By Greg Johnson
Delmaine Fine Foods is expected to establish its own New Zealand national team in 2008, after the company was originally approached to be the Tour of Wellington's food sponsor - which came with the benefit of being a composite team title sponsor. Instead the culinary company's involvement with the sport, which was initially slated as a one-off, has increased to running a full national program, team manager Stephen Taylor told Cyclingnews.
"It was going to be a one off as Delmaine Fine Foods are a Fresh Foods Company that was approached to be a Food Sponsor of the Tour, one of the benefits was a branded composite team in the Tour," explained Taylor. "As a cycling buff myself I decided to set up a stand alone team to compete in the Tour. We have contracted a number of sponsors to the team and are currently working with another major sponsor that will help see us racing as a National Team in 2008."
While the team's final roster is still being discussed among team management, it has entered Robin Reid, Justin Kerr, Mark Langlands, Ashley Whitehead and Joseph Champman for the Trusthouse Tour of Wellington. Four of the team's riders will also contest next month's Tour de Langkawi - Robin Reid, Joseph Chapman and Ashley Whitehead with Justin Kerr also being selected as a reserve - as a part of the New Zealand National squad.
"We are looking at having a core of Elite, U23 and Juniors contracted to the team, who will then attend races around NZ," added Taylor. "So far we have had a tremors level of support from our sponsors and great feedback. A number of young riders approached me at our Elite Road Nationals at the weekend looking for an opportunity to let me know they are keen to be involved if possible. So the work begins to pull it all together."
The new squad will contest New Zealand's major cycling events, in addition to local club races. Some of the events it will contest include Taupo, K2, Armstrong Festival, Benchmark Series and Tour of Northland. The outfit is also expected to contest November's Tour of Southland, where it is hoping to have one or two overseas-based Kiwis play cameo roles in its roster.