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Qhubeka-NextHash principal Douglas Ryder said the search for title sponsors continues with the goal of keeping the long-running African-backed team in the peloton.
Management notified riders last week via an email that they are free of any contractual obligations with the team as the sponsor search continues, raising alarm bells about the future of the team.
Team principal Doug Ryder, who is attending Paris-Roubaix this weekend in France, said he remains optimistic the team will be on the road next season.
“We are still looking for a title partner for 2022, and we are working on a few options,” Ryder said in a statement to VeloNews.
“We have some partner conversations that have been going on for months,” he said. “COVID hasn’t helped in terms of getting decisions made, but we are close to getting some decisions on the team, and we hope we can meet the timelines and the deadlines to put a team on the road for 2022.
“I am very positive and hopeful, and we are working very hard to absolutely make that happen.”
Last week, media outlets reported that the team was releasing its riders from contracts, news that typically is a harbinger of bad news for a team.
Ryder, however, described the decision as “procedural,” but confirmed that riders are free to search out new deals for 2022 while he and his staff continue to negotiate with potential sponsors for next season.
“In terms of the media speculation around the emails that went out to our riders on the 30th of September, that it is a procedural requirement from the ‘joint agreement’ and the professional cycling council, CPA, that all teams need to notify riders by the latest [by September 30] whether they have contracts in the team going beyond that season — if you’re not renewing a contract with a rider, you need to notify a rider
‘It is a procedural thing, it has nothing to do with the stability of the team, or its future, or anything,” he said. “It has to do procedurally telling riders if are contracted with the team in the future or not.”
Like many teams, it has been against the ropes a few times during its course of its history. In 2020, former pro Bjarne Riis joined the team only to see him exit by season’s end, with Assos and then NextHash coming on as co-sponsors for this season.
There’s been speculation that the long-running African team could be in the hunt to secure the services of Canadian backer Premier Tech, which is leaving its partnership with Astana at the end of 2021.
Premier Tech officials said they were considering several suitors, among them reportedly Qhubeka, BikeExchange, and Israel Start-Up Nation, and said a decision would be forthcoming by the end of September. So far, Premier Tech has not revealed its future alliance.
Qhubeka-NextHash officials the team will complete its full racing calendar in 2021.
‘NFTs’ and a place on jersey for NextHash
Ryder also clarified that NextHash, a crypto-currency platform that joined the team in 2021, will be a “jersey partner” going forward, but said that was always part of the original deal with the team.
“NextHash signed up at the end of June on a four-and-a-half-year deal, which, in 2021, they would replace Assos co-naming partner, but only in 2021,” he said. “From 2022 onward, they would be a jersey partner. Their funding on the team is not enough to take the title sponsor on the team.”
Ryder also said the team plans to create some “NFTs” (non-fungible tokens) that will be available to the team’s fanbase, using the NextHash platform.