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Ryder Confident of Securing Cycling Team’s Future

NTT Pro Cycling team principal Doug Ryder says he’s confident that the team will be able to secure a commercial solution to keep them alive in 2021.

Ryder made the claim at a virtual event for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, as he reflected on the team’s year and what the future may hold for Africa’s only UCI-registered WorldTour outfit.

It was announced in early-October that current title partner NTT Ltd. would not renew their sponsorship of the team, leaving Ryder in a race against time to secure the necessary funding to ensure their survival.

“While sport will continue to play an important role in the company’s partnership landscape, it will also now invest beyond sport in a wider range of partnerships that focus on the impact that technology can make in supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the coming decade,” said Jason Goodall, CEO of NTT Ltd, which is a global technology services company and the holding entity of Dimension Data, following NTT’s acquisition of Dimension Data in 2010.

The money Ryder and the team need, though, is not insignificant, even in European terms.

“He has a month to find around 15 million euros (R280m), so it’s not an easy task,” said Robbie Hunter, the former pro cyclist and the first South African to win a Tour de France stage, in early-October.

Hunter is now a sports agent and Managing Director and co-owner of the agency, ProTouchGlobal, and he said he had a good sense of the challenge Ryder has faced.

“That’s the minimum budget for a year for a World Tour team,” he said. “They have a month to find the funds, but no matter what sport, the times are not exactly conducive to sponsorship in sport.”

It looked like a lost cause for Ryder.

“It has been a good year on the bike. Sadly, it has not been so good from a sponsorship point of view in terms of our future, but we are piecing that puzzle together,” he said at the Laureus event.

Nonetheless, Ryder has refused to throw in the towel and remains optimistic, buoyed by the response he has received.

“When we announced that we needed a new partner, the response was unbelievable from all over the world,” he said. “Our social media presence has been incredible in terms of people just trying to support us. We have people from America to Australia and everything in between loving this team and wanting to get involved, trying to make a difference, and trying to connect with us. It is tough in the world today, economically, and some businesses are really struggling, and some aren’t. But we are very close to being on the road next year.”

The 5th of November saw the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirm the teams that had already submitted confirmed documentation for 2021, with NTT Pro Cycling not on that list.

However, teams can still register after the deadline, albeit whilst incurring an extra fee, and Ryder’s comments seem to suggest the announcement of a new sponsor is imminent. 

Those comments, however, come in the same week that NTT Pro Cycling team manager Bjarne Riis seemingly put a nail in the coffin of the team he joined at the start of this year. 

It was initially suggested his company Virtu Cycling, which he runs with Lars Seier Christensen and Jan Bech Andersen, would take a third of the ownership of the team, but Danish media reported in September that the process didn’t go through and that Ryder remains the full owner.

“As it looks right now, there is not a team with me at the helm next year. That’s the situation. We do not have a sponsor on hand right now and it is getting late so it does not look too good,” Riis told the Ekstra Bladet newspaper. “I do not know now if I sound pessimistic. I just sound realistic, right? The situation is as it is and there is nothing I can do about it.”

Asked if it was realistic that a new sponsor could be found to keep the team afloat, he said: “No, not really.”

It is unclear if and how Riis fits into Ryder’s plans for 2021, and whether or not that potential new sponsor will, indeed, materialise, and save the future of Africa’s only UCI-registered WorldTour cycling team.

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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