This weekend will see Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung kick start their 2014 classics campaign at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. After team leader Gerald Ciolek won the bunch sprint for 11th place last year, the organisers have again extended an invite to Africa’s first Professional Continental team.
After taking a stage victory at the Ruta Del Sol, Gerald Ciolek will lead Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung at the Belgian Classic and the German is positive going into Saturday’s race. “Taking a look out of the window confirms that we are in Belgium. Its 4 degrees and raining,” laughed Ciolek. “Today we are going to train on the circuit if possible. We have a good and strong team here and also our preparation in Mallorca and Ruta Del Sol has gone well so we are all very confident for the weekend,” said Ciolek.
Ciolek will be supported by Ignatas Konovalovas, Martin Reimer, Andy Stauff, Jani Tewelde, Jay Thomson, Johann Van Zyl and Kristian Sbaragli. Sports Director Jens Zemke said they will be counting on the experience of this team to get a good result at Saturday’s race.
“Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a very special race for us, because the organizer Flanders Classics gave us the chance to ride the opening Classic race last year. With 11th spot last year we were satisfied, but this year our goals are higher and we will fight for a top ten. Today the team will recon the final 100 km and it´s nice that the season starts in earnest now.”
“We will have an experienced group at the start, led by Gerald Ciolek and supported by 3 African riders. Unfortunately Martin Wesemann crashed in Laigueglia and broke 2 ribs, so he will miss the first races. Our Belgium campaign will also include Samyn on Wednesday and also 3 days of West Vlaanders. Then we will take on the Tirreno Adriatico, so the spirits are good right now,” concluded Zemke.
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will see the riders tackle 10 Belgian climbs including the famous Kapelmuur during the 198km classic. The iconic cobbled climb makes a return to the race route after a 3 year absence and will surely animate the race once again. With the forecasted rain and wind on Saturday, as well as a start list packed with many big names, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a race not to be missed.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Belgium) – (29 Feb/UCI 1.HC)
Gerald Ciolek (GER)
Ignatas Konovalovas (LTU)
Martin Reimer (GER)
Andy Stauff (GER)
Jani Tewelde (ERI)
Jay Thomson (RSA)
Johann Van Zyl (RSA)
Kristian Sbaragli (ITA)