Team Qhubeka ‘needs a sustainable supporter’ to return to the UCI World Tour

Team Qhubeka NextHash finished 21st in last year’s Tour de France

When they became the first ever African cycling team to earn a UCI World Tour license in 2016, Team Qhubeka seemed to be going places.

Competing on the world’s biggest stages, this high-performance outfit even racked up seven Tour de France victories, as Mark Cavendish donned the yellow jersey on a Qhubeka bike in 2016.

But last year, they lost their funding and with it, License That would allow them to continue competing on the World Tour – the highest level of professional cycling.

The team manager says the way to get back there is money.

“We need a sustainable backer, so we need funding and a little time but [if we get it]”We will register a professional Continental team, and this is Division Two, in 2023,” Doug Ryder told BBC Sport Africa.

“After that, it will probably take three years to get back on the World Tour, so the next chance for us to get back in the first division of cycling will be 2026.

“It’s simply about getting sponsorship. So it’s about getting the right people together, and then just getting the funding together so we can get a Tier 2 license, and then back into the system in the rating system.”

Led by Rider, Qhubeka’s focus on developing cycling in Africa has given over 55 riders from Africa the opportunity to race among the best in the world.

This year, Qhubeka will compete in the UCI Continental Races in Europe, the third category of world cycling, with Head jockey Nick Dlamini directs his junior teammates.

They are also racing to help people through the Qhubeka charity, distributing bikes throughout communities in South Africa, but, even with their development and charitable goals, support has been difficult to come by.

“I think the world is in a crazy place with Covid,” he said.

“I think countries and companies are becoming very regional, and they are all looking (out of) for their own kind and environments. And because Africa is in economic and political distress, it has been a real struggle for us to find that opportunity to gain a long-term supporter and funder from behind the team.”

Despite the difficulty of securing funding, Ryder remains optimistic.

“The nice thing about us, though, is that we are an incredibly fit. Qhubeka is the official charitable organization for the Tour de France. So we have a huge opportunity next by being unique and being the only African team at this level, our history of seven wins in a stage Tour de France and the yellow shirt.

Funding issues aside, Africa has been touted as a future cycling talent pool. While the lack of sponsorship for a pro fashion one like Qhubeka is an obvious obstacle, Ryder is doing his best to ensure that more young black African cyclists are challenged at the top of the sport.

“We have opened the door to cycling in Africa, and it will never close again,” said Ryder.

“I honestly thought that after five years of working and creating these opportunities we would have a rider on the podium and a big ride, but we are bringing riders into this European sport, different food, different ways. The ability is there, the physical strength is there, but the technical skill takes years to develop.”

“Don’t think the peloton is tough, but people lie and push each other. If you’re not good, they kick you out and push you back so you can’t perform.”

Despite the difficulties in securing support and the long road back to elite level competition, Ryder remains positive about his team’s potential and the reach of the corresponding charity.

“They both go hand in hand, so we are much bigger than a cycling team,” he said.

“When you see kids who’ve never had anything before, get on a bike, are mobile, and have this opportunity to be free and independent, that’s the best day of your life.”

And his ultimate dream?

“If we could find someone who started on a bike from Qhubeka and ended up in the Tour de France, that would be the dream come true.”

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