'Absolutely possible' Team Qhubekha NextHash could fold, says boss Doug Ryder

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Team Qhubeka NextHash at the end of the 2021 Tour de FranceTeam Qhubeka NextHash finished 21st at the Tour de France earlier this year

Team Qhubekha NextHash principal Doug Ryder says it is "absolutely possible" the team will fold if it does not find new sponsors.

Africa's only professional cycling team was unable to submit an initial application to the UCI, the sport's governing body, last week for a WorldTour licence for 2022.

"The UCI has been incredibly supportive of our team and have given us some time. But we don't have months, we have weeks," Ryder told BBC Sport Africa.

Ryder describes the team's financial situation as "tough" but that they are working as "hard as we can" to ensure that a team founded in 2007 can continue.

"This team, its hope, its messaging, its engagement with fans around the world and the funding it raises would be lost. It would be significant and hugely affect communities across South Africa and into Africa.

"It would also affect Africa's development in the sport of cycling, because there wouldn't be this aspirational team that has created hope and opportunity for so many.

"Our team has been such an enabler in getting Africa's visibility up in cycling. It would just be an incredibly sad day, should that happen."

Since the UCI deadline was missed, Belgian Victor Campenaerts and Italian Giacomo Nizzolo have departed the South Africa-based team - and other riders could follow the pair through the exit door.

"A team like ours is built on people," Ryder said.

"I can't sleep at night if I tell our riders and staff that we are secure and then they lose opportunities. It was a tough deadline to miss, but we have to move forwards.

"We hope some of the conversations we are having will be successful."

Nic Dlamini of South Africa and Team Qhubeka NextHashSouth African Nic Dlamini rode for Team Qhubeka NextHash at the Tour de France this year

Ryder 'has to be optimistic'

Team Qhubeka NextHash overcame a similar situation last year, and Ryder now has another deadline to meet in mid-November.

However, he is confident a solution will be found to secure the future of the team, which finished 21st out of 23 teams at this year's Tour de France.

"We are not in complete dire straits," he said.

"A potential title partnership would give incredible returns to any organisation, as we are in the Tour de France next year and are Africa's first division team.

"Our team has a massive focus and [offers] a massive opportunity to get some amazing exposure. I have to be optimistic that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel and will pull through."

The team rides to raise awareness and funds for Qhubeka, a charity which raises money to provide bicycles for young people across southern Africa.

"The Qhubeka charity is part of the DNA and our purpose has not changed," Ryder said. "We have always talked about diversity, inclusion, opportunities and giving people mobility and hope.

"It has just been an incredible journey and movement that the sport and our team has created for so many people, That will stay at the front and centre of what we do.

"It will never change, irrespective of partner."

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