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What is the future for Team Qhubeka?

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Doug Ryder and Nic Dlamini have been hugely influential for the team. (Photo: @QhubekaAssos)
Doug Ryder and Nic Dlamini have been hugely influential for the team. (Photo: @QhubekaAssos)

Despite obtaining a guaranteed spot in the Union Cycliste Internationale's (UCI) 2022 WorldTour, there will be no Team Qhubeka at the big races. 

The failure to secure sufficient sponsorship support has left Africa's only professional cycling team without a 2022 race licence, thus barring the team from featuring on the world stage.

Established nearly two decades ago by Douglas Ryder, the team has been known as MTN Cycling, Team Dimension Data, NTT Pro Cycling, Team Qhubeka Assos, and finally, they are now - Team Qhubeka NextHash. 

What began as a charity to supply bikes to the underprivileged became the first and only African registered team in the 2021 Tour de France.

"I think it's incredibly sad. A team that had the guaranteed entry in the Tour de France and had a World Tour for 2022 wasn't able to find enough funding to be able to maintain its existence in the sport," said Ryder.

"So for us, after having a good year, winning three stages in the Giro d'Italia, it was pretty sad that we weren't able to secure funding. We tried as hard as we could when Dimension Data or NTT withdrew their partnership or didn't renew their partnership with us going forward. We fought to stay alive in 2021, hoping to buy some time."

According to Ryder, factors that contributed to the evasive sponsorship largely came from the Covid-19 global pandemic. The pandemic, which has characterised the past two years and still lingers in 2022, encouraged people to look after their own. With Team Qhubeka reliant on international sponsorship, they were left stranded.

"I think through this time, the world has become very territorial. America is looking after America. China is looking after China. Each country is supporting its sports and people within those environments."

"For 14 years, we had funding out of South Africa and Africa with Dimension Data and MTN. And then of course, as you know, South Africa, and most of Africa is in economic and political distress - and that doesn't help," explained Ryder.

"I think it shows that the world doesn't have that spirit of Ubuntu, where we need each other to exist. People keep their own environments alive."

"We literally came down to the last day where we had the final decision and final opportunity with an American firm. Then with Omicron, hitting hard they just said 'look, we just can't make a decision now. We have to wait and see what happens'."

The South African based team have come a long way since their first pedal stroke. Stage wins have come in all the most esteemed races: Giro d'Italia (5), The Vuelta a España (5), and the Tour de France (7) - displaying their success in the La Grande Boucle wearing the yellow, green, and polka dot jersey respectively.

The most symbolic stage win was Steve Cummings' stage 14 victory in the 2015 Tour de France. This moment was the first win for an African debut team to participate in the Tour, fittingly taking place on Nelson Mandela Day.

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