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"For African riders it is very important for MTN-Qhubeka to ride in the WorldTour races and maybe sometime we can have another African professional team. I hope I will see it soon."

Photo: Tour of Turkey/Hakan Seker

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29.12.2014 @ 16:30 Posted by Joseph Doherty

MTN-Qhubeka is targeting becoming the first team from Africa to ride the Tour de France. New signing Natnael Berhane wants to make the team and become the first Eritrean rider to be on the start line.

 

"I have been dreaming about that. I hope that I will be able to be part of the team and that I can be in good shape," Berhane told Cyclingnews. "This year I wasn't able to but next year it is a big goal for me to ride the Tour de France.

 

"It is quite hard to think about finishing well as a GC rider but I want to improve and I want to be able to do something like get in the breakaway or maybe win a stage. I hope next year that my dream will come true."

 

Berhane is reigning time trial champion from his country and was the winner of the 2013 Tour of Turkey, after Mustafa Sayar was disqualified for EPO use. He won the 2014 Tropical Amissa Bongo, beating Luis Leon Sanchez by a second. This made history as the 23 year old became the first African to win the race.

 

He dreams of Eritrea getting a cycling team like South Africa has with MTN-Qhubeka.

 

"Maybe we can also have a professional team like MTN-Qhubeka," he said. "For African riders it is very important for MTN-Qhubeka to ride in the WorldTour races and maybe sometime we can have another African professional team. If we can get a lot of African riders then we can do that. I hope I will see it soon."

 

He told Cyclingnews that signing with the African team feels like “coming home” and he feels very comfortable.

 

"I feel very comfortable because they deal with a lot of African riders. So for me it is very nice to be with this team," continued Berhane. "I enjoyed my time at Europcar. I did a lot of WorldTour races and I think that over the next few seasons that experience will help me."

 

He has faced Visa problems in the past, as Europcar weren’t experienced in getting them done in time for races. This almost cost Berhane his Turkey win. 

 

MTN-Qhubeka however, are experienced in getting Visas and this should make Berhane’s problem disappear.

 

"When I arrived in Langkawi this year, I had to stay in immigration for 24 hours and they told me that I should go to Singapore or something but eventually the organiser came to get me after 24 hours and took me to the hotel. I'm going to race, not for a holiday," he laughed wryly.

 

"For months I had problems. The team would tell me that I was going to a race but I couldn't get a visa and so I stopped racing. They have a lot of problems with African riders. I hope that in a few years things will change but there are a lot of visa problems."

 

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