One of their latest signings, Australian rider Simon Clarke, hopes to play a lead role next year as South Africa’s highest profile cycling team targets a fresh start under a new name.
While the outfit struggled to find a replacement for its headline sponsor, and was considering the possibility of merging with another team, NTT Pro Cycling was recently re-branded as Team Qhubeka ASSOS and the squad will again compete on the UCI World Tour circuit in 2021.
Now, with corporate support secured, Africa’s only World Tour team has turned its attention to stacking its new-look elite squad for the upcoming season after losing some key riders at the end of the recently concluded international campaign.
South African prospect Ryan Gibbons, who was the team’s only African rider at this year’s Tour de France, has since penned a deal with UAE Emirates, while Australian Ben O’Connor, who won a stage at the Giro d’Italia, has joined AG2R Citroen for the 2021 campaign.
Despite battling to rope in top-flight local talent, however, Team Qhubeka ASSOS confirmed on Tuesday it had secured the signatures of Clarke, a two-time stage winner at the Vuelta a Espana, as well as Swiss climber Kilian Frankiny and Belgian rider Dimitri Claeys.
This followed the announcement that the team had retained the services of European champion Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy for the 2021 season.
“I really look forward to bringing my capabilities, as well as my leadership qualities, into the team and look forward to making it a very special year for us all,” said Clarke, whose father is South African.
“There’s already a strong core group in place and no doubt with further additions to come we’ll be competitive wherever we race.”
While the 2021 Tour Down Under in Australia has already been cancelled due to Covid-19, the World Tour campaign is expected to start with the UAE Tour in February.