For most, the presentation of 24 teams on the eve of the Grande Partenza signals the race getting underway but for all those involved just arriving at the start line is an achievement in and of itself.
This series will take you inside that process: the planning, logistics, team selection, race arrival and right into the heart of the final team meeting.
Douglas Ryder, Founder and Team Principal of Team Qhubeka ASSOS, sets the tone of our unique content series showcasing our preparations for the 104th Giro d’Italia.
Our Giro dream actually started in 2014, when we longed to get into the event and so we put a campaign together to take Africa to the Giro. We created pink Qhubeka hands together with a proposal about how this team and the maglia rosa was so close to us, with it being a pink jersey. Through that we tried to showcase the impact that Qhubeka has in communities to women and schoolgirls; how a bicycle can mobilise them and give them hope and access. It was a brilliant campaign and a lot of fun to do but sadly we didn’t receive an invite as we were still a second division team.
In later years, we did a ‘blankets for bikes’ campaign focused on gender equality that we wanted to showcase, and get people around the world to understand the incredible work that Qhubeka does in particular with women and schoolgirls in those communities.
We did some cool things where our bus was decked with these beautiful, colourful African blankets that were made by women thanking the riders for giving them opportunities – it was well received and so memorable. In 2017 we created the 100 Girls on Bikes campaign, to celebrate the 100th Giro d’Italia. We even painted a Qhubeka bicycle pink, which we took all over Italy.
The victories are always so special. I’ll never forget Omar Fraile’s incredible win in 2017, our first Giro stage win which was incredible after a hard-fought battle but I think 2020 was the most beautiful Giro for us.
Firstly, to see Domenico Pozzovivo and the issues that he went through after his life-threatening accident with a motor car a year before and then giving him an opportunity to be a part of our team was important. But then to see how incredible he was, riding with hundreds of grams of steel still in his body fighting initially for a podium – that spirit and the fight of the team was just incredible.
And then Ben O’Connor winning a stage was unbelievable. To thank the team in that way, knowing that he was going to another team, thanking us for the investment that we’d made in him and fighting so hard to pay us back or to give us some success for himself and of course for the team. Those were incredible highlights.
Our service course in Oosterhout, Netherlands, is a vibrant place; and like for any race, it’s the starting point of our journey to the start of the Giro. It’s like the kitchen of the house, it’s the busiest place – it has people and vehicles coming in and out of it every other day – and it’s exciting to see that energy when there’s unpacking from a previous race and seeing the preparation of different equipment for the next event.
It’s a place rich in culture and filled with an incredible buzz of energy of very passionate individuals, where all the preparations from bike, nutrition and ideas flow, to always try and make things better for the team. It’s a fun place to be, it’s where my office is and I love it, it’s an amazing space.
BUILD-UP TO THE GRANDE PARTENZA
As we look towards this year’s race our build-up has been good so far. I mean it’s only three weeks away at this stage so it’s around the corner but the riders have been active across a variety of races on the calendar. There’s a big periodization in cycling when you go through the Spring Classics into the Ardennes Classics and then move straight into the Giro, for which a number of riders will have prepared at altitude.
Now they’re fine-tuning and the big thing for us is just to make sure that they are mentally strong and physically fresh, which can be challenging in this time with travelling being restricted and riders are having to constantly adjust.
This is very tough for everyone involved but as we’ve been through this already, so we are better prepared. I’m very excited to see how the team does and I think we’re going in with a strong team.
We’ll travel with hopes and dreams looking towards stage wins and a fairly high placing on the general classification. So an exciting couple of weeks as we finalise the preparations.
My function is to act as support to the staff and the riders, but there are also conversations with rider agents about the future of our current and potential athletes, and other teams and race organizers because the ecosystem of our sport is to learn and support each other. There’s of course media to engage with over the future of the team and promoting the Qhukeka Charity – to keep driving awareness of it around the world and how together, we are changing lives.
And then of course during Covid-19 where we can’t bring people into our environment for “money can’t buy experiences” I do a lot of visual content for our partners to keep them involved and to give a unique insight as to what it’s like inside our world. We pride ourselves as a team in this realm, granting our partners insight into what it’s like at the heart of the sport, and are constantly looking at ways to innovate in this space.
UBUNTU – “I AM BECAUSE WE ARE”
It’s branded on our trucks, on the back of our team jersey and also in our service course on the big roller door, so as the vehicles pull out it’s a constant reminder that you cannot exist in isolation, that we are there to support one another. We work hard to prepare to the best of our ability for our riders and staff to be the best they can possibly be as people, and we understand that we all need to connect as humans.
This is grounded in everything that we do from technology, equipment to logistics has that spirit in mind, the spirit of Ubuntu.