Riding well in support of his team-mate Merhawi Kudus in the Presidential Tour of Turkey, German rider Linus Gerdemann is continuing to rebuild his form after a year out of competitive racing.
The former Tour de France stage winner and race leader joined the team prior to the start of this season and while he stated well in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, netting fourth on a stage and fifth overall, he was hampered after that by illness.
He is back on track now and aims to keep building up his form, chasing results over the months ahead and particularly having his eyes set on the Vuelta a España.
“That is my main goal for the season,” he told CyclingTips as he waited for a stage start in Turkey. “With a Grand Tour like that, you have to see day by day. But a stage win would be nice; as for GC, I will see how my legs are. Of course we will try to do well there.”
MTN Qhubeka will make history on August 23rd when the African Pro Continental team lines out in the Vuelta, its first ever stage race. Getting the wildcard slot was seen as a big boost for the team and also for the globalisation of cycling.
The invitation fits into its planned expansion, a growth which it hopes will see it ride the Tour de France in the next one or two seasons, and then challenge in it longer term.
The team’s best known international riders are Gerdemann and his compatriot Gerald Ciolek, who won Milan Sanremo last year. It also has a talented group of African riders and one of the most promising of those is Merhawi.
He finished second overall in this year’s Tour de Langkawi and was fourth in the first mountain stage in the Presidential Tour of Turkey. He unfortunately cracked on the later mountain stage to Selcuk, slipping out of fourth overall in the general classification.
Gerdemann told CyclingTips that he had great legs on the latter stage and believed that he could have tried for the stage win. However he had to hold back to wait for his better-placed team-mate.
“I think as a team we did quite well,” he said, speaking of the team’s campaign. “Unfortunately Merhawi didn’t have the legs on the last climb. I was waiting for him, but for me personally my sensations get better every day. So I am quite happy with that.
“For me it is important for me to get some race kilometres in my legs. Hopefully at the end of May I will be 100 percent in shape. After Turkey I will probably do Azerbaijan, then Bayern Tour, Luxembourg and the Tour of Switzerland. I’ll also do the German championships; it’s not a major goal for me, but I’ll try to do well there or maybe even ride for Gerald.
“I then might have a small summer break, then prepare for the Vuelta.”
Gerdemann has ridden with some of the biggest teams in cycling, with his past contracts including slots with T-Mobile, Gerolsteiner and RadioShack Leopard. MTN Qhubeka is currently a smaller setup than those, but has big aspirations; he said he’s pleased to have a two year contract there and is happy to remain on board in 2015.
“They are young guys and some of them need to learn a lot but it is very exciting to race with them. They are full of motivation. I am really enjoying it,” he said. “There are many [good] guys, like Louis Meintjes, Merhawi Kudus…there are many, many young guys who have huge potential. It is an interesting and thrilling project.”