Pozzovivo hoping Qhubeka-NextHash can find a new sponsor for 2022
Italian climber puts his faith in Doug Ryder to find a late backer for African team
Domenico Pozzovivo is still hoping the Qhubeka-NextHash team will survive in 2022, with the veteran Italian putting his faith in team manager Doug Ryder to find a last-minute new sponsor once again.
Several UCI registration deadlines have already passed but Cyclingnews understands the sport's governing body is giving Ryder more time to save his team and secure a place in the 2022 WorldTour.
The team told Cyclingnews: "We are continuing to fight for our future at the highest level of the sport and to continue to use the platform to raise awareness for Qhubeka and change lives."
Ryder has a WorldTour licence for 2022 that would bring automatic invitations to the Tour de France and other major races.
That has a certain value and appeal to potential sponsors but he needs to meet the sporting, financial and ethical requirements for the 2022 team registration. According to the Italian website BiciPro, bike sponsor BMC and team vehicle Mercedes are ready to support the team in 2022 if a title sponsor can be found.
Ryder would not need a big-budget sponsor but just the several million euros needed to fund a WorldTour programme and pay rider and staff salaries.
The South African manager saved his team for the 2020 season thanks to a deal with Bjarne Riis. When NTT ended their backing and the Dane failed to find new funding and left, Assos stepped in to keep the team alive in 2021. However, the clothing brand will not be a title sponsor going forward. It is unclear if NextHash ever paid any sponsorship after coming on board in the summer, and if they will provide funding in 2022.
A number of the Qhubeka-NextHash riders have signed with other teams for 2022 after Ryder was obliged to release them from their contracts on September 30. Giacomo Nizzolo has moved to Israel Start-Up Nation, Victor Campenaerts to Lotto Soudal, Mauro Schmid to QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl and Michael Gogl to Alpecin-Fenix.
Ryder managed to save the team in 2020 and 2021 and is still refusing to give up hope. Some WorldTour riders and young talent remain on the market and would allow Ryder to recreate a team of sorts for 2022.
Pozzovivo is hoping he can race on with the team in 2022 and has already started training for the 2022 season.
"As far as I know, things are still possible and my idea is to stay with the Qhubeka group. I've got a feeling that something will work out," Pozzovivo told BiciPro.
"It wouldn't be good if it doesn't happen but I don't have a Plan B, so there's a risk I might have to retire."
Pozzovivo celebrated his 38th birthday on November 30 and so is well aware that time passes quickly.
"I've spoken to Doug but it'd perhaps be better to have a deadline. It'd take away some of the anxiety," he said.
Pozzovivo fought back from serious injuries several times during his career and doesn't want to end his career with the demise of the team.
"I've gone through worse things over the years but it certainly wouldn't be the best way to end my career. I'm still motivated and still willing to make the sacrifices needed to be a pro," he said.
Pozzovivo is known for his love of studying and is just two exams away from graduating in sports science.
"If I have to stop racing, I'll quickly do my thesis and see if someone wants to hire me," he said. "I've coached myself for a few years now under the supervision of the team. I think I know how to prepare for pro races. But first I want to race on for one more year. I hope it happens. I think Doug can pull it off."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.