He had seen it as the next step for his African team, then the first and only African-registered Pro Continental team on the international circuit.
RCS, the owners of the Giro, one of the three Grand Tours, had made overtures towards Ryder and his then MTN-Qhubeka outfit, but then opted to give the wildcards to Italian teams.
A lot has changed since then. Ryder’s team have taken part in the Tour de France, led the King of the Mountains there and won a stage on Mandela Day. They have also won a stage of the Vuelta a Espana, the third of the Grand Tours.
They have signed Mark Cavendish, become a World Tour team, and are now guaranteed entry into the world’s biggest races.
Today, Ryder will watch his team of five African riders line up for the prologue of the Giro d’Italia in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands.
Dimension Data will be sending Merhawi Kudus (Eritrea), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus), Igor Anton, Omar Fraile (both Spain), Kristian Sbaragli (Italy), Jaco Venter, Johann van Zyl, Jay Thomson and Songezo Jim (all South African) to the start line.
“We did a big push to get into the Giro d’Italia in 2014 as our first Grand Tour as Africa’s cycling team and it was not to be, so to be standing on the start line in 2016 is massive for Team Dimension Data and Qhubeka,” said Ryder.
“Starting in Holland is incredible as we had a great Tour de France last year when we started in Utrecht.
“We have selected an amazing team with seven riders new to the Giro and two riders, Igor Anton and Kanstantsin Siutsou, who have 10 Giros between them, with Siutsou riding into the top 10 before and winning a stage. Both riders will play leading roles in this team in support both on and off the bike.
“To have five riders from Africa in this team racing their first Giro is a dream come true for us, as well as for our young Italian Kristian Sbaragli and Basque Omar Fraile.
“We hope to make an impact that matters.”
Jim will be riding in his second Grand Tour, having become the first black South African to reached that mark last year at the Vuelta. At the age of 25, he is maturing quickly as a rider.
The Giro will finish in Turin on May 29. - Cape Times
Original source: Giro d’Italia ‘massive’ for Team Dimension Data