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MTN to end backing of African cycling team

South African telecommunications company MTN has confirmed it is to end its title sponsorship of the MTN-Qhubeka Professional Continental cycling team at the end of the 2015 season.

MTN first took on the role of title sponsor in 2013 and has spent approximately R100m (€7.2m/$8m) supporting the South African-registered team, which is a second-tier squad in pro cycling.

However, Chris Maroleng, corporate affairs executive of MTN, told South African media outlet the Times Media Group that the company is to end its support of the squad as the deal no longer represents a strong enough return on investment.

“Considering…the tough operating environment in the telecommunications industry we’ve really had to reassess‚ not just the Qhubeka sponsorship‚ but a number of other engagements we feel don’t have a return on that investment at the levels of comfort to us,” Maroleng said.

The decision comes after an impressive performance by the team during this year’s edition of the Tour de France.

MTN-Qhubeka, which only gained entrance to the event as a wild card, was able to achieve 14 top-10 finishes during the three-week race. The team also finished fifth in the team classification for the event, while its Tour was highlighted by Daniel Teklehaimanot’s four-day occupation of the King of the Mountains jersey and a stage win through Brit Steve Cummings (pictured).

It has been reported that the Tour de France’s official technology partner, Dimension Data, will step up to become a title sponsor of the team in 2016, with the South African company already backing the squad this year.

MTN-Qhubeka team principal Doug Ryder told The Sowetan newspaper: “The team has many options going forward‚ huge interest as you can imagine‚ so the future of the team is incredible. There’s no issues there.”