While the NTT Pro Cycling management are trying to find a new title sponsor before a rapidly approaching UCI registration deadline, the NTT riders at the Giro d’Italia have promised to fight for the team's future and their own futures in the sport.
Rumours about the future of the team's sponsorship had circulated for some time and on Monday NTT announced that its backing would end after six years spanning the team's previous guise as Dimension Data.
Cyclingnews understands that, until recently, team manager Doug Ryder had been assuring a number of parties that a new sponsor would be announced in the coming days or weeks but those dreams now look to be over.
The few riders under contract for 2021 have been given permission to look for new teams, even if Ryder refused to throw in the towel during a conference call with his riders. He is hoping a new sponsor can be found in the final weeks of the 2020 season.
Victor Campenaerts, Domenico Pozzovivo, Louis Meintjes, Matteo Sobrero, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, Ben O'Connor, Dylan Sunderland and Danilo Wyss are in Palermo for the start of the Giro d’Italia and know that the Italian Grand Tour gives them a chance to show their talents.
Former European time trial champion and Hour Record Holder Victor Campenaerts suggested to Sporza that it's 'five minutes past 12' in the search for a new sponsor.
"Of course we’re disappointed that the main sponsor stopped their sponsorship. It’s a difficult situation for the team and a difficult situation for each rider individually," Campenarts said during the team’s video press conference in Palermo.
"We’re here to focus on the Giro and the best thing we can do is to go out and get good results. This will help the team find a new sponsor and if a team doesn’t find a new sponsor, it will help us find a new contract."
Campenaerts is targeting Saturday's opening time trial to Palermo. He faces a battle with new world champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) but has seen some technical aspects of the course that could help him.
The time trial descends from Monreale at an altitude of 312m to sea level in the centre of Palermo.
"The opening time trial is for sure my biggest goal in this Giro because there’s a pink jersey at the finish," he made clear.
"It’s the first time I've seen a time trial like this. The current time trial record speed is by current Belgian national coach Rik Verbrugghe [58.874km/h set in the 7.6km prologue time trial in 2001]. I think his record can be broken and I think I have a chance but Ganna is a favourite.
"It’ll be super hard to beat Ganna but there are some things in my favour, such as the first kick-up in the opening kilometre, where I think I can take some seconds from Ganna. I think I can also slow down better on the fast descents because I'm lighter and we have disc brakes on the time trial bikes, while Ineos don’t and Ganna is 90kg. He will have problems.
"The rest of the time trial is fast and Ganna will be faster than me but I’ll try to defend with a good ride."
Domenico Pozzovivo battled through 10 stages of Tour de France with an elbow injury after crashing hard on stage 1. He has recovered and is hoping to perform well in the general classification and target the mountain stages in what will be the 20th Grand Tour of his career.
"I’ve recovered after the Tour. My elbow is better even if there’s still a wound to monitor. I’ve been training at altitude on Etna," Pozzovivo said.
The time trials don’t favour me but I think there’s terrain where I can pull back time and I like to have mountain stages early in a Grand Tour like we have here with the Etna finish. We go up to 1,800 metres, which is unusual so early in a Grand Tour. As they always say, I don't think it will decide the winner of the Giro but it can show who will lose it."