The team will honor Nelson Mandela
By Frederick H. Lowe
The Tour de France, the world’s premiere cycling event, has for the first time admitted a team from Africa to compete in the race, which begins July 4th in Utrecht, Netherlands.
The Amaury Sports Organization, which organizes the Tour de France, admitted South Africa’s MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung as one of the five wild card teams. Qhubeka is a Zulu word that means progress.
In addition to the five wildcards, 17 other teams were automatically invited to compete in the 102nd Tour de France. The South African team has both black and white members. Each team has nine cyclists.
MTN-Qhubeka officials were excited about the invitation, which was announced Jan. 14th.
“To receive a wild card for the Tour de France is a dream come true for the entire MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung team,” officials said. “In all 101 previous editions of the Tour de France, this will be the first time an African registered team will take part in this, the biggest cycling race in the world and in doing so, they will be able to change more lives in Africa through bicycles.” Samsung has been the team’s corporate sponsor since 2013.
MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung officials said the team has worked seven years to compete in the Tour de France, which is broadcast world wide.
The 2015 Tour de France starts with time trials in Utrech. Following the trials, the riders begin a grueling 21-stage race that covers 2,200 miles through the mountain chains of the Pyrenees and the Alps before ending on July 26 on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
The MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung team plans to mark July 18th as Nelson Mandela Day with a specially designed racing outfit, according to various news reports.
Team members will wear a special jersey with number “67” to honor Mandela’s 67 years of service to South Africa, including his 27 years in prison fighting Apartheid and his five years as the country’s first black president from 1994 to 1999.
The late Mr. Mandela was born July 18, 1918. He died as the result of a lung infection on December 5, 2013.
He was 95.