Dlamini and Barbero sign contract extensions with Qhubeka Assos

NTT’s Nic Dlamini – pictured at the 2020 Vuelta a Espana – has signed a contract extension to stay with the team, as Qhubeka Assos, in 2021
NTT’s Nic Dlamini – pictured at the 2020 Vuelta a Espana – has signed a contract extension to stay with the team, as Qhubeka Assos, in 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Current NTT Pro Cycling riders Nic Dlamini and Carlos Barbero have signed contract extensions that will keep them at the South African WorldTour squad as it becomes Qhubeka Assos for 2021.

Team principal Doug Ryder was able to announce in earlier this month that the team had been saved for 2021 by virtue of clothing supplier Assos stepping up its commitment to the team, following NTT's decision in September to pull out as main sponsor after the 2020 season. The bicycle charity Qhubeka – which provides bicycles to children in Africa – will also return as one of the team's naming sponsors.

The team recently announced the extension of European road race champion Giacomo Nizzolo's contract, as well as the signing of Simon Clarke from EF Pro Cycling, Dimitri Claeys from Cofidis and Kilian Frankiny from Groupama-FDJ.

Twenty-five-year-old South African Dlamini is a product of the team's Dimension Data for Qhubeka feeder team, turning professional with the then WorldTour-level Dimension Data squad in 2018.

However, at the end of last year, Dlamini was training in the Table Mountain National Park outside Cape Town when he was stopped and attacked by park rangers, who claimed that he hadn't paid for a permit to ride in the park, resulting in one of them breaking his arm as he was bundled into the back of their vehicle.

Dlamini returned to racing action at the Vuelta a Burgos in Spain following the sport's shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and went on to race at the Czech Tour, the World Championships road race and the BinckBank Tour. He then started the Vuelta a España in October – the second Grand Tour of his career after also completing last year's Vuelta – but was forced to pull out during stage 11 with illness.

"To re-sign with the team, now as Team Qhubeka Assos, is a big relief as it means that the African dream stays alive," Dlamini said in a press release on Thursday. 

"Having Qhubeka back as part of our name is very special, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the kit design with the Qhubeka hand on our back, as they have always been part of our DNA and very close to our hearts. The focus is of course on winning, but also importantly on putting children on bicycles, so I know that my teammates and I are suffering out there for a great purpose.

"Doug has worked really hard to keep the team alive and we all appreciate his incredible efforts," he continued. "We now need to give the absolute maximum back to the team to try and score the best possible results for next year, and hopefully we can keep the dream alive for another couple of years."

'I'm delighted to continue in this great family'

Barbero joined the team for the 2020 season after three seasons with Movistar. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that affected the sport this year, the 29-year-old Spanish rider was able to race a full season, starting with sixth place overall at the Saudi Tour in February.

He also took sixth place at the one-day Memorial Pantani in August, and, like Dlamini, Barbero also took part in the Vuelta a España at the end of the season.

"I'm delighted to continue in this great family," Barbero said. "I have felt very comfortable during this strange year in the team and my desire was always to renew.

"I'd like to extend my thanks to the incredible work Doug has done to keep the team alive in 2021, and as riders this provides us the platform to continue to educate the world that 'bicycles change lives'," he said, referring to the Qhubeka organisation, "and so I cannot wait to ride next season as Team Qhubeka Assos."

Team principal Doug Ryder added: "In Nic and Carlos, you couldn't have two more different stories in terms of their backgrounds, but who epitomise exactly the power that our team, and sport, has in bringing people together. Both are exceptional individuals and core to the fabric of our team going into next season.

"Nic's continued development is something that we are very proud of," Ryder continued. "He's someone that we've supported ever since he first dreamed of becoming a professional rider. To come through our Continental team, and then to establish himself at WorldTour level, speaks to exactly what we are as an organisation.

"2020, though, has been a very difficult year for everyone, and Nic had additional challenges in that he was injured for the first quarter of it," he added. "At 25, he is now in a crucial part of his career as a rider, and knows that he now needs to kick on as part of that, not just for himself but also for the team.

"Carlos came in at the start of the season and immediately made such a big impact," Ryder said of Barbero. "His personality away from the bike makes him an incredible team man, and he's ambitious on it, too, so he's the perfect mix.

"He also had some misfortune this year getting injured just prior to his 'home race' – the Vuelta a Burgos – but we know that he will take on the challenge that next season will bring head-on."

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