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NTT leaving WorldTour team as title sponsor

Japanese tech firm leaving Africa's first WorldTour team in a lurch.

Another WorldTour team is on the ropes.

With CCC Team facing bleak prospects, a second WorldTour team confirmed Monday its future is uncertain.

Officials from NTT Pro Cycling, formerly Dimension Data, MTN, and Qbubeka, said Monday that the Japanese tech company is leaving as title sponsor at the end of 2020.

“On Monday evening, team principal Douglas Ryder informed all members of our organization that NTT will not continue with the team, ending our six-year association,” a press statement read Monday.

Rumors of the team’s uncertain future were already flying during the Tour de France, but Monday’s announcement confirms that the team is looking for a new partner. The team said that NTT will not extend beyond 2020.

“This is, of course, very disappointing news,” a statement read. “We are committed to fight for our team’s future and are exploring every possible avenue available to us.”

The news will come as a blow to the team’s WorldTour and continental-level riders and staffers. American Ben King is among the 29-rider WorldTour roster.

Former Tour de France winner and manager Bjarne Riis joined the team in 2020 after buying about 30 percent of the team ownership. It’s uncertain if Riis and Ryder will try to continue together, or perhaps each will plot their own course.

The team was founded in 2008 and grew to become South Africa’s first WorldTour team. Team founder Ryder built the team with South Africa and African cyclists and expanded the roster in 2015 to include a more international squad, bringing on such riders as Tyler Farrar, Matt Goss, Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Gerard Ciolek. Mark Cavendish joined in 2016, and the team went on to race the Tour every year since 2015.

The team’s uncertain future reflects larger uncertainty across the WorldTour in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Along with CCC, which also sees its title sponsor leave at the end of 2020, NTT is now the second major WorldTour team hit by an exiting major backer. At least eight other teams have undergone salary reductions and other cost-cutting measures as COVID-19 undercut the racing calendar as well as impacted the world economy.

Other teams, however, appear to be untouched by the larger economic woes hitting many WorldTour teams. Ineos Grenadiers, for example, confirmed four marquee riders this week to join for 2021 in a signal that the British team maintains its financial heft in the peloton.