MTN-Qhubeka is a professional cycling team with unique vision and ambition. As Africa’s first ever UCI registered Pro Continental team MTN-Qhubeka is already making history. Sponsored by the African telecommunications company MTN and leading electronics manufacturer Samsung, the team competes to raise awareness of the Qhubeka charity. The MTN-Qhubeka team has captivated public imagination at all levels and changes the lives of African people by providing the ultimate in sustainable transport….. the bicycle.
Qhubeka bike handover to an African township
Using a combination of hand picked European and young African riders the team aims to nurture and develop cycling talent from grass roots to compete at the highest level in professional cycling. MTN-Qhubeka has chosen nutrition and sports medicine services from the Elite Sport Group (ESG) to help them achieve this goal. This ‘David and Goliath’ challenge is already the subject of a documentary ‘An African Bicycle Dream’ and the first two episodes from the 2013 season are available below.
Episode 1: An African Bicycle Dream
Episode 2: An African Bicycle Dream
Episode 3: An African Bicycle Dream
MTN-Qhubeka’s mix of black and white African riders together with experienced European professionals, has already shaken up the world of professional cycling. To see each riders full list of results and to see them in action follow the blue links from the MTN-Qhubeka rider list. Despite a budget one tenth that of Team Sky, MTN-Qhubeka have consistently beaten established teams in top-level racing. This includes the first win by a Ethiopian rider in a UCI race, victory at the classic Milan San Remo, and stage wins at the tours of Austria, Korea, Taiwan and Britain. These victories were accompanied with a mountain stage win and four days in the yellow jersey at the Tour of Portugal, the world’s fourth biggest stage race. For a review of MTN-Qhubeka’s debut Pro Continental season click here.
In 2013 many MTN-Qhubeka riders achieved career best performances. One example is star sprinter Gerald Ciolek, who in his first year with MTN-Qhubeka achieved 3 times more wins than in his two previous seasons with Quickstep. The performances of Ethiopian rider Tsgabu Grmay are equally remarkable; improving from just 3 top 10 results in 2012 to achieve 11 top ten places in 2013, with three wins.
When considering MTN-Qhubeka’s status as a small Pro-Continental team, it has unusual approach to racing; making significant investments in advanced training techniques, nutrition support and sports medicine. The ability to successfully apply these scientific disciplines to cycling, underpins MTN-Qhubeka’s incredible success and ESG are an integral part of this.
Initial work on improving MTN-Qhubeka nutrition programs started in December 2012, building solid foundations to prepare the team for the 2013 season. The riders had diverse physiological requirements including reducing muscle mass, increasing muscle mass and fat loss, which required an individualised approach. This was addressed by reviewing existing training and nutrition programs and providing nutrition to specifically support each riders performance goals. This incorporated rider education, so that riders understood how to make the correct nutritional choices regardless of religious restrictions, the food available, or the country they were racing in. ESG’s detailed dietary analysis also identified many of the riders were eating ‘health foods’ which were actually compromising recovery and made it more difficult to lose bodyfat.
ESG provided the MTN-Qhubeka team with nutrition support in competition, by cooking scientifically formulated pre and post race meals. We also provided physiotherapy services to prevent and manage musculoskeletal problems, helping the riders stay healthy and perform at their best even in the toughest races. At the Volta Portugal where temperatures routinely exceeded 40oC, riders regularly had daily sweat losses exceeding 10 liters. Despite this, none of the MTN-Qhubeka team suffered muscle cramps, or were forced to quit the race due to dehydration.
The same nutrition and sports medicine services used by MTN-Qhubeka are available to individuals and teams at both amateur and professional level, at cost effective rates. This has consistently allowed our athletes to achieve their true performance potential, be that simply completing L’ Etape du Tour, or becoming a World Champion.