Citing tough market conditions, cellphone giant MTN has confirmed its withdrawal as headline sponsor of the MTN-Qhubeka cycling team.
MTN had spent in the region of R100 million on the team since 2013.
The SA outfit delivered a stunning all-round performance at the recently concluded 102nd edition of the Tour de France, finishing fifth overall (out of 22 teams) under the leadership of team principal Doug Ryder.
The team also celebrated seven Top 5 stage finishers and 14 Top 10 results.
Belgian Serge Pauwels was the leading overall finisher for the team, ending the 21-stage race in 13th position, while Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot held the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey for four days.
Briton Stephen Cummings won Stage 14 which was particularly memorable as it came on what would’ve been former SA President Nelson Mandela’s birthday.
Of the 160 (out of 198) finishers in the race, South Africa’s Jacques Janse van Rensburg finished 51st while his namesake – yet no relation – Reinardt Janse van Rensburg ended 96th.
The third South African in the team, Louis Meintjes, unfortunately had to pull out of the race ahead of Stage 18.
Qhubeka will compete at this year’s Vuelta a España, scheduled to start on August 22. Whether they will have landed a new headline sponsor by then remains to be seen…