NTT Team saved, introducing Team Qhubeka ASSOS

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After months of speculation, the NTT Pro Cycling team has finally confirmed they will remain a cycling team in 2021. Douglas Ryder confirmed the team would continue under a new name in 2021 with Assos both coming in as the headline sponsor.

Qhubeka has been a partner of the team since 2016 under the name Dimension Data for Qhubeka. Founded by Anthony Fitzhenry in 2005, Qhubeka donates bicycles to people in Africa to help improve their access to schools, jobs, and opportunities. In 2013 the not-for-profit organization was picked up by World Bicycle Relief.

“We have huge respect for all they have achieved to date and look forward to continuing to cheer them on in 2021 and beyond,” Tsatsi Phaweni, Executive Director for Qhebeka, said of the partnership. “We remain grateful for their continued support of our work and for all their efforts to raise funds and awareness for Qhubeka, along with their fans, sponsors, and the broader cycling community. Together, we can change more lives with bicycles, and so we wish them every success.”

Assos, the Swiss cycling clothing manufacturer, has outfitted the team for the past two seasons. Now they are stepping in to save the once scrambling team for the next two seasons.

“We have really enjoyed being part of this mission-driven team – Qhubeka’s slogan that “bicycles change lives” could not inspire us more,” said Derek Bouchard-Hall, CEO of ASSOS. “ASSOS has always been and continues to be deeply entwined in professional cycling – we were really moved by the opportunity to support the sport during the COVID crisis by keeping this important team part of the pro peloton.”

Ryder has maintained confidence that the team would find a replacement for NTT after the telecommunication company officially announced it would no longer sponsor the team in September. As recently as Bjarne Riis, team manager of NTT for the 2020 season, told the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that it was unlikely the team would find the backing for 2021. Since that interview, Riis and NTT Pro Cycling have ceased partnership, with Ryder hastily restoring hope that the team was in the process of salvation.

“I am really happy to have gained the support of some incredible people and partners including ASSOS of Switzerland who have stepped in to be a headline sponsor,” Ryder said in the team’s press release. “To be able to recreate the team as Team Qhubeka ASSOS talks to exactly what we continue to strive for, and that is to be a purpose-led, high-performance racing team.”

As the team struggled to secure funding for a 2021 season many of the riders found homes elsewhere. American rider Ben King announced yesterday his move to Rally Cycling. King has been riding for Team Dimension Data/NTT Pro Cycling since 2017. Likewise, Edvald Bossan Hagen, who has been with Ryder’s team since 2015, recently made the move to Total Direct Energie in 2021. Ryan Gibbons, the South African rider who has ridden with the team since 2016 will ride for the UAE-Team Emirates in 2021 and 2022. And the list goes on.

Only Victor Campenaerts, Michael Gogl, Domenico Pozzovivo, Andreas Stokbro, Dylan Sunderland, and Max Walscheid have official contract extensions with Team Qhubeka ASSOS for 2021, and it would be hard to see the team letting go of European road Champion Giacomo Nizzolo. Naturally, with the question surrounded the continuation of the team, no new riders have been signed. Still, there are a lot of riders without a home for next season. Simon Clarke of EF Pro Cycling and Fabio Aru of UAE-Team Emirates have been rumored to be joining the team for next year, and now Ryder officially has a team to work with, contract announcements will be hitting the news immanently.

The featured image was taken on stage 2 at the Critérium du Dauphiné by Jered Gruber.

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