Reports from several sources indicate that Douglas Ryder will run a WorldTour team next year after a last-minute solution was found to keep his current NTT-backed team in the sport.
Current title sponsor NTT are set to step down from the team at the end of 2020 in a move that was confirmed in September, but Cyclingnews understands that the team’s backroom staff are busily building a roster for next year and seeking out-of-contract riders.
It’s not clear who the main backer of the team will be in 2021 but the squad’s budget is set to be around the eight-million Euro mark. That’s a low figure compared to almost every other WorldTour team, but one source told Cyclingnews that riders are being approached on the basis that they might race for around the minimum wage, which currently stands at 38,000 Euros for WorldTour riders.
The team have been approached but declined to comment.
A number of high-profile riders have already left the team with Michael Valgren departing for EF Pro Cycling, and Louis Meintjes set to move to Circus-Wanty Gobert at the end of the season, while Ben O’Connor is leaving for AG2R Citröen. The team still has riders under contract for next year, including Domenico Pozzovivo, Max Walscheid, and Victor Campenaerts.
“It’s not 100 per cent but normally today or in the next day we’ll have confirmation that the team will be here next year,” Pozzovivo told Cyclingnews on Monday.
“We’re just waiting for the confirmation and if the team continues then I’ll stay. I think it will be WorldTour next year and I’m optimistic and confident in Douglas Ryder. He is doing the maximum and it’s not easy to find sponsors. I don’t know exactly who the sponsor will be.”
Directeur sportif Lars Michaelsen declined to comment on the certainty of the team’s future, only telling Cyclingnews that, “it was a work in process to try and survive. Whether that’s successful or not I can’t answer that one.”
Back at the end of September, the team announced that Japanese telecommunications company NTT would not be renewing its sponsorship contract, ending a six-year partnership. Co-sponsor Alcatel-Lucent has also pulled out.
Since then, team owner Ryder and manager Bjarne Riis have been searching for a replacement with little success, the Dane saying two weeks ago that it was "not really" realistic for the team to be saved.
Last week, it was announced that Riis had left the team after less than a year in the position. He had come on board in January, with his Virtu Cycling group set to buy a third of ownership shares in the team. By the middle of the year, that part-ownership deal had yet to be completed, and the deal never took place after Riis reportedly decided against it as the sponsorship search began.
The squad was not among the list of 2021 WorldTour applicants confirmed by the UCI earlier this month. Ryder still holds the WorldTour license from 2020 to 2022, and there's still time to complete the registration process for 20201, while there's also the potential for the team to continue as a second-tier ProTeam.
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