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Exclusive: PureBlack Racing's future in doubt, again

It was almost a year to the day that New Zealand's most ambitious cycling project PureBlack Racing collapsed, leaving riders struggling to find a spot on another team so late in the year. In February 2012 BikeNZ came to the rescue, allowing the team to continue throughout this year - albeit on reduced budget, roster and race schedule. However, this time around it's not for lack of funding that the team appears to be collapsing once again.

Riders ‘signed' for 2013 have been informed by the team's director sportif John Harris to seek alternative arrangements for the coming season. While the riders compiled for next year had not signed their contracts, all of the arrangements including a significant increase in budget had been reportedly finalised.

"The money is there," Harris told Cyclingnews. "I feel terrible because I've tried really hard. We've wasted a year of ground work. Because that's what it takes to get teams rockin' 'n rollin'.

"I've fully informed the riders of where and why, all the ins and outs and told them ‘you were not signed because there really wasn't a deal.'"

A disagreement regarding team ownership and control between the team's two biggest sponsors; PureBlack Racing and Avanti has apparently meant the team cannot move forward with plans for next year. It's a bizarre situation that Harris believes the team will not recover from. He says both parties are willing to go ahead but not with the other's involvement.

"One will have a team and the other is waiting for the other to pull out. If one relented half a percent on the branding issues we would have them both.

"I told them [PureBlack and Avanti] ‘If you cancel this team, people will not come to you'. You can slow it and wind it up like we've done. We have the momentum to ramp it back up but when you go and stop a team it's very hard to re-start it," Harris told to Cyclingnews.

"Imagine having all this money in the bank, it's been assigned so it's going to have to be spent somewhere and someone says ‘you can't go down there and touch it until we say'."

Harris explained to Cyclingnews the situation is very different to what happened at the end of 2011. After BikeNZ stepped in to support the team financially Harris was brought on board to run the team and while they acted on limited funds and riders they achieved more than expected.

"We accomplished more, we got better results but we did things on a shoe-string budget.

"Last year coming into this year PureBlack and Avanti had no money. Next year it's all there but it all comes down to people's ego," he said.

Harris had named seven riders in the 2013 line-up who will be affected by the reported collapse of the team. They include: Daniel Bonello, Cody Canning, Caleb Jones, Taylor Gunman, Keirin Hambrook, Dion Smith and Tom Vessey.

Cyclingnews has made numerous attempts over the past few days to contact PureBlack Racing owner Greg Cross for comment however, no response has been forthcoming.

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Alex Malone