NTT Pro Cycling is facing an uncertain future as headline sponsor NTT has pulled out of the team.
The South African WorldTour squad, formerly Dimension Data, have now been forced to find a new backer beyond 2020 with just a few months left of the season.
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NTT, A Japan-based telecommunications company, is bringing its cycling sponsorship to and end after six years, with team principal Douglas Ryder now forced to find a new company to back the WorldTour and Continental squads.
A statement from the team said: “On Monday evening team principal Douglas Ryder informed all members of our organisation – the UCI WorldTour outfit and UCI Continental team – that NTT will not continue with the team, ending our six-year association.
“This is of course is very disappointing news but we are committed to fight for our team’s future and are exploring every possible avenue available to us. Our partnership with the Qhubeka Charity has incredibly spanned 10 years and seen us play a key role in the distribution of over 100 000 bicycles in disadvantaged communities throughout South Africa.”
NTT is the only African team in the WorldTour and over the years has done a huge amount to support charity Qhubeka, which has supplied thousands of bikes to communities in Africa.
But the team has been in difficulty this season, as the NTT sponsorship comes to an end at the end of the year with Ryder assuring staff and riders a new backer would be found.
NTT Pro Cycling has undergone some major changes in the last year, as NTT took over as the headline sponsor from its subsidiary Dimension Data at the end of 2019, while Danish former pro Bjarne Riis was appointed as team manager at the start of 2020.
Alongside the sponsorship uncertainty, the team has also struggled for results.
Last season, the teamed picked up just one WorldTour win all year as Edvald Boasson Hagen won the opening stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
This year the team has picked up two WorldTour victories, both thanks to Giacomo Nizzolo at the Tour Down Under and Paris-Nice, while Nizzolo also improved the prospects for the team by winning the European Championships in August.
The team then struggled for results in the Tour de France, with Nizzolo scoring a podium before he was forced to abandon due to injury on eight.
NTT is not the only team facing an uncertain future beyond 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on pro cycling.
Polish WorldTour team CCC Team is also struggling to secure a new sponsor as handbag company CCC is pulling out at the end of the year, because of the financial strains caused by the virus.
CCC team boss Jim Ochowicz has been on the hunt for a new backer, but with star riders Greg Van Avermaet and Matteo Trentin already jumping ship things aren’t looking promising.