James Williamson hadn't planned to go full tilt at the New Zealand Road Championships but the collapse of his team, PureBlack Racing, changed all that.
PureBlack folded in the first week of December citing a lack of financial support following a tough 12 months in New Zealand due to the Christchurch earthquake and the cash drain from the Rugby World Cup leaving a full squad of 16 riders in the lurch at the worst possible time.
Williamson, 22, was planning to take his off-season and pre-season relatively easy before ramping things up prior to the European season getting underway.
"I've always aimed pretty high at nationals and so this year I'd planned to not do that and have a summer where I was taking it pretty easy and do a slow build up because I was going to have a really full-on year starting February so I didn't want to be racing too much in New Zealand," he told Cyclingnews.
His team's misfortune changed all that. Williamson took a few days to get his head around the news and then switched his focus to his national titles, held over the weekend.
"I realised that I had an opportunity there to get something out of that race and I've done pretty well in it before so I knew if I could get myself into a position to do well again, having the elite title on the line was pretty massive motivation," he explained. "As a first year senior it was a big opportunity. I knew it was going to be pretty hard and it's always hard at that time of year because you don't know how everyone's going – you haven't seen everyone for so long.
"I was confident but to pull it off was definitely, I was pretty stoked for that."
Williamson, who won the national under 23 title in 2009, earned the right to wear his New Zealand jersey at the elite level with his win in Christchurch. He finished second behind under-23 rider Michael Vink in the 186 kilometre race.
"I want to take the jersey overseas and arrive at the top level so I'm trying to look at the highest options possible," Williamson declared.
There may be a chance that the team will still exist this season with news that some form of financial support is in the works.
"Hopefully we'll be able to make an announcement later this week or early next week," PureBlack business director Greg Cross told The Press earlier today. Plans are afoot to run the team on a reduced budget in Australasia.
Williamson is part of the way through his Physical Education degree at Otago University and while he says "it's good to have something to fall back on" the weekend's big result is a definite motivation to stick with his pro career.
"I didn't give up on the aim of getting something out of nationals and I was always going to make a call after that race as to what I'd do, but having got the result and the jersey, it's given me the determination that I needed to stick at it."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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