Pure Black director Carl Williams (left) with (from left) Mike Northey, Glen Chadwick and Roman van Uden in Queenstown yesterday. Photo courtesy of Grant Bryant/Southland Times
Story courtesy of Nathan Burbon - Southland Times
Carl Williams' Pure Black racing team will take its first pedal strokes during next week's Tour of Southland in a journey he hopes will one day lead to the Tour de France.
Based in Queenstown for the past week, the Pure Black team will mount its first major campaign at the PowerNet sponsored tour beginning on Monday.
It's an exciting time for Williams, who debuted his Bici Vida team at the Southland tour last year with Tom Findlay finishing third overall and claiming the under-23 honours and the team finishing runner-up in the teams classification.
"We are literally 365 days to the day we launched Bici Vida in Queenstown so there's some sentimental value," Williams said.
"We are here to make some sort of impact, earn our place in the peloton and establish the team.
"We've got some different objectives (this year). Last year the Tour of Southland was the be-all and end-all for us, but (now) it is like preseason – it's an important stepping stone towards what we want to achieve. We'd love to have as memorable an event as last year but Southland is one of those races where you have to roll with the punches."
Pure Black have been in camp with the 11 riders who will mount a campaign in the continental series in the United States next year.
Williams has given himself a hugely ambitious five-year deadline for getting to the start line of the Tour de France and his riders will get a chance to test themselves against two Pro Tour riders in Hayden Roulston and Greg Henderson next week.
"It's great that those guys are able to race. We are a small place New Zealand and we have to make the most of our resources. The stories and the lessons, and even the riding style they bring to a race is so critical as a benchmark for us and what we are trying to achieve. We are looking forward to riding against them and catching up with them."
Williams has some firm ideas about what would be a good week for Pure Black in the six-day race, including another high finish in the team's classification.
"What that indicates to me in building this team is that we've got a team that can ride cohesively as a unit and against a level of field which is obviously quite high," he said.
"To be honest we've come with quite a well-rounded team so we want to be represented at the front of the race, we've got Glen Chadwick on GC, so we'll be doing what we can to defend his position in the race. We've got some really talented young guys in Taylor Gunman, Shem Rodger and Roman van Uden, all under 23, so they'll be in the fight for the pink jersey," he said.
Williams has been buoyed by the response he has received since launching the Pure Black concept, including recently announcing a deal with Avanti.
"The support in general has been amazing. To be honest I think we underestimated the level of support we were going to get. The partnership with Avanti is a real amazing opportunity for the team. They really believe in what we are trying to do as a big picture.
The public support has been huge. We've got some great sponsors on board from Avanti down. We couldn't actually ask to be in a better position at this point of the campaign, so that's pretty exciting."
And Williams, a former America's Cup yachtie, admits it's going to be a new experience calling the shots from the team van as director sportif after riding the Tour of Southland with Bici Vida last year.
"I must admit I'm a little bit jealous that I'm not on the bike again. It was one of my more memorable sporting career moments last year riding. I felt quite honoured ... It's going to be a new challenge, there's so much to focus on in supporting these guys through the week that I'm going to be a busy man. I'm sure there's some parts of the race where I'll turn the heater up a bit and be more comfy."
» For The Southland Times' comprehensive coverage of this year's Tour of Southland and past Southland tours, go to its dedicated cycling section.