With New Zealand cycling at an all-time high, it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that PureBlack Racing could indeed make it to the UCI ProTour and the Tour de France in 2015. That dream was shattered overnight with the news that the continental team does not have the funding to continue heading into the 2012 season.
The team informed riders and staff early on Saturday morning that the team would not be continuing in 2012.
PureBlack Racing rider and team manager Tim Gudsell told Cyclingnews he is "gutted" by the news, a decade into his professional career. The 27-year-old admitted he had switched off from the cycling world for the last few weeks having got married and then gone on his honeymoon, following his final race of the season The Tour of Southland. Unaware the team was facing any difficulty until he was informed at the weekend the team was closing shop, the news has come as a shock.
"So far I haven't had any real positive leads," he explained. "I don't feel ready to throw in the towel just yet. I really enjoyed racing my bike with the team. The team had success and we had a lot of success individually – at the end of the day that's why we do it, we love to win bike races. Hopefully there'll be a spot out there for me to continue doing that."
Gudsell revealed that he didn't believe any riders would be left out of pocket from the 2011 season saying that there was "nothing malicious" in the announcement and that it had simply come down to a lack of financial support.
"Tough economic conditions combined with the impact of the Rugby World Cup and the Christchurch disaster have made it a really tough year to raise funding for emerging sports like cycling and international programmes like PureBlack Racing," said Greg Cross, Business Director of PureBlack Racing in a statement released by BikeNZ.
"We have proven we have the talent, management and technical expertise. What we don't have at the moment is the financial support. This weekend we have had to tell our team that we don't have the funding in place to commit to our planned next step in 2012 at this stage and ultimately this could mean our most exciting road cycling talent will continue to be lost offshore."
Another rider from the squad affected is Australian Joe Lewis, who had only just signed with the team mid-October as his first elite ride having graduated from the Trek-LiveStrong U23 program. At the time, Lewis had several options but under the impression he had secured his future, he admits those opportunities are likely to have dried up.
"Now it's going to be hard enough to find a job, let alone a paid one," he told Cyclingnews.
"I was on such a high looking forward to the year ahead. I had a bit of a downer at the end of last year with a couple of races being canned and I thought that next year I would be good. I wouldn't have to worry about money as much, I'd be living overseas trying to learn the language and doing good races – living the dream which is what we all hope to do."
Having teamed up with Henk Vogels, Lewis had been highly motivated towards getting a result at the Tour of Langkawi – with those plans now up in the air. However, Lewis was concerned for the futures of some of the PureBlack Racing squad with whom he'd been looking forward to riding with in 2012.
"For me it's just me looking after myself, I don't have anyone to support – I feel sorry for all those guys who do. There's probably 15 to 20 guys out of a job, a lot of talented Kiwi cyclists."
PureBlack Racing was essentially filling a talent gap in New Zealand cycling, with much of the nations focus and funding going towards the track program – something Gudsell was really proud to have been a part of.
"Not everyone is a track rider and at the end of the day, road is where you make a career in cycling. We started to see that this year with PureBlack Racing," he told Cyclingnews. "We gave young guys their first opportunity."