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Can Bjarne Riis turn around 2020 NTT Pro Cycling?

On Wednesday it had been confirmed that 1996 Tour de France champion Bjarne Riis’s Virtu Cycling team has bought a minority share of the NTT Pro Cycling Team, until recently referred to as Dimension Data. During a news conference, Dane Riis said he would be immediately take over managing the team.

NTT Pro Cycling has been around since 2008, and as a South African Pro Continental squad it had been invited to Grand Tours including the Tour de France before it joined the WorldTour in 2016 as Dimension-Data. In spite of the fact that Dimension Data saw some notable Mark Cavendish, Steve Cummings, and Edvald Boasson Hagen triumphs from 2016 to 2019, it had remained the lowest-ranked WorldTour team for 3 seasons. In 2019, the team beated out only Katusha, which Israel Start-Up Nation absorbed to hitch the 2020 WorldTour.

At the news conference Riis said, “Together, I think we will take the team to subsequent level and make it a team that everyone – riders and staff – want to be a neighborhood of. This is often a long-term project and therefore the goal is to win big races. I’m excited for the longer term.”

Riis’s professional career ran from 1986 to 2000, the classic EPO Era. Winner of the 1996 Tour over young teammate Jan Ullrich, who would wear yellow in Paris subsequent year, Riis admitted in 2007 that he used EPO, somatotropin and cortisone during the height of his career.

After retirement, he co-owned and managed the ProTour/WorldTour squad CSC, which had Tour de France winners in Carlos Sastre and Andy Schleck. Riis sold his WorldTour license to Oleg Tinkoff in 2012 but soon had found Danish partners to launch Virtu Cycling, a sponsor of men’s and women’s development teams until last season.

Japanese telecommunications giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone was announced because the incoming title sponsor back in July. The squad remains registered in South Africa and can still work with the Qhubeka charity. Switching from white and green, the team presently dons a kit of a blue somewhere between Movistar and Deceuninck-Quick Step’s fading to black.