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Qhubeka-NextHash releases riders as management works to shore up finances

African-registered team still looking secure its sponsors for 2022, but UCI deadlines force them to release riders from contracts.

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Qhubeka-NextHash released its riders from any contract obligations as management works to resolve the team’s finances going into 2022, officials confirmed Thursday.

As first reported on CyclingNews, the African-registered team notified its riders this week that they can search out new contracts as the team’s current financial future hits a snag.

“Team Qhubeka NextHash is fully committed to securing our future and continues to work extremely hard to do so, with both our current as well as potential future partners,” a team statement read Thursday.

“As required by the UCI and the CPA, we have informed the team of our current position which sees them now able to seek opportunities elsewhere should they wish to pursue those.”

The squad features U.S. rider Sean Bennett, who made his Tour de France debut this summer with the team, as well as such riders as Giacomo Nizzolo, Sergio Henao and the recently retired Fabio Aru.

The team has been against the ropes a few times during its course of its history, yet officials said they’re optimistic about securing the team’s finances going into next season.

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.

Sources said the decision to officially release riders from contracts is a requirement of UCI rules and regulations if certain financial benchmarks are not secured by pre-determined deadlines.

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.

Also read: Premier Tech searching for new WorldTour partner

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.

Qhubeka-NextHash officials the team will complete its full racing calendar in 2021.

“This weekend we are in action at Paris-Roubaix, one of cycling’s great, iconic occasions, and next week we will conclude our program in Italy including the final race of this season, Il Lombardia,” a statement read. “We will race as we have done all year, with fight and pride, all while honoring the spirit of Ubuntu – I am because we are.”