin Wesemann, Youcef Reguigui, Kristian Sbaragli, Ferekalsi Debesay, Meron Russom, Jani Tewelde, Tsgabu Grmay, and Adrien Niyonshuti.