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MTN-Qhubeka, Europcar secure sponsors for 2016

The Pro Continental teams will ride into 2016 thanks to new title sponsors.

Two important Professional Continental teams will continue riding into 2016 despite major sponsorship changes for next season.

MTN-Qhubeka and Europcar both will see new title sponsors for 2016, and officials from both squads say their respective team’s futures are secure.

The African-based MTN-Qhubeka will see South African telephone company MTN exit as title sponsor. General manager Brian Smith said the team already has a new title sponsor lined up.

“We have a confirmed sponsor,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “It’s a three-year deal that will keep us at the same level we have now. We’re just waiting for the official announcement.”

MTN-Qhubeka has been one of the revelations in 2015, becoming Africa’s first team to race the Tour de France. The team’s Tour debut was made even better with a stage victory thanks to Steve Cummings, and the squad picked up a stage win at the Vuelta a España on Monday with Kristian Sbaragli in the team’s third grand tour.

Smith said the team is also negotiating with other potential co-sponsors that could give the team even more financial heft moving forward, with the idea of expanding the team’s budget of 7.5 million euros to 9 million euros.

After being active in the rider market last year, Smith said the team is looking to consolidate its lineup moving into 2016. He also acknowledged there have been discussions with Mark Cavendish, but said the team cannot afford the British sprinter unless he brings his own co-sponsor to cover his paycheck.

Smith also said the team is not planning to bump up to the UCI WorldTour next year.

“We are in no rush to get into the WorldTour,” Smith said. “I am not going to say no to it. There might be an opportunity, but it’s not essential for us. Maybe the year after next.”

In France, Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau told the French sports daily L’Equipe the team has secured a new sponsor for next season as well.

Bernaudeau said the new sponsor is a French company, and that an accord has been reached to keep the team afloat for the 2016 season.

A few key riders have already left, including Pierre Rolland, who has signed on with Cannondale-Garmin, and Cyril Gautier, who will join Ag2r La Mondiale.

Thomas Voeckler is expected to stay, and it’s possible that Sylvain Chavanel could join after his final season with IAM Cycling.