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LE HAVRE, France (CT) – Although MTN-Qhubeka Team Principal Douglas Ryder said the day the Tour de France began that the team likely would not be WorldTour level next year, he revealed at the start of stage six that there are now hopes that a step up could happen.
Speaking to CyclingTips outside the team bus in Abbeville, Ryder said that the team was in talks with new partner Dimension Data about the possibility of a much bigger backing next season.
If the talks to go plan, the company could potentially take over title sponsorship of the team.
“Our dream is to become a WorldTour team. If we can put it together for next year, that will be amazing,” Ryder said.
“Dimension Data are new into cycling. I have known them a long time. Jeremy Ord, the chairman, is an amazing guy and Brett Dawson the CEO. Credible people. Love cycling, love this project, have been here, seen it, seen the value that this team could bring to them as a brand as well.
“They were a South African company that went global as well, so it is pretty much what we are doing. It is a nice story and a nice association.
“It is very exciting; give it a couple more weeks and maybe they will step it up even more and potentially take control of the team.”
Asked directly if that would mean the company could become the main sponsor, he indicated this might be the case.
“They could, yeah. It is not 100 percent confirmed yet, but the potential is absolutely there.”
Dimension Data has already began a substantial association with the sport. In March it and Tour organisers ASO announced a five year deal, under which the company will become the official technology partner of ASO.
Under the terms of that deal, every bike in the Tour peloton features a black device mounted under the saddle which tracks their GPS position real-time. This is then transmitted back to Dimension Data and while it is not yet up to full speed, will enable viewers to follow the precise location of each rider at any point in time.
It will also assist broadcast media to pinpoint the composition of the various groups on the road.
On the eve of the Tour MTN Qhubeka and Dimension Data announced that the company would become a sponsor of the team under a multi-year deal.
The MTN-Qhubeka team was founded in 2007 and has grown since then. The African squad has stepped up each year, becoming a Pro Continental outfit and winning Milan-Sanremo with Gerald Ciolek in 2013, then making a number of bigger signings prior to the current season.
The acquisition of former WorldTour riders like Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar, Theo Bos and Matt Goss has added considerably to the experience level of the team and helped to develop the very talented core of African competitors.
As a result of this, the squad was able to gain an invite to the Tour de France. It has consequently became the first African-registered trade team to compete in the race.
Ryder said that he was pleased with the results thus far and that they confirmed the invitation was a valid one.
“If you had told me that we would have three top tens in five stages I would have said ‘okay, I will take it,’” he stated.
“I’m fantastically happy – I think the guys have really tried as hard as they can. As you know, our team is split into two groups…one for the climbing stages and one obviously to try to do something in these Classic stages in the beginning.
“We are showing that we are visible and we are showing that we are trying really hard to get a really good results. The guys are amazing and hopefully today it is going to be the same again.”
He said that after Edvald Boasson Hagen clocked up fifth on stage five, he was hopeful that the Norwegian – who won two stages in 2012 – could fight for the victory on the tough stage six finish into Le Havre.
CyclingTips asked him if reaching a successful conclusion to talks with Dimension Data depended directly on the riders’ results in the race.
“No,” he answered. “It is down to the dream and them believing in it. We are about African cycling and the potential of putting more kids on bicycles through the Qhubeka charity. That is our main goal, [although] performances help that.
“Dimension Data believe in that, they believe in the potential from Africa. It is just getting some time to sit down [to negotiate]. As you know, it has been a bit crazy for them and for us, in terms of their technology solution here at the Tour and our participation. But a good discussion I am sure can help.”
He confirmed that if such a deal were to be finalised, it would make a major difference to the team in terms of both WorldTour prospects for 2016 and also the size and quality of the roster.