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Bjarne Riis is not optimistic about the future of NTT Pro Cycling after a sponsorship search came up with nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
“The way things are now,” he was quoted in the Danish newspaper Ekstrabladet, “There won’t be a team next year where I am the manager. This is how it is. We don’t have a sponsor at the moment and it’s getting late. Things aren’t looking great.”
Bjarne Riis and his business partner Lars Seier have been trying to return to WorldTour level cycling after the Tinkoff team ended in 2016. They tried with a women’s team named Virtu Cycling but had to invest too much of their own money to make it work. The team ended in 2019.
“I am happy that many people would like to see me manage a team and I would love to see a Danish team in the WorldTour but I can’t afford it and I don’t understand why people expect Lars to pay for everything because he is who he is. It doesn’t make sense and was never discussed.”
In 2020 it was announced Seier and Riis would buy a share in NTT Procycling. He joined the South African team as general manager in January of this year but the purchase of a share of the team never went ahead. The global pandemic complicated things and the withdrawal of NTT as the team’s main sponsor didn’t contribute to a prosperous outcome either.
“It’s not realistic to think a new sponsor will magically appear now. It’s a shame because cycling offers huge sponsor potential for much less investment than Formula1 or football. There was interest from Danish companies, especially now the Tour de France starts in Denmark in 2022, but they didn’t make that last step. Maybe the insecurity around the pandemic plays a role,” Riis explained.
Doug Ryder, owner of NTT Pro Cycling, has told his riders at the end of September already that they are free to look for new teams after NTT didn’t renew the sponsorship contract. Only ten days ago Gazzetta dello Sport reported there were positive signs the team would find a new main sponsor.
So far only Ryan Gibbons (UAE Emirates), Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroën) and Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) have announced new teams. Michael Valgren is rumoured to join EF-Education First.
Max Walscheid, Dylan Sunderland, Andreas Stokbro, Matteo Sobrero, Domenico Pozzovivo, Michael Gogl, Victor Campenaerts and Samuele Battistella have contracts with the team for 2021.