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Dlamini becomes first black South African to compete at Tour de France

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Team Qhubeka ASSOS

Dlamini becomes first black South African to compete at Tour de France; Dlamini, Bennett and Campenaerts all make first Tour de France starts; Aru, Henao, Clarke and Gogl add significant experience; Walscheid looks to flat stages and time trials; The spirit of Ubuntu – I am because we are – on show to the world.

Team Qhubeka ASSOS continues to make history as we are thrilled to announce our eight-rider roster for the 2021 Tour de France which includes a debut for Nicholas Dlamini, who becomes the first black South African ever to compete at the showpiece event.

Nicholas Dlamini on Tour de France selection: https://bit.ly/3gBjAji

Team Qhubeka ASSOS, Africa’s UCI WorldTour team, will make its seventh appearance at the Tour de France having first competed in 2015 (MTN-Qhubeka). Over that period the team has won seven stages; and worn the yellow, green and polka dot jerseys respectively.

Dlamini’s selection is a landmark moment for the South African-registered team as he becomes the latest rider to progress from our development team and onto the UCI WorldTour, and subsequently earn his selection to compete at the world’s biggest cycling race.

The 25-year-old, who grew up in an informal settlement in Cape Town, first caught the eye as a runner before moving into cycling where his talents saw him move to the UCI’s World Cycling Centre Africa in Potchefstroom, South Africa. It is from here that he first earned a spot in our UCI Continental outfit – Team Qhubeka – based in Lucca, Italy.

In his second season with the continental team, Dlamini rode as a stagiaire on our WorldTour team and then turned professional in 2018. Since then he raced across the world, including twice competing at the Vuelta a Espana (2019 and 2020) and has worn the king of the mountains jersey at both the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Britain.

2020 saw his season heavily affected by an arm injury, as well as the broader impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the cycling calendar, but 2021 has seen Dlamini selected to represent Team South Africa at the Tokyo Olympic Games, and now being called up to our Tour de France squad.

Dlamini’s style of racing will likely see his talents deployed in the offensive strategy the team will look to pursue during the race, while also playing a key supporting role in the flatter stages.

Bennett (25) makes his Tour debut following on two previous Grand Tour starts at the Giro d’Italia, and having made his first start for our team at Etoile de Besseges in February. The Californian comes into the race having impressed with his aggressive racing and versatility in serving the team’s ambitions during the course of the race; and offers a perfect foil for the team’s strategic objectives.

Giro d’Italia stage-winner Victor Campenaerts also makes his Tour de France debut in 2021 and comes into the event in confident mood. The Belgian world hour record holder, who made a name for himself as a time triallist, has changed his approach in 2021 and scored a momentous victory in Gorizia a month ago.

Italian Grand Tour-winner Fabio Aru has steadily seen his form build during the course of 2021 and will bring an incredible amount of experience to our roster. After starting the year racing cyclo-cross, the Sardinian has racked up 33 races days, most recently completing the Criterium du Dauphine.

In 2017 he finished 5th overall as he won stage five and also wore the maillot jaune for a period. 2021 will mark his fourth start at the event.

Michael Gogl was the team’s standout rider at the 2020 Tour de France and his performances during the course of this year, punctuated by his sixth-place finish at Strade Bianche, sees him perform an integral role in our team. His position as a road captain, alongside Simon Clarke, is invaluable. This will be the 27-year-old’s fourth participation at the Tour de France, having first ridden in 2017.

Fellow road captain Simon Clarke starts the Tour de France for a sixth time, with three previous top-10 stage finishes. The 34-year-old rides his first Tour for Team Qhubeka ASSOS and starts his 15th Grand Tour in total. Clarke, whose father hails from Cape Town, will celebrate his birthday on the final stage in Paris, on Mandela Day.

Max Walscheid will ride his second Grand Tour of the year after an excellent performance at the Giro d’Italia. Two top-10 finishes in the two individual time trials in Italy saw the 1.99m German thrilled with the improvements he’s made in this discipline and with a number of opportunities on offer in the flatter stages he will be hopeful of causing an upset.

Our eight-rider line-up is completed with the inclusion of Colombia’s Sergio Henao. The hugely experienced 33-year-old makes his fourth appearance at the Tour with a best performance of 12th overall in 2016, and his ability to play both a supporting role as well as take on the race for himself provides the team with some exciting options.

The 2021 Tour de France gets underway in Brest on 26 June and finishes on Paris on 18 July. Stay tuned to the final week of build-up to the event with further exciting news set to come from the team.

FAN ANNOUNCEMENT

Throughout 2021 Team Qhubeka ASSOS has sought to do things in differently by asking our fans to announce our line-ups for the races. The response to this initiative has been incredible, and seen our supporters engage with the team in a completely unique way that’s further enriched their relationship with the team.

Our 2021 Tour de France team announcement is a special tribute to all of our fans and partners who together with us celebrate the true spirit of Ubuntu – I am because we are.

The announcement video, which can be viewed here, is a special collaboration celebrating the time, effort, love and care that they’ve shown the team in celebrating our purpose and making a meaningful impact in the world in spreading the message that bicycles change lives.

2021 Tour de France line-up [squad numbers]:

Simon Clarke – Australia [09]

Michael Gogl – Austria [07]

Victor Campenaerts – Belgium [55]

Max Walscheid – Germany [13]

Sean Bennett – USA [31]

Nic Dlamini – South Africa [17]

Sergio Henao – Colombia [10]

Fabio Aru – Italy [21]

QUOTES

Douglas Ryder – Team Principal

This year is an incredibly special one for us – for so many reasons – and now at the Tour de France we again will have the opportunity to showcase our unique purpose-driven team to the world.

