Doug Ryder, team principal at Dimension Data, said he would fight tooth and nail to keep the African-registered team in the WorldTour top-flight. Photo: Chris Ricco

A year after earning their licence and capturing the imagination of international cycling, Team Dimension Data could be left out in the cold on the 2017 WorldTour.

Doug Ryder, the team principal at Dimension Data, said he would fight tooth and nail to keep the African-registered team in the WorldTour top-flight.

“We will fight it, so we will go to the PCC which is the professional cycling council and the licence commission that issues licences on behalf of the UCI,” Ryder said at a Laureus Sport for Good breakfast in Pretoria.

“If we fail, we will go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) because we are an ethical, honest team.”Ryder’s team had a dream debut at the Tour de France where they managed five stage wins – four to Mark Cavendish and one by Steve Cummings – becoming the first African-registered team to wear the yellow jersey.

The UCI announced that only 17 World Team licences would be available for 2017 which leaves 18 teams applying for a position.

It is likely that the 16 highest-placed UCI WorldTeams on the 2016 UCI WorldTour ranking would earn automatic qualification for next year.Despite a stellar first year on the WorldTour, Team Dimension Data were 18th on the world ranking and could still climb in the remaining races.

“The WorldTour is supposed to talk to sustainability and continuity for big teams that are healthy in their budgets and race well,” Ryder said.

“At the end of 2015 we were the No 1 second-division team in the world and we had an opportunity to be in the WorldTour.

“There wasn’t promotion-relegation at the time because there were only 17 teams and they wanted 18 so we kind of walked in although we earned it.”

Ryder said relegation would be a major blow for their sponsors but they would still be able to get into the Grand Tours and other major races around the globe due to the reputation they have built over the last few years.

“We would need to lobby to get into races. Will we still race the Tour de France and the biggest races in the world.

Absolutely, because we are such a high-level team with high-profile riders and that is ultimately what the races want,” Ryder said.

“If we get 200 points in the last two races on the WorldTour then we will be in the top 16 teams in the world and we will be fine but the heat is on. Nobody can believe that a team with five stage wins on the Tour de France is potentially not going to be in the WorldTour.”Teams fighting to remain in the WorldTour will be looking for points to move up the rankings which could see them sign some of the highest-ranked riders.

“Showing how bizarre the WorldTour system is, if Cavendish wins the world championships it counts for nothing on the WorldTour and he could be a world champion on a second-division team and that is a reality,” Ryder said.

He said although they could buy more riders at the cost of some of the lower-ranked athletes in his team, it would betray their ideals of growing African cycling.

“Our value right now is that we are probably the 15th ranked team in the world if you look at Pro Cycling Stats which is our target, but on the WorldTour the points are different,” Ryder said.

“It favours the rich and it can buy depth, and we can also buy depth and get rid of our African ?riders but it will go against our ethos and our culture.”