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New Zealand cyclists shocked as team folds

Up and coming New Zealand cyclists Niamh Fisher-Black and Mikayla Harvey are looking for a new team after theirs suddenly folded.

Mikayla Harvey standing on the podium at the Giro Rosa Source: 1 NEWS

By Brenton Vannisselroy of rnz.co.nz

The Paule Ka women's cycling team has ended its racing activities with immediate effect because its French fashion label sponsor had failed to make payments since August.

Fisher-Black, the national road cycling champion, told RNZ they found out about the team's troubles early last week.

"For me it was a huge shock. I did not expect it at all," Fisher-Black said.

"Our manager just sat down with us in a meeting and basically just told us and I was blown away. I was really disappointed."

Fisher-Black says Paule Ka have "had a super year", with Harvey finishing fifth overall at the prestigious Giro Rosa.

"To be just a small UCI team like we are and to be ranked fourth in the world amongst all the World Tour women's teams it's crazy. It shows how good a team we were.

Niamh Fisher-Black riding for New Zealand at the 2020 World Championships in Italy Source: rnz.co.nz

"To think our main sponsor doesn't want to support us any more is just crazy."

Paule Ka stepped in to sponsor the team in July after previous sponsors Bigla and Katusha withdrew funding amind the Covid-19 pandemic. They had made a commitment through until 2024, but only made one payment.

"It shows how vulnerable women's cycling is. We're so dependent on our sponsors," Fisher-Black said.

"This is my first year as a professional and I mean it's been pretty rocky to say the least.

"I can only say that I've learnt so much from it. I'm pretty resilient now and for the coming years I can say I'll fare pretty well.

"It can only get smoother, hopefully anyway."

The riders were also initially hopeful of saving the team.

"When we first found out...we did have a few options then, but a few comments and articles were released about some past issues with our management and I think that stopped all chances of us getting a new sponsor."

Fisher-Black claims none of the comments made about their manager Thomas Compana are true.

"I've been very happy on this team. I've never experienced anything like that accused of him.

"So it's painfully frustrating that people would say that, but there's not much I can do."

So Fisher-Black and Harvey are instead looking for a new team and new contracts.

"I'm not too stressed about it.

"We've had a good season this year so our names are pretty known now in the cycling world.

"We're both pretty hopeful and pretty confident we will find something good next year. Teams are interested in us so we're both in a good position I think."