NTT Pro Cycling team principal Douglas Ryder remains confident that the team will be able to secure a solution to keep the team “on the road” in 2021.
Speaking at a special virtual event for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, of which the team are ambassadors, Ryder was reflecting on the team’s overall journey, performances in 2020 as well as 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; seeing Ryder in a race against time to secure the necessary funding to ensure the survival of the team.
Following the team’s best-ever performance at the Giro d’Italia, in which Ben O’Connor won a stage and Domenico Pozzovivo impressed hugely in his 14th appearance at the event, Ryder reflected: “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.
“When we announced that we needed a new partner, the response has been unbelievable from all over the world. Our social media presence has been incredible in terms of people just trying to support us,” Ryder went on to say. “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.”
Today (Thursday 5 November) will see the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirm the teams that have already submitted confirmed documentation for 2021, and Ryder says that right now time is of the essence: “This Thursday is an announcement of the teams which have submitted their documentation, and we will not be on that list. In the next couple of days, I think we should be able to say that we will have a plan to move forwards into 2021.”
The virtual event also saw opportunity to highlight the building of mountain bike trails, to add to their already impressive sporting facilities, at LIV Village in Kwa-Zulu Natal – one of 30 programmes supported by Laureus in South Africa. While NTT Pro Cycling rider Nicholas Dlamini, mountain biker and Laureus YES Graduate William Mokgopo as well as acclaimed chef David Higgs all added their unique insights on the evening.
Ultimately for Ryder the dream to continue to make an impact through the distribution of bicycles with the Qhubeka Charity in rural areas remains a driving force in ensuring the team’s existence: “If there are many more people that can be moved by bicycles and can use the bicycle as tool to be free, have hope, be independent and use it as a transport tool, then it shows that our team has been successful.
“If we have raced around the world, been successful and we can raise funds and awareness for the Qhubeka Charity, which gets more kids on bicycles, then it is self-fulfilling and shows that we have done a great job on all fronts.
“The next part of our dream as a team is that a child who starts on a Qhubeka bicycle ends up as a Nic or William, to try and get to the highest level and have the opportunities to race internationally. That would be a dream come true, that is what gets us up every day and that is what makes me work so hard now in this tough time to try and keep this team on the road.”