Brian Smith has told Cyclingnews that it would be devastating if Dimension Data were relegated from the WorldTour in 2017.
The South African team are currently last and in 18th place in the official UCI WorldTour rankings with only a few races left in order to improve their position. The WorldTour is being reduced to 17 teams next season and with Bahrain Merida entering the sport, Lampre's license carrying on due to Chinese investment and Bora stepping up after signing a host of riders including Peter Sagan, Dimension Data are the verge of being relegated.
"The goal for Team Dimension Data was to get into the top 15 WorldTour teams. They're sitting 18th, the last time I looked, and that's not comfortable," Smith, who was the general manager of the team until the spring, told Cyclingnews.
Smith was instrumental in helping the team step up into the WorldTour ranks last year and was pivotal in bringing a number of signings, including Mark Cavendish into the squad. In terms of the number of wins the team has had a successful season but their lack of points in GC at the WorldTour level has hampered them.
"It's important to have a South African team in the WorldTour. I don't know what the UCI are going to do but they could keep it at 18 teams," Smith added.
The team owner, Doug Ryder, has been in contact with the UCI in bid to clarify as to whether the UCI would or could keep the teams at 18 for next season.
Part of the problem is that Dimension Data have little time and not enough resource to dip into the transfer market in order to make a marquee signing that would boost them up the rankings. There are few riders with significant points left without a contract and those remaining can now command inflated salaries with Bahrain and the project stemming from Lampre able to outbid Ryder at present.
"We built that team to be WorldTour and over the last few years it's really the only team that's moved forward," argued Smith. "It's brought in fans, sponsors and new riders. For me it would be devastating if they weren't WorldTour.
"It's a whole continent you’ve got to remember but they fight for a good cause in Quebeka. I'm impartial now but I'd hate to think they wouldn't be in the WorldTour. It's not about just the sponsors. It may damage the sponsorship or the team."
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