Newly-appointed MTN-Qhubeka/Dimension Data performance manager Rolf Aldag tells Cycling Weekly that to base the squad solely around Mark Cavendish would be wrong
MTN-Qhubeka/Dimension Data will not become a team centred around Mark Cavendish, says Rolf Aldag, even if several of his helpers and staff members made the switch to the team for 2016.
Aldag yesterday confirmed he left team Etixx-QuickStep for the performance manager role at MTN, or Dimension Data as it will be called in 2016. Cavendish made the same team switch in September.
Along with Aldag, Cavendish will find many friendly and familiar faces from his days with the HTC and Etixx teams, from lead-out men Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel to management members like Jens Zemke. Aldag worked with Cavendish from 2007 through 2011, and in Etixx from 2013.
“It’s not a take over or a revolution,” the German told Cycling Weekly.
“What’s important is to respect the history they have. The history they do have is important with the Qhubeka cause. We want to maintain and make it more successful.
“Cavendish, [Team Manager] Brian Smith… everyone involved has a clear view on the situation. It’s not a one-man show and it never was, even at HTC where we had so many stars.”
The South African team became cycling’s first professional African team in 2013. This July, it became the first professional African team to compete in the Tour de France. Along the way, Brit Steve Cummings won the team a stage in Mende and Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot made history by becoming the first African to wear the mountain’s classification polka-dot jersey.
It was not all about the Tour. MTN rode in the Vuelta a España and won a stage with Italian Kristian Sbaragli. Edvald Boasson Hagen, another one of Cavendish’s former HTC team-mates, held off team Sky to win the Tour of Britain.
“Doug Ryder [team principal] has managed a team that has constantly grown, raced the biggest races on wildcard invitations,” Aldag added. “They deserve more than just to say that an era is ending and another one is starting with Cavendish onboard.”
Ryder began MTN as a South African continental team in 2008 with mostly local cyclists. He expanded it to include the continent’s best talent. In 2016, it will race with 11 Africans from countries including Algeria, Eritrea and South Africa.
Non-profit group Qhubeka continues with the team, but no longer as a title sponsor because Ryder said that it distracted from the cause. The team does not take money from Qhubeka, but helps it distribute bicycles to poor Africans in exchange for good deeds.
Watch: Secrets of the Toolbox – MTN-Qhubeka
Aldag, after working in German, American and Belgian teams, said that he feels ready for the change. He will meet with his new team at a training camp in three weeks’ time.
“We have to respect what they did without Mark Cavendish, without Mark Renshaw, without Rolf Aldag… There is a lot of respect and knowledge. It’d be wrong to go into there and say we can do things differently and we can do things better,” Aldag explained.
“That’s not meant to be a team around Cavendish, that’s really the team as a total, with the cultures and sports directors. That’s the most important thing now, to get the team together and get the best out of the individuals.”