African squad will move up to the WorldTour in 2016 - the first time that the continent has fielded a team in cycling's top flight

Team Dimension Data has been given WorldTour status for 2016, making it the first African squad to join professional cycling’s highest league.

The squad – formerly known as MTN-Qhubeka – announced its elevation to the UCI WorldTour on Wednesday as they are gathered in South Africa for a pre-season training camp.

It means that the team no longer has to rely on wildcard invites to take part in the world’s biggest bike races, such as the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Paris-Roubaix.

>>> Cavendish: I see Dimension Data becoming the biggest team in pro cycling

“This is incredible,” said team principal Douglas Ryder. “I am so happy for this team, our partners and all the staff and riders that have worked so hard over the years to keep building this team to push beyond the boundaries and believe that anything is possible.

“To get this news on our training camp in Cape Town as we are bonding with our new team for the future is simply the best motivation to move forward into 2016.”

In addition to announcing its WorldTour status, the squad revealed that it has also successfully registered a UCI Continental-level development team based in Italy. The team will nurture young African talent in the environment of the European racing scene.

>>> Mark Cavendish won’t be a “one-man show” at Team Dimension Data

The news of Dimension Data’s WorldTour status will please new signing Mark Cavendish. The Manx sprinter will leave Etixx-QuickStep at the end of 2015 to join the team, and is aiming to add to his tally of Tour de France stage wins. With automatic entry into all of the Grand Tours, the worry of not receiving wildcard entries is over.

Earlier this week, Cavendish said that he sees the squad becoming a major force at the sport’s top level.

“I see the forward trajectory of the team,” said Cavendish. “It has got incredible roots and an incredible story. In all honesty, I see it becoming the biggest team in professional cycling in a few years.”

Dimension Data becomes the 18th team to be registered in the UCI’s WorldTour for 2016. In order to successfully register as a WorldTour team, squads must meet the UCI’s requirements for four criteria: sporting, ethical, financial and administration.

  • Ciaran Carroll

    Brilliant news! Great to see the world tour become more world spread.