The bicycle make me happy, that I get on school fast, and I go home faster, and I clean, and I can do my homework’s and I can do everything.
So, explains the young boy called Simphiwe in the video. He is a delighted lad, having received a new bicycle from the cycling charity, Qhubeka.
Put your hands up for Africa
Qhubeka may not sound familiar, but partner it up with the letters, M-T-N, and many cycling fans will recognise and even cheer for this African Team. It’s exciting times for Team MTN Qhubeka, and overall African interests in Pro-Cycling. Founded in 2007, MTN, as it’s registered name, became Africa’s first Professional Continental Team in 2012; just one tier below the full International Teams ranking. It’s the equivalent of making the First Division, just snapping at the heels of the Premier Leauge in the UK. As luck would have it, with wild cards falling to their favour, and MTN’s named partner, Qhubeka, being a worthy charity, it has become a favourite with the one-day race organisers, inviting them to compete and in some cases, win.
This year was a monumental shift for the team, when MTN got a wild card for this year’s Vuelta.
Qhubeka is an Nguni word that means “to carry on”, “to progress”, “to move forward”
Mixing it up with the best of ’em – one of MTN’s Eritrean’s, with Spartacus in the background
The Charity which MTN supports says this about themselves: “Qhubeka is an Nguni word that means “to carry on”, “to progress”, “to move forward”. Qhubeka helps people move forward and progress by giving bicycles in return for work done to improve communities, the environment or academic results. Having a bicycle changes lives by increasing the distance people can travel, what they can carry, where they can go and how fast they can get there.”
- More than 51 000 bikes have been distributed by Qhubeka since 2005
- A child’s commute time to school is reduced by up to 75% with a bicycle
- A bicycle increases a person’s carrying capacity by five times
- Healthcare workers can visit more than double the amount of patients per day with a bicycle
- Marks improve by an average of 25% for children who ride a bicycle to school
- Schools where children ride bicycles see attendance rates rise by 18% on average
Vuelta Time: MTN winning their first Grand Tour entry at this year’s Spanish Vuelta
All’s not Roses
Of course, like most teams, MTN Qhubeka has a major financial sponsor. In this case it’s the Nigerian Communications and Technology company, MTN. It’s not so much that this is a Nigerian firm, and the stereotypes that come with it. After all, the firm has been operating as the number one national provider since 2001, and has worked extensively to bring comms in the country up to the very latest wizardry and standards. To complicate matters, or perhaps improve them, the cycling team is registered in South Africa. Instead, the main concern is how long can they keep it going?
With the likes of Cannondale, Belkin and Rabobank withdrawing support, there’s absolutely no assurance that this inspiring team will be around to gain enough momentum to dominate and allow African teams to shine.
A question of team longevity. With so many teams folding after just a year or two, how can MTN be any different?
Since 2010, the team have won 21 national championships. Most notably in 2014, Louis Meintjes winning a hat-trick in the South African Road Race Champs, TT, and Under 23 TT. But it doesn’t stop there. With next season’s roster 18 out of 24 riders being of African descent, there’s plenty of home grown talent.
Under arm power, or simply getting my radio fixed. It doesn’t matter when you’re as good a Louis
MTN’s most recent signing of former Team-Sky rider, Edvald Boasson Hagen reflects the team’s willingness to add experience to the African team. The Norwegian won’t be lonely either. Edvald will be mixing it up with former Garmin front man, Tyler Farrar and Orica-Greenedge ‘Boss’ man, Matthew Goss. With both Farrar and Goss being sprinters, let’s hope their combination is a show of force, rather than rivalry within the team. Cycling pundits seem to agree, it’s a great opportunity for these professionals to regroup and rekindle their careers.
To top it off, MTN will be getting one of the world’s premium bike manufacturers, kitting them out for the coming season, through Cervelo. Widely regarded as one of cycling’s greatest innovators of it’s generation, no one can argue that MTN won’t have the natural resources and arsenal to compete with the big boys. Watch out Tinkoff, it’s not all about the Benjamins. So long as Joanna can gimme hope…