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Dimension Data — formerly MTN-Qhubeka — is going to the WorldTour in 2016.
The African-based team confirmed Wednesday the UCI approved its WorldTour license for the coming season, giving the African continent its first team representation at the elite of the peloton.
“This is incredible,” said team principal Douglas Ryder. “I am so happy for this team, our partners and all the staff and riders that have worked so hard over the years to keep building this team to push beyond the boundaries and believe that anything is possible.”
The confirmation means there will be 18 UCI WorldTeams in the peloton for 2016. During 2015 and 2013, only 17 teams rode in the top category, which guarantees start positions across the season-long WorldTour racing calendar.
The UCI confirmed the full lineup of top-tier teams in a press release Wednesday. Earlier this month, Astana secured its WorldTour license for 2016 as part of 11 teams that have already been OK’d by the UCI’s license commission.
For Dimension Data, Wednesday’s news comes as the team is holding pre-season meetings in South Africa ahead of the 2016 season, and confirms the team’s impressive progression over the past few seasons.
Formed in 2007, the team featured a handful of South Africa riders, and raced at the Continental level across Africa. MTN, a South African telecommunications company, joined as an important sponsor, and the team began to grow as it added more African riders beyond South Africa. Team officials added east African riders from such places as Rwanda, Eritrea, and Namibia.
In 2013, the team secured a Pro Continental license and began an ambitious program to enter the European peloton. It set up a base in Italy and signed such riders as Ignatus Konovalovas, Sergio Pardilla, and Gerald Ciolek, who delivered a stunning victory at Milano-Sanremo that spring. In 2014, the team made history by becoming the first African team to ride the Vuelta a España.
This season, the team’s dramatic transformation continued, with major signings to secure a Tour de France bid. The bet to sign such riders as Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar, Theo Bos, Serge Pauwels, and Stephen Cummings paid off big time, with Cummings winning stage 14 to Mende.
The team upped the ante even more this fall, signing UK sprinting superstar Mark Cavendish and six other major riders, including Bernard Eisel, Mark Renshaw, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Nathan Haas, Cameron Maier, and 2015 Vuelta King of the Mountain winner Omar Fraile.
“The realization of this dream has only been made possible by years of hard work, strategic partnerships, incredible riders producing exceptional performances and support staff,” a team release said Wednesday. “We are delighted to rewrite the history books and place African cycling at the highest level in world cycling.”
The team also announced it will be registering a feeder team with a Continental license based out of Lucca, Italy, to give promising African riders a chance to gain experience on the European scene.
UCI WorldTeams for 2016
Ag2r La Mondiale
Trek Factory Racing