It is looking increasingly like Douglas Ryder has managed to save his South African-registered World Tour team, according to reports on Thursday.

Cyclingnews.com reported yesterday that Assos, the Swiss cycling apparel giant, are set to provide financial backing for the team for the next two years. Assos are currently the apparel sponsors of Ryder’s NTT Pro Cycling team.

“At this stage, a title sponsor is still unclear with reports already in the media that the Qhubeka charity will become the leading name of the squad while Assos help fund the €8-million operation,’” reported Cyclingnews. “Cyclingnews understands that the clothing brand were keen to build on an already existing relationship with the squad and could still be listed as a co-sponsor.”

Ryder has been searching for a sponsor since NTT, the Japanese parent company of Dimension Data, formally announced in September they would not be renewing their backing of his team. He had remained confident of finding a new backer despite the tough economic times. He has had a reputation as a salesman during his time as a cycling team owner, having managed to sell his dream of an African-registered and sponsored team to MTN and Dimension Data, amongst others.

“When we announced that we needed a new partner, the response has been unbelievable from all over the world,” Ryders said recently. “Our social media presence has been incredible in terms of people just trying to support us. We have people from America to Australia and everything in between loving this team and wanting to get involved, trying to make a difference, and trying to connect with us. It is tough in the world today economically, and some businesses are really struggling, and some aren’t. But we are very close to being on the road next year.”

Assos and the cycling industry in general is experiencing a boom period during the Covid-19 pandemic, with governments promoting it as an accessible form of transport as well as exercise. Assos have never taken on the full financial backing for a team nor been a name sponsor, so it would be a considerable move for them. The team is also co-sponsored by Swiss bicycle supplier BMC, who once were the name sponsors of their own WorldTour outfit. BMC is understood to be staying with the team as bicycle supplier, but it is not known if they will increasing their financial backing.

Having haemorrhaged some of his leading riders from 2020 Ryder and his team have approached riders to sign with the team for next year. Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen has left for Total Direct Energie after five years with Ryder, while Dane Michael Valgren is joining EF Pro Cycling.

South African champion Ryan Gibbons has signed a two-year contract with UAE-Emirates, while Ben O’Connor, the Australian who won the 16th stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia, has gone to France’s Ag2r-Citroën and Rasmus Tiller is on his wayt to Uno-X Pro Cycling Team. Last week, Dane Michael Valgren is going to EF Pro Cycling, Australian Ben O’Connor has signed for French outfit AG2R and Ryan Gibbons, the current South African champion, will move to UAE-Emirates.

Louis Meintjes, the South African who has twice finished eighth in the Tour de France, is rumoured to be a target of Belgian team Circus-Wanty Gobert, who are moving up to World Tour level next year.

Max Walscheid, Domenico Pozzovivo, Andreas Stokbro, Michael Gogl, Dylan Sunderland, and Victor Campenaerts have apparently signed with Ryder through to 2022, while South Africans Jay Thomson, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Nic Dlamini will be with the team next year.

Cyclingnews reported that the team had approached Australian Simon Clarke, who won the King of the Mountains category at the Vuelta a Espana in 2012 and has stage wins across all three grand tours. They are also said to be in contact with Italian Fabio Aru, who won the Vuelta in 2015 and, like Clarke, has stage victories in all of the grand tours.