Red-and-white polka dots certainly seem to suit Teklehaimanot, who also became the first Eritrean rider to triumph at this level. “This is a very special result for me. It is like a dream,” he said following the race. “I am also happy for the team to get this jersey because you can see it means a lot for everyone. I have received a lot of support and nice words from many people in Eritrea and everywhere in the world.”
Teklehaimanot forged his lead during Stage 1 and built on it with aggressive racing in breakaways. But his jersey win wasn’t the only success for MTN-Qhubeka, which came into the race as a wild-card entry. Edvald Boasson Hagen finished in the top five over three stages and came second in overall in sprint points, while Louis Meintjes finished sixth on the Pra Loup climb and third on the Queen stage finish on Mont Blanc.
Taken together, these results have inspired the entire team by showing that its riders are ready to compete for cycling’s biggest prize. In January, MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung was awarded a wild-card entry to the 2015 Tour de France, becoming the first African team to race in the iconic event.
“These were amazing results for us,” said Jens Zemke, MTN-Qhubeka’s head of performance. “We have our major goal of the year coming up in three weeks and the team showed we are ready for it. To compete at such a high level as an African squad, after only three years in professional cycling, is superb.”
Both Zemke and Teklehaimanot, who joined the Johannesburg-based team from Orica-GreenEdge at the end of 2013, acknowledged the importance of these results in highlighting the Qhubeka charity. “We are also happy to have the attention of the media so we can promote our project and our campaign to put 5,000 kids on bicycles in South Africa,” Zemke added