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NTT’s Ryder: ‘It’s critical’ that Tour de France goes ahead

NTT Pro Cycling team principal highlights importance of Tour de France to team sponsorships.

Doug Ryder, boss of NTT Pro Cycling, sees the Tour de France as “critical” to the financial model of the sport.

“We’re just hoping that come end of June, the Tour de France can still take place — it’s critical for us as teams that it does happen this year,” Ryder said Wednesday.

“In cycling, we are a 100 percent reliant on sponsorship so cycling can actually take a big knock and potentially it could be in trouble,” Ryder told the BBC World Service. “Some teams are suffering quite a bit and have made some drastic decisions to try and keep and maintain their sustainability in the sport. So it is a very, very, very tough time at this point.”

The Tour is currently still due to run June 27, however, this week organizers ASO are reported to have been investigating delaying the race by one month as a fall-back plan.

After coronavirus put a stop on all racing through spring, several top tier teams have already been feeling the pinch as budgets get squeezed and race revenues are lost. Astana, Mitchelton Scott, CCC-Team, Bahrain-McLaren and Lotto-Soudal have already reduced or deferred rider pay, and many teams are laying off self-employed mechanics, drivers, and carers in a bid to shave costs.

Deceuninck-Quick-Step is currently faced with the prospect of having to pay compensation to title sponsor Deceuninck as they look to recoup lost publicity after the loss of the classics.

2020 is the first year that Ryder’s African team has taken the name NTT after the Japanese telecoms giant took over naming rights from Dimension Data in the winter. The team continues to work with its long-term partner Qhubeka, a charity providing bicycles to children across South Africa.

“We’re very fortunate that with NTT and our major sponsors are trying to do the right thing and trying to support us in as many ways as they can,” Ryder said. “At the moment, we are waiting and there’s lots of conversations with the UCI — the governing body of world cycling — to understand when the season will start because the longer it goes on, the harder it then is to give returns to our sponsors.”

Teams are looking to new ways to engage fans and promote their backers through the coronavirus lockdown, with NTT one of many WorldTour outfits hosting group rides on virtual training platform Zwift. This week, the team also launched a ‘Be Moved’ positivity campaign in a bid to promote their charitable objectives.