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Report: Qhubeka-NextHash to cease sponsor search, abandon hopes of 2022 WorldTour season

Team boss Douglas Ryder thanked riders and staffers, aims to return to WorldTour status in 2023.

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Qhubeka-Nexthash boss Douglas Ryder announced Thursday a halt to the search for a title sponsor for the 2022 season.

That’s according to a report in CyclingNews and other media, which cited a letter Ryder sent to members of the team overnight.

The letter all but puts an end to the top-level squad, which joined the WorldTour in 2016, for the upcoming racing season.

“I am very sad to send this message. We have tried everything to find sponsors for our team for next season, right up until the last few days, but nothing has materialized in time,” Ryder said in a letter posted on CyclingNews.

“We have engaged with 10 sports marketing agencies across the world and spoke to over 100 companies. I am thankful to those of you who also supported us through talking to potential sponsors. There has not been a day that went by since NTT opted to end their support that we did not work on securing our long-term future,” Ryder wrote.

While the Qhubeka development squad may continue on at the Continental level, but the WorldTour-level squad will cease operations at least for 2022, Ryder vowing to try to mount a comeback for 2023.

The squad saw a handful of successes throughout the 2021 season, including Mauro Schmid’s stage 11 win, Giacomo Nizzolo’s win on stage 13, and Victor Campaneaerts’ victory on stage 15 of the 2021 Giro d’Italia.

That was not enough to buoy the team later in the year when on the hunt for sponsors.

Without title sponsorship, the squad failed to make the financial commitments required by the UCI for WorldTour status in 2022.

In early autumn, Ryder told squad members they were free to look for contracts elsewhere. In December, it was reported that the squad was refused a WorldTour license by the UCI.

Riders remaining out of contract include American rider Sean Bennett, Domenico Pozzovivo, and Sergio Henao, while Fabio Aru retired.

Henao expressed pessimism about continuing his career as a professional cyclist.

In a letter circulated by Ryder posted on CyclingNews, he professed gratitude to the team and staff, and hinted at the frustration of not being able to find the funds to continue the team.

“I am so proud of what we have achieved together. The family spirit and feeling of Ubuntu was embraced by all of you on and off the bike. Never have I seen such unity and one united team spirit as what we had this year. You all have embraced the platform this team provides and grew as people united by our purpose. You should be incredibly proud of what we achieved together.

“I hope these feelings and memories will live with you as we go our separate ways in 2022 even with the last few challenging months. Our cash flow issues due to sponsors not paying on time, or at all, has really impacted on us.

“Thank you to all of you as Team Qhubeka is loved by so many people around the world. Even though we will not be in the World Tour or a Pro Continental Team next season, we will continue with the Continental team. The support of emerging talent is incredibly important for us to rise again in 2023. This is our goal,” Ryder wrote.

The South African-based squad has been struggling since the exit of the title sponsor NTT in 2020. Swiss cycling apparel maker Assos stepped into the title sponsor position, but made it clear it did not want to remain as the team’s sole title sponsor.

A planned merger with ex-pro Bjarne Riis in 2020 also fizzled out, in part caused by fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to the start of the 2021 Tour de France, NextHash — a digital currency and securities company — took on the title sponsorship role.

Qhubeka, a not-for-profit organization that provides bikes to World Bicycle Relief, in South Africa, remained as a sponsor, as did Assos, BMC, and Mercedes.