An African team will be featured for the first time ever in this year’s Tour de France: South Africa’s MTN-Qhubeka received a wild card today from race organizers.
“OK, we had [Kenya-born Briton] Chris Froome win the 2013 Tour de France, [South African] Daryl Impey wore the yellow jersey, but to have a whole team in the Tour de France … for Africa and South Africa, it’s going to be huge,” MTN General Manager Brian Smith told VeloNews.
MTN-Qhubeka, which made its Grand Tour debut in the Vuelta in 2014, was one of five teams to receive Tour de France wild cards; the other four are: German team Bora-Argon 18, and French teams Cofidis, Europcar and Bretagne-Seche Environnement.
The wild cards join the 17 UCI World Tour teams that have already qualified for the world’s most prestigious cycling race that begins in July.
Africans on the nine-man MTN-Qhubeka team include South African Louis Meintjes and Eritreans Merhawi Kudus and Natnael Berhane, the two-time African champion. Others on the squad include Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen, Australian Matthew Goss and American Tyler Farrar.
MTN-Qhubeka, which is backed by Samsung, helps promote the Qhubeka project, which distributes bicycles to rural African children.