Selection for a Tour de France team is always very difficult, and what we’ve seen again this year is riders across our squad put their hand up for selection. Our final roster is one that I know will do our team, partners and supporters proud in the true spirit of Ubuntu.

Riding your first ever Tour is such a special moment and I couldn’t be more delighted for Nic, Sean and Victor. We have huge amounts of experience in Fabio, Michael, Simon and Sergio while Max – together with Victor – shone at the Giro and will be looking to carry that confidence into this race.

For Nic, what a moment though; his story is simply an incredible one and for him to have earned this opportunity shows that dreams really do come true, and for the team to have provided that opportunity makes me incredibly proud.

He’s always been an individual that has stepped up and taken the opportunities that he’s fought for; and he does so again as he lines up at the startline in Brest on the sport’s biggest stage in front of the world. This will culminate in an incredible moment for him, South Africa and especially for our team.

His selection speaks to everything about what we’ve created and built with this team through providing hope, an opportunity and then ultimately the platform to be on the biggest stage of all, the Tour de France.

I know that the spirit coursing through the squad in the way we’ve performed this year will again be on show for the world to see, and I can’t wait for racing to get underway.

Bicycles Change Lives

Nicholas Dlamini

Being selected to ride in my first Tour de France is an absolute dream come true for me. It’s always been an absolute childhood dream for me and now that I’m about to live it makes it feel surreal.

I think it speaks to what the team is about, the Ubuntu spirit, and how we change people’s lives because it is honestly a very special moment: to come from a small township and then to go to the Tour de France.

Considering where I come from it would simply have been impossible for me to have the opportunity to ride at the Tour de France if it wasn’t for Team Qhubeka ASSOS. The platform that they’ve provided me, and other riders from Africa, to compete at the highest level in cycling has been critical.

I really hope that this will serve as a reference of hope and inspiration to many young South Africans, and people around the world, who have been working really hard to reach their dreams, my hope is that they take from this that anything is possible.

I want to race the tour to inspire more kids on Qhubeka bikes to follow in my footsteps and to experience the world like I have, for more kids in communities to put their hands up for bikes to work hard like I did, to dream big. I am living my dream.

Fabio Aru

I am incredibly excited to get my Tour de France campaign underway with Team Qhubeka ASSOS. Throughout the season, I’ve been working towards the race with my focus on being in the best possible condition for the start.

It’s a race that I love, and in 2021 will be one that I will approach with my teammates in the true spirit of Ubuntu. We’ve seen the way that the team has raced this year, and particularly at the Giro d’Italia, and we look forward to continuing in the same way.

We’ll look to race aggressively throughout and target stage victories, which I look forward to playing my part in by racing in a way that continues to shine a spotlight on our purpose as we changes lives with bicycles and the Qhubeka Charity.

Simon Clarke

It's a great honour to be selected once again for the event which is the pinnacle of our sport, this time with a new team with amazing drive and pride.

The team raced with a special dynamic at the Giro which really made everyone sit up and take notice, and we intend to continue this at the Tour de France. Can’t wait to get cracking.

Michael Gogl

Of course I am extremely happy and motivated to go to the Tour de France. It will be my fourth Tour and with a strong motivated squad, with riders for every terrain, we will continue what worked out really well in the last period; that is to race aggressively and try to hunt stages as one team.

On top of that, riding for Team Qhubeka ASSOS in the biggest yearly sporting event fills me with pride and will most certainly push me even more to put the Qhubeka Charity firmly into the spotlight.

Max Walscheid

I am so incredibly proud to line up again for my second Tour de France with Team Qhubeka ASSOS.

I think I’ve had a great year so far but chances to go for myself were rare but still I’m happy have attained some good results but more so to have been part of great team results and achievements.

Now I am extremely thrilled to represent our team in the sprints and go for results on the biggest stage possible. We have a very versatile team and I’d like to be a key part in achieving results in the flat stages.

Victor Campenaerts

This year’s Tour de France will be my first and after the Giro I’m really eager to do my second Grand Tour of the year as we had a blast. We achieved some big successes but also just had a really good time because we really are one team and we race in the spirit of Ubuntu – I am because we are. This makes it really nice to race, and especially to race a Grand Tour with this family.

Sean Bennett

This is an absolute dream come true and I can’t wait to get the race started. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the way that the team has raced in 2021 as it suits my approach on the bike perfectly. I think that together with the spirit in the group, and racing in that way, that we can continue to be successful.

Sergio Henao

It’s always exciting to be selected for the Tour de France, the most important race in the world. This is very special for me as a return to the Tour in new colours, new jersey and with a new team. We go into the race with high expectations after the good experiences the team has had during the course of the season – and most recently the Giro.

We have to fight for stages and of course maintain a good image of the team. Personally I’ve done some excellent, very hard, preparation at high altitude but have lacked a bit of racing rhythm situation but with confidence I’m sure that we’ll do everything for the team. I’m really looking forward to this month of summer coming up and I’m going to enjoy it a lot, working always as a collective, as a team.

Lars Michaelsen

With this team we go into the Tour de France without a specified GC contender and without any top-top-top sprinter but importantly with a group of riders who have a clear goal to take opportunities and play their part in the race.

How will that exactly unfold? Well it’s hard to tell, but if we divide the stages we have six sprint stages, 5-10 possibilities of breakaways, two individual time trials and four hilltop finishes where we’ll probably see the big GC riders going for it.

You can divide it in many ways but I choose to be optimistic in that we have these of somewhere between 5-10 stages where we will try to be represented in breakaways. In the sprints we will support Max Walscheid as well as we can, and look to take any and all opportunities on offer.

Our Ubuntu spririt – I am because we are – will be what carries us into this race and we can’t wait to get going.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Team Qhubeka ASSOS.

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