JOHANNESBURG – Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka have confirmed their eight-rider team to compete at the 105th Tour de France starting next week. And two South African riders, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Jay Thomson, are part of the squad.
Mark Cavendish, who has won 30 stages of the event and 48 stages across the Grand Tours, makes his 12th start and will be hoping to add to that tally, having tasted success for Team Dimension Data in 2016 by winning four times.
"I’m so excited to be able to ride the Tour de France again in my career, for the third time in Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka," he said.
The 33-year-old comes into the race after most recently featuring at the Adriatica Ionica Race and will be in Northumberland on Sunday competing at the British Nationals before heading to France.
"The Tour de France is not only the biggest cycling event on the planet, but it’s one of the biggest sporting events on the planet, and it’s the best platform to get across what we as Team Dimension Data do for our charity Qhubeka, to get people in rural parts of Africa on bicycles.
"I’m excited to be part of a strong team and I’ll be looking at getting closer to that record (34) of Eddie Merckx."
Said team principal Douglas Ryder: "Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is really looking forward to starting our fourth Tour de France with an incredible team that will chase stage wins and try to realise a dream.
"This year’s tour reminds me of our first tour in 2015 with tough stages that will require strong teams to succeed and our 2018 team is totally focused on achieving the maximum we can.
"With eight-rider teams this year, it is imperative to get the right combinations together to achieve the big bold goals we have. After all, we do race for Qhubeka and our success will change more lives with bicycles."
Alongside Cavendish will be long-time teammate Australian Mark Renshaw who will be riding the race for the 10th time. Renshaw’s experience will be crucial in the first week in particular, that sees a number of opportunities to contest sprint finishes.
Belgium’s Julien Vermote, who has ridden the last three editions of the race, will also feature in the team.
Edvald Boasson Hagen, who was the team’s standout performer in 2017 by securing a handful of podium finishes including victory on stage 19, starts his eighth Tour de France.
The current Norwegian time trial champion adds significant depth to the team’s experience once again. "I’m really excited to be named in the team for the Tour de France this year. I look forward to the start and am feeling fully prepared for the event ahead," he said.
South Africa’s Janse van Rensburg returns to the race for the fourth time.
This comes after a lengthy injury lay-off, having only made his return to racing in mid-May. In 2017, ‘Reinie’ was hailed among the best lead-out proponents in the peloton and will be looking to build on that reputation in 2018.
"I’m very excited to be selected as part of this strong team. I had serious doubts about whether I’d be back in time from injury for this year for the Tour de France.
"It’s been a difficult journey, but also gave me a chance to grow stronger as a cyclist and as a person, and now I feel ready to give it my all once more in the Tour," he said.
Serge Pauwels rides his fourth consecutive Tour de France, having finished in the top-20 twice in the last three years. The 34-year-old Belgian’s been in strong form this year after finishing third at the Tour de Yorkshire.
Dutchman Tom-Jelte Slagter will ride the Tour for the first time for the team, having produced strong performances at the Tour de Suisse, La Fleche Wallonne and early in the season at the Tour Down Under.
Completing the line-up is South Africa’s Thomson. The 30-year-old makes his Tour de France debut and his selection comes off the back of a very strong 2018.
"I’m honoured and proud that this year I’ll be part of the 105th edition of the Tour de France."
Full lineup: Mark Cavendish, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mark Renshaw, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Serge Pauwels, Julien Vermote, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Jay Thomson.
African News Agency (ANA)