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Next to Nice: the story of two Slovenian cryptocurrency sponsorships

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Next to Nice: the story of two Slovenian cryptocurrency sponsorships

A handful of times a year, professional road cyclists around the world compete with their national kits rather than those of their commercial team. In the case of Slovenia Tadej ‘Tufts’ Pogacarthis means that for the duration of his stay in Wollongong, he has swapped the white, black and red of the UAE Team Emirates team for a lime green Slovenian kit.

While the riders won’t take back their regular sponsors, that doesn’t mean their Worlds kits are a sponsor-free zone. National federations often have their own crop of backers, and in Slovenia’s case – in the spotlight on their riders’ chests and backs – is the name “NiceHash”, a crypto-platform. currency which is officially headquartered in the British Virgin Islands but in practice based in Slovenia.

If a Slovenian crypto sponsor tells you anything, it’s probably because of an unfortunate WorldTour sponsorship of the second half of the 2022 season. Fear not: it was NextHash, and it’s NiceHash.

But both are related.

Tadej Pogačar of Slovenia does a wheelie at the start of the men’s elite road race. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

As CyclingTips reported earlier this year, NextHash founder Ana Benčič was at one point a 35% shareholder in its own, NiceHash. The latter company was on the brink of ruin after a team of North Korean military hackers stole $80 million worth of bitcoin – just the tip of the crazy iceberg that this story is – and they accepted the deal. investment offer from Benčič to help right the ship.

When it became clear that Benčič didn’t actually have the investment lined up, NiceHash sued her and her affiliates, leading to their withdrawal from the business. Benčič had caught the crypto bug, however, and then created the NextHash of the same name soon after. “Even his company name choice is a bit funny to say the least, and his published materials are very similar to NiceHash,” Joe Downie, CMO of NiceHash, told CyclingTips. “We just hope people don’t confuse us [for NextHash]because we are running a profoundly different kind of business.

Slovenia is a small country with a disproportionate weight in the cryptocurrency sector, so despite NextHash’s unfortunate legacy in sports, NiceHash has not been put off. The company signed on as a major sponsor of the Slovenian Cycling Federation earlier this year, placing its brand prominently across all disciplines of the sport for an initial term of one year. “We’ve been a small sponsor of Slovenian cycling events for a few years, and this opportunity was the next logical step,” Downie told CyclingTips.

The sponsorship involves the placements of jerseys, banners and flags on the race courses, and “video time with Roglič and Pogačar for some media campaigns”.

“The goals are mutually beneficial, since we promote both some of the best Slovenian athletes (on their side) and one of the biggest Slovenian crypto companies (on our side), and to show that crypto is no longer in the shadows, but receives legitimate, mainstream attention and benefits everyone,” Downie said.

Pogačar takes a break during training. Photo: Slovenian Cycling Federation Facebook

While NiceHash’s partnership with the Slovenian Cycling Federation seems to be going smoothly, NextHash’s legacy in the sport is much more mixed. The Team Qhubeka-NextHash team it sponsored folded in late 2021, with team leader Doug Ryder currently working on a return to the sport’s higher divisions. Regarding NextHash’s missing referral payments, Ryder told CyclingTips Today that “we are trying to resolve the issues and have had contact.”

Recent reports in Slovenian media indicate that Benčič has been charged with misuse of company funds and could face up to eight years in prison.

So as you watch the men’s World Championships road race on Sunday and see Tadej Pogačar livening things up with a crypto brand splattered on his kit – remember, this is PleasantChop, not NextChop. For the sake of everyone involved, let’s hope this one works.

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