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The UCI released the list of teams looking to secure WorldTour licenses in 2022, and one name was missing — Qhubeka-NextHash.
The South Africa-registered team continues its search for new backers, and missed out on the first round of filing deadlines required by the cycling governing body.
But time could be running out.
Qhubeka-NextHash and other teams that missed the first deadlines have at least until December to finalize all its required documentation and bank guarantees, the UCI confirmed Tuesday.
Also read: The UCI confirms 48 teams seeking licenses
Negotiations for a hoped-for alliance with Premier Tech — the Canadian company that backed Astana in 2021 — fell through, and the team made a public plea for new backers to step up to help save the team.
Last month, Qhubeka-NextHash officials notified riders that the team was facing headwinds, and released riders from any contractual obligations as required by UCI rules.
Several Qhubeka-NextHash riders moved quickly to find new teams, including Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Fenix), Lasse Norman Hansen (Uno-X Pro), and Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal).
Others, however, are in limbo. A few have retired, including Fabio Aru and Matteo Pelucchi.
Everyone else is waiting on the sidelines, hoping management can save the team, working the phones, and doing what they can to secure their respective futures.
The careers and futures of dozens of riders, sport directors, mechanics, soigneurs, and staffers are hanging in the balance.
Some big names, such as Giacomo Nizzolo, Domenico Pozzovivo, Max Walscheid, Sergio Henao, and American Sean Bennett, all remain in limbo.
So what’s happening behind the headlines?
VeloNews reached out to one of the riders to get a sense of what’s happening. The rider asked to not be identified, and VeloNews respected that request considering the fluid situation right now.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
VN: When did the riders first hear about the situation?
“We got the standard email at the end of September to say the team hasn’t been able to put in for the UCI application. So, at this moment, everyone’s free to look for a ride, even riders that have contracts.”
VN: What’s happening with the team right now?
“Doug’s [principal Douglas Ryder] got the WorldTour license so he’s trying to continue in the best that he can. And obviously he needs a title sponsor for that. The Premier Tech thing, they want 50 percent of the team, so I don’t think that’s happening. I just don’t know anything really, it’s all speculation – he could be talking to Premier Tech but I don’t really know.”
VN: Are you and the riders paid up?
“I’m paid up as I should be until now, but we’ll find out in two weeks if things change, but for the moment I’m not owed anything now. There was some problem about a month or two months ago — it was a bit of a delay in something but it’s all fine now.”
VN: Are you looking for a new team?
“Lots of teams are full. I’m just seeing if anything comes open. I think a lot of teams are kind of waiting on us as well to see if anything’s gonna happen here, so the odd team will be keeping a slot open but it just depends on the situation. If the team doesn’t get sponsorship then essentially that’s a WorldTour license that’s up for grabs, and then another team might want that, and then that changes everything because then the team has got to get more riders.”
VN: Are all the riders on the team looking for new contracts?
“A couple of guys are waiting on the team, and are not sorted [with a contract.] Then obviously some guys already back in August went to other teams because they were insecure. If they could sign somewhere then they were going to do it. If they could sign somewhere else in August, I think they just took the opportunity because they weren’t sure what was happening.”