The National MTB Series will still be held this year, provisionally to begin on May 6, despite Ashburton Investments’ three-year title sponsorship having ended in November last year and a new sponsor not yet having been secured.
Fritz Pienaar, director of Advendurance, the owners and organisers of the series, said a new sponsor had been lined up to take over, but the deal fell through at the last minute.
However, he is confident of securing new sponsorship before the series begins.
“We initially thought we were going to have a new sponsor lined up; there was someone who was really interested,” Pienaar told In the Bunch.
“But that fell through at the last minute at the end of last year. It was due to budget cuts and other economic constraints,” he added.
A new sponsor had not yet materialised since then, said Pienaar, who is also the event and race manager of the four-stage Snow Bike Festival in Switzerland, which finished on January 21.
“We couldn’t really see any companies for most of January, because we were busy at the Snow Bike Festival,” he said. “We realise it is quite late in the year to still be without a sponsor.
“But since returning, we have been talking to a few companies and we are quite positive we will find a new sponsor within the next month,” Pienaar added.
Because of the delay, Pienaar said they would start a more compact series of five events this year, down from seven in previous seasons.
“This is why we will start the series in May this year,” he said. “It will be the first time we’ll be reducing it to five, but we’ll still keep the old favourites such as Dullstroom, Champagne Sports Resort and Van Gaalen.”
Whether the series had a sponsor or not they would have still reduced it to five events, Pienaar said.
“It makes more sense,” he said. “It will make it easier for the athletes to participate in the whole series.”
It would also make it more flexible for competitors, he added. “All five of the events will be two-day formats, so travellers can ride in any one of the two days or they can do a whole two-day stage race.
“This will offer good value for money, because people will be able to spend money on food and accommodation, while getting two days of riding.”
Pienaar said there had been a lot of interest shown among potential new sponsors, but admitted, “You can never count your chickens before they hatch.
“We don’t have a definite sponsor yet. We will make the announcement when one has been confirmed. That is when we will measure progress.
“The series is the best platform for cycling that gets national coverage and it caters for the whole family, not just for the riders.
“A company that has a national footprint and appeals to families would be a potential sponsor,” he added.