The South African team MTN-Qhubeka were handed one of five wildcard spots for the 102nd edition of the Tour de France that will start in the Netherlands in July.
By
Reuters

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:35 PM

"When I received a text message from (Tour de France director) Christian Prudhomme saying welcome to the Tour de France asking me to call him back, I simply could not contain myself," team manager Douglas Ryder said.

"I shouted to my wife and then things started going crazy. I have been waiting my whole life for this news.

"The pressure over the years of getting partners and riders to believe in this dream is finally a reality."

MTN-Qhubeka will join the big guns of world cycling such as Alberto Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo team and 2014 champion Vicenzo Nibali's Astana outfit, who are among the 17 teams automatically qualified by the Union Cycliste International (UCI).

German team Bora-Argon 18 as well as French squads Cofidis, Europcar and Bretagne-Seche Environnement will also be on the starting line on July 4 in the Dutch City of
Utrecht.

With a distinctive black and white striped kit, resembling that of Australian Football League club Collingwood, MTN-Qhubeka are the largest professional multi-discipline team on the African continent and made their Grand Tour debut in last year's Vuelta a Espana.

Ryder, whose team will also ride in the classic Criterium du Dauphine this year, said his riders will now be extra motivated as they continue with their training camps.

"I know our riders and staff will be the most motivated team in the world right now ahead of our second training camp," he said. "We will not only ride in the Tour, we will compete and we will have the support of the whole continent behind us."

The team's rider list includes Eritrea's 24-year-old Natnael Berhane, twice African champion, while several South Africans are also on the roster as well as riders from Rwanda and Algeria.

They have recently recruited Australian Matt Goss and Tour de France stage winners Tyler Farrar of the U.S. and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway.

The team, backed by South Korean electronics giant Samsung, helps to promote the work of the Qhubeka project which has distributed 50,000 bicycles to children in rural African communities since 2004.

SBS and Cycling Central will broadcast and live stream across all platforms the 21 stages of the 2015 Tour de France and the women's la Course race, LIVE from Paris.