Team Principal Doug Ryder told Cycling Weekly today that it is possible his South African team will join the top division regardless of the list of WorldTour teams published by the UCI yesterday, which did not include MTN-Qhubeka/Dimension Data.
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The list included teams applying for 2016 WorldTeam and Professional Continental licences. The current 17 teams, including Team Sky with Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, are asking for renewed spots in the WorldTour, leaving one space for a new team.
Last season, the UCI asked Swiss team IAM Cycling to join the WorldTour based on its sporting criteria even though the team was not on its original list published last year. The same could happen for MTN. Over the last month, it welcomed new sponsors Dimension Data and Deloitte, and Cavendish with 14 wins in his 2015 books.
Other Professional Continental teams have not expressed interest in the 18th and final spot in the WorldTour.
Ryder, speaking last week after signing Cavendish, said that his team with Cummings, Edvald Boasson Hagen and 14 Africans could potentially become a WorldTour team.
“There could be a possibility that the UCI comes to us in a month’s time and says, you’re at a high enough ranking to be in the WorldTour,” he told Cycling Weekly.
“A WorldTour licence gives everyone more opportunities, a Giro, a Tour, a Vuelta. What people forget is that a Pro Continental team has to beg for invitations, you can never plan. It’s like you are walking a tightrope.”
MTN already became the first professional team from Africa to compete in the Tour de France this year. It won a stage with Cummings on Nelson Mandela Day and Daniel Teklehaimanot became the first African to wear the mountains jersey. If the UCI decided so, the team could be the first from Africa registered in the WorldTour.
“It would be tough on our infrastructure, but for Deloitte and Dimension Data, it’s fantastic because it differentiates them from our previous team. They could be part of Africa’s first WorldTour team, that’s pretty significant,” Ryder added.
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“If we were WorldTour, how many more opportunities would our Africans have to race at a higher level? Many more, of course. There might be one to three less Africans in our team, but the ones that are in our team will go to a much higher level than they would if we weren’t a WorldTour team.”
Last year, the UCI confirmed it was passing on team IAM Cycling to its licence commission in the first week of November. A similar timeframe is expected for a decision on Dimension Data. As Ryder said today, anything is possible.