Paris: An African team will take part for the first time in the Tour de France when it starts in Utrecht next July, organisers announced Wednesday.
The team will be the MTN-Qhubeka outfit from South Africa.
In all 22 teams, each with nine cyclists, will compete in the 102nd edition of on of the most gruelling events in world sport.
"Their participation in the tour will help accelerate the progression of African cycling," said the tour`s director Christian Prudhomme.
One of five wildcard teams chosen to race in next year`s tour, MTN-Qhubeka already have experience of top level international cycling having competed in last year`s Tour of Spain.
They have several promising young African cyclists in their lineup and recently reinforced their ranks by signing up Norwegian sprinter Edvald Boasson Hagen, one of the top names in the successful Sky team.
Another sprinter in the ranks is the 2011 Milan-SanRemo winner Matt Goss of Australia while others to join the team are Dutchman Theo Bos and American Tyler Farrar.
"The opening up to the world (of the tour) continues," Prudhomme said, pointing out that one of the favourite`s for next year`s race will be Nairo Quintana of Colombia.