Dimension Data remain in the dark as to whether they will be part of the WorldTour in 2017 but team boss Doug Ryder has backed the team to shine next season and remains hopeful that the UCI may reverse the reform to drop from 18 to 17 top-tier teams next season.
Dimension Data had a successful 2016 season, with five stage wins at the Tour de France courtesy of Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings. However, they struggled for WorldTour points and ended the season bottom of the rankings. Although Tinkoff and IAM will fold in December, the emergence of Bora-Hansgrohe as a likely WorldTour team, Lampre remaining under a new title, and the formation of Bahrain-Merida, have put Dimension Data's position under threat. At present 18 teams are vying for WorldTour status, with one set to miss out under the current reforms.
"On the licensing side we've not heard anything. All the documentation has been submitted. Last year we only knew on the 20th of November so we've actually not heard anything. We've talked to the AIGCP [teams association] and the teams have stood together. There are 18 good teams with good sponsors looking to work together. There's a united stance within the teams. We've not heard any more from the UCI and I guess it would be out of sorts for them to talk to us," Ryder told Cyclingnews.
The UCI are set to announce the WorldTour teams in November but there is pressure on them to reverse the decision to only have 17 teams next seasons. Given that the reforms, in their current format, were only signed off in June – halfway through the season – Ryder sees the idea of a compassionate reversal from the UCI as the best option.
"It has implications for us and our partners but our interpretation of the rule was that 16 teams at the end of this year would automatically qualify for the WorldTour and there are 16 teams with Tinkoff and IAM out. If you interpret it that way then we're okay and then the two new teams would fight for the 17th spot. I'm sure there will be 18 teams next year.
"I think they would like to [ed. have 18 teams] but the agreement with ASO over the bikes and the races and ASO wanting to go with less so that they have more choice in their events…. that's a discussion outside of us.
"As a team we'll always carry on. We're about African cycling and doing something unique. All our sponsors are on board with that. Dimension Data and Deloitte are fantastic and Dimension Data are committed to the sport until 2019 with ASO. They're in and not going anywhere. Of course they want us in the WorldTour, they think we should be, and so do we.
"The races that we've focused on this year we've done really well in. Should we have paid more attention to the WorldTour? Well the reform only came in on the 24th of June. Then the planning was done and 50 per cent of the season was done. If the rules were set from January 1 then that's one thing but they came in halfway through the season."
While several teams have improved their chances of a WorldTour licence by signing riders with existing WorldTour points, Ryder and Dimension Data have taken a different approach, and signed riders to either develop or bolster the depth to the team.
The likes of Joaquim Rodriguez and Ion Izaguirre have moved to Bahrain and taken their collective 481 points with them, but Ryder has signed younger riders. Had he signed both Spaniards they would sit 8th in the WorldTour rankings.
"We stick to our guns and believe in what we do. We've brought in some really nice riders. We didn't buy points but we didn't want to hand out big pay cheques to riders that might not fit the culture of our team," he said.
"We didn't know that Izaguirre was on the market. You don't really go and buy a guy out of his contract. That's not a tactic we wanted to develop.
"We've looked at riders like Scott Thwaites, who we think will be a huge asset going forward. Ben King is another massive asset. Next year is our year for Africans. It's our fifth year at this level and we feel that they're ready. We believe in people and we've taken riders who we think will shine next year. Watch them next year. They're riders who needed an opportunity and we think that the possibility of giving them chances is a big thing. They have the talent."
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