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Race row at Tour of Austria event

From Matt McGeehan

Published 09/07/2015

Daniel Teklehaimanot of Eritrea and MTN-Qhubeka celebrates as he is awarded the polka-dot jersey on the podium after stage six of the 2015 Tour de France. MTN-Qhubeka is the first African team to ride at the Tour de France (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Daniel Teklehaimanot of Eritrea and MTN-Qhubeka celebrates as he is awarded the polka-dot jersey on the podium after stage six of the 2015 Tour de France. MTN-Qhubeka is the first African team to ride at the Tour de France (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

MTN-Qhubeka, the first African team to ride at the Tour de France, has written to cycling's world governing body after claiming one of its riders was racially abused at a race in Austria on Wednesday.

Eritrean Natnael Berhane is alleged to have been subjected to racist abuse by Branislau Samoilau, a Belarusian who rides for the CCC Sprandi Polkowice team, during stage four of the Tour of Austria and the squad took his complaint to the UCI.

Polish squad CCC Sprandi Polkowice on Thursday acknowledged an unsavoury incident had taken place but did not address the question of the abuse being racist.

MTN-Qhubeka team principal Douglas Ryder said: "One of the riders from another team said to Natnael Berhane get out of the way you effing n*****. Just outrageous."

A statement from CCC Sprandi Polkowice read: "In the heat of the battle some words have been said by our rider, which were very unfortunate and unacceptable.

"We, as a team, do not tolerate that kind of behaviour and the rider will suffer consequences.

"Before the next stage the situation has been clarified between two teams and the riders, but we don't want to get into details."

The UCI has been contacted for a response.

Qhubeka is a charity - World Bicycle Relief's programme in South Africa - and means 'to carry on', 'to progress', 'to move forward'. It is understood Samoilau will donate a month's salary to the organisation.

South Africa squad MTN-Qhubeka is beginning to make an impact on major races.

Johann van Zyl, Berhane's team-mate, won stage five of the Tour of Austria on Thursday, when Daniel Teklehaimanot claimed enough points to take the Tour de France's King of the Mountains polka dot jersey, in so doing becoming the first black African to take a major jersey at a Grand Tour.

Teklehaimanot, one of two Eritreans in MTN-Qhubeka's Tour team, won the King of the Mountains title at traditional Tour warm-up the Criterium du Dauphine last month, demonstrating his huge potential.

The majority of the professional peloton is supportive, but there have been unfortunate incidents, with Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen and American Tyler Farrar sometimes having to intervene.

"Some of the riders are struggling to grasp what we are doing here. They are in the minority I'm glad to say," Ryder added.

"One of the biggest teams in the world last year in the Tour of Spain, when we were trying to bring one of our riders to the front going into the mountains, (said) 'you guys don't belong here, f*** off to the back of the bunch'.

"We have riders like Tyler and Edvald, riders who are well respected in the peloton, and they are their team-mates, and they say 'hey guys, come on, these guys deserve to be here'.

"And we have had massive support from the major team owners and bosses.

"Guys like Shayne Bannan (of Orica-GreenEdge), Dave Brailsford (Team Sky), Viacheslav Ekimov (Katusha). Those guys love this team. They believe they should be here."

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