Maybe the NTT team will find a sponsor after all?

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Just days after NTT team manager Bjarne Riis gave an interview suggesting that things were not going well in the search for a new sponsor, team principal Doug Ryder has offered a far more upbeat update.

“We have people from America to Australia and everything in between loving this team and wanting to get involved, trying to make a difference, and trying to connect with us,” Ryder said. “It is tough in the world today economically, and some businesses are really struggling, and some aren’t. But we are very close to being on the road next year.”

Ryder’s comments came in a team press release following a UCI listing of teams that have applied for WorldTour status in 2021. So far, NTT has not submitted the necessary documentation.

“This Thursday is an announcement of the teams which have submitted their documentation, and we will not be on that list,” Ryder said. “In the next couple of days, I think we should be able to say that we will have a plan to move forwards into 2021.”

Ryder’s comments are the latest development in a story that has featured numerous ups and downs over the past year.

At the start of 2020, hopes were high at the former Dimension Data squad, which took on a new look after a rebranding by Dimension Data’s parent company NTT. In January, the team announced that former pro and former Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis, along with his business partners, would be acquiring a share of the team, with Riis moving into a management role.

When the coronavirus pandemic turned the cycling world upside down, however, NTT’s situation changed dramatically.

For starters, the planned investment in the team from Riis’s group did not occur when it was expected to occur, and it has not happened since.

Then, as the racing hiatus dragged on, rumors began to emerge that NTT would depart as the team’s title sponsor. That was then confirmed in September. The impending split thrust the squad into an especially challenging market for new sponsors, with the BMC team also hunting for a new partner at the time.

Since then, NTT brass have provided updates with varying degrees of optimism or pessimism, with Riis offering a particularly grim outlook in an interview with Ekstra Bladet.

“As it looks right now, there is not a team with me at the helm next year,” Riis said. “That’s the situation. We do not have a sponsor on hand right now and it is getting late so it does not look too good.”

Ryder’s optimistic Thursday update comes just four days later.

At this point, not much is known about a potential new suitor, or suitors, for the title sponsorship of the squad currently known as NTT, but there’s only so much time left before things will have to shake out one way or the other.

For now, Ryder is hopeful that the team’s financial situation for 2021 will improve in the same way its results did in a 2020 season that saw the team nab three WorldTour wins, including a big one at the Giro d’Italia.

“It has been a good year on the bike,” Ryder said. “Sadly, it has not been so good from a sponsorship point of view in terms of our future, but we are piecing that puzzle together.”

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