Team Dimension Data are gearing up for the 104th edition Tour de France, which kicks off on Friday, 1 July 2017. Our South African hearts are bursting at the thought of watching our riders play a role in an international event of this caliber. Here’s a guide to all you need to know about the team before the event, and latest thoughts from South Africa’s leading rider, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg.
Who is Team Dimension Data exactly?
The team was initially founded in 2007 as a regional team. Fast forward five years and they became Africa’s first UCI-registered Professional Continental cycling team.
After racking up a few race wins and acquiring the services of some of the world’s top cyclists, the team stepped onto European soil in 2015 as the first ever African cycling team to compete in the Tour de France.
Their rise to international fame has been monumental, becoming one of the top teams on the World Tour. They placed fifth in the team standings after the 2015 Tour de France, and now have five stage victories under their belt after last year’s event.
Cycling for more than just a win
“Our team isn’t only about winning races, it has another dimension which is just as important, maybe even more so, and that’s our ambition is to put more and more people on bikes in Africa.” – Doug Ryder, Team Dimension Data Principal
While the team’s success on the road has been remarkable, what is perhaps an even more significant feat is their determination to race for Qhubeka’s #BicyclesChangeLives campaign.
Over 10,000 bicycles have been donated to underprivileged families in Africa, which has helped connect people to schools, clinics and jobs. Mark Cavendish, one the teams leading riders, explains the impact of the Qhubeka camapign: “It’s difficult to explain, you can’t understand the emotion a bike can give African children until you see it.”
South African flavour
While the team is jam packed full with international stars, we often get to see our local riders strut their stuff on the European and worldwide circuits.
Dimension Data’s South African riders at the 2017 Tour de France:
Reinardt Janse van Rensburg is our current national road racing champion.
In 2012 he won an exceptional 12 races with the team, and in 2016 grabbed the GC (general classification category of overall times) victory in the prestigious Tour de Langkawi.
Reinardt is primarily a sprinter and will be an integral part of the leadout train for Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France. He’s also looking for a stage victory himself this year, and after recently pulling off multiple top ten finishes in the Tour of California, he’s proved more than capable of achieving that!
Jaco Venter will make his debut at the 2017 Tour de France. He’s a former U23 SA national time trial champion that has immense speed on the bike.
One of his greatest achievements include winning the 2016 South African Road Racing Championship. He plays a key role in the team’s leadout train and team time trials.
Other World Tour riders:
Johann van Zyl is a former double U23 SA National Road Champion. He has an aggressive style and loves to get into breakaways, and is also an impressive time trialist. He recently added a stage win at Tour of Austria 2016 to his palmarès.
Ryan Gibbons is a sprinter who has had an incredible season so far this year. He won the Tour de Langkawi and grabbed six top ten finishes in this year’s Giro d’Italia, which incidentally was his grand tour debut!
Other South Africans in the squad are Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Jay Robert Thomson and Nick Dougall.
Season leading up to Tour de France
“The season started off at slower pace for us this year but it’s really picked up the last four weeks. The timing is perfect heading to the Tour, so morale is high” – Roger Hammond, Sports director
While most of the team’s focus is centred primarily on the sprinters, it was encouraging to see a very aggressive approach being adopted in the Giro d’Italia this year. Dimension Data riders were often put into the breakaways and were willing to take risks in search of potential stage glory. We could see similar tactics being employed in the Tour.
The team has also suffered a number of setbacks this season. There have been some worrying injuries and illnesses that have beleaguered some of the principal riders. Mark Cavendish (glandular fever), Stephen Cummings (broken ankle) and Mark Renshaw (ankle injury) have all been out of action for some time, but encouragingly made their return at the recent Tour of Slovenia.
If Mark can replicate the same form that he had last year, then the team will be focused on edging ‘the Manxman’ closer to Eddie Merckx’s record of 34 stage victories in the Tour.
Should Cavendish not be deemed fit enough to partake or if he is not in top form, there are a number of other riders in the team with very realistic chances of claiming stage victories.
Tour de France expectations for South Africans
To get a bit of insight into the kind of expectations we should have as South African fans, we chatted to Reinardt Janse van Rensburg:
Is there anything South Africans should look forward to in particular this year?
Everyone’s really excited about what Louis Meintjes will do. Last year he finished in the top 10 in the GC. I am sure he’s hoping to improve on that. He stands to contend for the young riders´ white jersey this year, so I think there’ll be a big battle with Simon Yates for that title!
I will definitely try to make this most of my chances and bring home a stage victory. I’ve been at altitude preparing for the Tour De France, so hoping it will give me the edge and an extra bit of boost in the Tour.
My training has been going well. Unfortunately in Suisse I had a stomach bug and had to stop the race early, which was a bit of setback. But it meant I could train slightly harder than usual ahead of the Tour.
What kind of inspiration does Dimension Data bring to SA’s cycling scene?
It gives a lot of hope to young riders in South Africa. They get to see the possibility of successfully making into Europe and the professional league.
It’s been amazing to see impact that the Qhubeka initiative has left on local communities. It’s provided transport to people who otherwise would be immobile!
I wish our success as a team could have done more to improve the state of road cycling in the country, though. There’s still a lot more that needs to be done.
What are your personal expectations for the rest of the season?
At the moment I’m just looking ahead to the Tour. I hope to play a key role again for Cavendish in the lead-outs. After that there’s a chance that I’ll ride in the Vuelta Espagna, if all goes well. And hopefully I can finish the season off at the World Championships, depending on what CyclingSA decides to do.
Written by Dale Smith, cycling fanatic and elite multisport athlete.
Other articles you might like
Follow Team Dimension Data