21 Feb 2015

African cycling

From This Way Up, 1:10 pm on 21 February 2015

African cycling
Photograph: Mario Stiehl.

It's being billed as the first "properly African" team to compete in the Tour de France.

But when members of Team MTN-Qhubeka join the rest of the peloton for the start of this year's tour in the Netherlands on Saturday July 4th, they won't just be carrying the hopes of a continent on their Lycra-clad shoulders.

World sport cycling's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale or the UCI, will be hoping their presence could also help turn sports cycling into a truly global sport.

African cycling fan Tim Lewis, author of Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda's Cycling Team (Yellow Jersey Press), told This Way Up's Simon Morton that the team combines a major African telco MTN with Qhubeka, a charity providing bicycles to those in need in South Africa. The majority of the 9 riders on the team will be African.

Mr Lewis says the team has been getting some good results in Europe and won't just be making up the numbers.

"There's incredible physiological ability from a lot of Africans but they haven't had very much experience of road racing. So bringing them in alongside some European names... means that they can come through faster than they would otherwise."