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The professional cycling team Qhubeka-NextHash has been abandoned by its cryptocurrency sponsor, as cyclists and staff haven’t been paid since October, first reported by Velo News.
Back in June, NextHash—a little-known crypto company that offers an exchange, a payment processor, and a token—was announced as Qhubeka-Assos’s new sponsor, in an "exciting five-year partnership."
Just eight months later, NextHash appears unable to afford it. Without adequate funding, the Qhubeka team now plans to use a bank guarantee to pay riders' salaries for the past three months.
“This was not a hard one to call, honestly,” said Joe Lindsey, one of many cycling journalists who raised questions about the deal. “I’m bummed for the team. This is dozens of people out of work, riders and staff. When the team folded, eight riders are essentially out of the sport. Many of the rest were forced to sign with small teams, really setting their careers back.”
NextHash has a troubled past: Founder and CEO Ana Benčič previously founded multiple businesses in Slovenia that resulted in bankruptcies. And Cycling News reported that NextHash made previous investment promises on which it didn't deliver, resulting in the bankruptcy of another company.
Many in the cycling community struggled to understand exactly what NextHash does as a business. When a fan asked former Qhubeka CEO Daniele Mensi about the crypto sponsor, Mensi said he had “nothing to share” and had resigned from his position because of “extreme disagreement from all standpoints.”
I have nothing to share, I’ve just left because in extreme disagreement from all standpoints.
— Daniele Mensi (@DanieleMensi23) June 24, 2021
In December, Qhubeka-NextHash announced it would no longer have a WorldTour team but intended to keep its Continental team as it searches for a new sponsor. According to Velo News, NextHash wasn't the only sponsor that didn't pay up. The team’s manager, Doug Ryder, said three sponsors, including NextHash, hadn’t paid what was promised.
Ryder told Cycling Tips that “had NextHash paid in full, the issues we had with the two other partners wouldn’t have been a major impact. We would have been OK.”
NextHash didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Decrypt.