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Gerald Ciolek skipping worlds, welcomes changes at MTN-Qhubeka

Gerald Ciolek, who will not be returning to worlds, welcomes Theo Bos and Edvald Boasson Hagen as MTN-Qhubeka eyes Tour invite in 2015

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SANTANDER, Spain (VN) — Don’t ask Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) how his preparation is going for the upcoming world championships; he’s not going.

The former U23 world champion and 2013 Milan-Sanremo winner told VeloNews he won’t be heading to Ponferrada to ride with Germany.

“You shouldn’t ask me this question,” Ciolek said. “I am not selected.”

At first glance, it might appear surprising that the 27-year-old Ciolek would not be selected for Germany’s elite men’s road team. John Degenkolb will be team leader, and with three stage victories at the Vuelta a España, he’s proven he will be ready for the demanding course. But on paper, the hilly Ponferrada route could be ideal for Ciolek.

Ciolek, however, has only ridden three elite men’s world championships since his U23 title in 2006. He did not finish worlds in 2007-2009, and he has not returned since.

Without the worlds on the horizon, Ciolek is still hoping to take something out of the Vuelta. So far, his best result was 11th in stage two.

“The Vuelta has been going good so far. We have been missing some highlights. A stage win for us would be very nice,” Ciolek said. “Otherwise, we have been doing okay.”

MTN-Qhubeka is making its grand-tour debut at the Vuelta, making history as the first African-registered team to race in a three-week tour.

The team has been riding into breakaways and hunting for stages. Going into Saturday’s climbing stage, its best rider on GC was Sergio Pardilla, 17th overall at 8:47 back.

Ciolek already has a confirmed contract with the team for next season, and welcomes some high-profile new additions, such as Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Theo Bos (Belkin).

“My role will not change for next season,” he said. “That was always the team plan, and to keep growing. It’s good the new riders are coming, and keep the team moving forward. They have some big goals.”

Ciolek was one of the first major riders to join the startup African team in 2013, and he quickly won Milano-Sanremo on the back of the team’s wildcard bid to race the Italian classic.

With another solid European season under its belt, coupled with the new additions for 2015, there is an outside chance that MTN-Qhubeka could earn a ticket to race the Tour de France next season.

Ciolek, who has raced three Tours, with second and third places in stages, said the team is quietly optimistic about racing next July in France.

“I think there is a possibility to go to the Tour next year,” he said. “We’ve made a big step, and we’ve signed some big riders. Now it’s up to proving it in the early part of the season, and we can hope to get an invitation.”