Africa’s only cycling team keeps the wheels turning
By: Daniel Gallan
Doug Ryder and his Team Qhubeka Assos riders put the continent on the cycling map. He explains why the future of African cycling is bright despite the name changes and struggles of the past.
When Daniel Teklehaimanot of Eritrea pushed off to begin the 2015 Tour de France, he became the first Black cyclist from Africa to compete in cycling’s marquee event. It wasn’t the only first, though, throughout the 102nd edition of the Tour.
Along with countryman Merhawi Kudus, Teklehaimanot wore the black-and-white stripes of MTN-Qhubeka, the first team from Africa to take part. Teklehaimanot would don the King of the Mountain polka-dot jersey for four stages. British rider Steve Cummins claimed victory in stage 14 for MTN-Qhubeka on 18 July, Nelson Mandela’s birthday, fulfilling a pre-race promise made by team principal Doug Ryder.
This was a landmark moment in a sport that has long been the domain of wealthier nations. Elite cycling is an expensive endeavour and successful athletes tend to be born to the saddle. Ryder and his riders – comprising five Africans in a team of nine – not only kicked the establishment’s door down but also took ownership of a seat at the main table by finishing fifth in the final classification. That the team was intrinsically linked with Qhubeka, a South African charity founded in 2005 that has donated more than 100 000 bicycles to improve mobili