National Under-23 road race champion Michael Vink's aim of securing his third title has suffered a setback with the folding of his New Zealand trade team Mico Protrain.
The new owners of Mico, a plumbing supply business, have decided not to fund the team, which has forced Protrain, a professional sports training company, to follow suit. The team had supported Vink during the New Zealand summer, along with other high-profile Kiwi riders including Jeremy Yates, Joe Cooper and Serena Sheridan.
Vink, a 20-year-old currently racing for an amateur team in Belgium, has won the last two Under-23 national titles on the testing Christchurch course. In January this year he finished as the overall winner among the elite men and last year (when competing for the Trek-Livestrong team) he rode most of the 183km course by himself before being reeled in on the last lap by elite men's winner Hayden Roulston. However, he hung on for his age group title.
Vink also won the Under-23 40km time trial this year and is highly likely to do it again in Christchurch on January 11 but will find the going a lot tougher in the road race two days later without the services of a team.
"He's a talented rider but one of the reasons why he was able to make it look easy at the nationals was that he had a team of riders around him helping and supporting him," said Steve Elden, a team manager at Mico Protrain. "It's definitely worth having a couple of boys there working within a team, others will be and if you're not you're already on the back foot."
Elden, a director at Protrain, said there wasn't enough time to find a replacement for Mico.
He said the team, which would fold at the end of the week, would not now be able to participate in October's Tour of Southland, but he had negotiated two replacement teams for Vink for the race. "That's up to him now to take up those options. He's a free agent from Friday," Elden said.
Christchurch-based professional cycling team Team Subway is also on the brink of collapse.
PureBlack Racing, a New Zealand team competing on the international stage, was stopped from folding at the start of the year by the late intervention of Avanti and BikeNZ.