• Shane Archbold prior to the Mens Sprinters 200m Flying Time Trial during day two of the Six Day Series at Lee Valley Velopark, London. (AAP)Source: AAP
Shane Archbold’s road cycling career hangs in the balance as the lead-out specialist searches for a new team in the wake of Aqua Blue Sport’s spectacular collapse.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
6 Nov 2018 - 11:12 AM 

The 29-year-old signed with the Pro Continental squad this time last year in what was meant to be the first step toward a WorldTour comeback following an isolated crash at the 2016 Tour de France in which he fell in excess of 80km/h.

Archbold believed the worst was behind him when he returned to full fitness and competition in January, shaking off understandable hesitation before rediscovering old nerve in Belgium.

However, the New Zealand national now faces the prospect of unemployment as he clings onto the hope that someone will offer, in his own words, a piece of paper to sign.

“Even eight weeks ago I wasn’t asking anything, just for an opportunity. I want to be back in a lead-out train of some description, helping someone that can win races because that’s what I enjoy doing,” Archbold said from the London Six Day.

The mullet still flies
Shane Archbold, the Kiwi affectionately known as 'The Flying Mullet,' made a name for himself shepherding sprinters but following a career-threatening crash at the Tour de France has declared he is now also in the game for himself.

The Flying Mullet built a successful partnership with Irish sprinter Sam Bennett at BORA-hansgrohe from 2015-2017 but talks to re-join the squad from next season fell flat.

“Bora are quite a top-level team now, so they were full very early on in the piece. And then, so they told me, they had certain countries that they were really interested in and other countries not so interested in. It made it difficult,” he said.

“I thought I’d come back from the worst of it. I’m very grateful Aqua Blue gave me an opportunity. They kept me in the game for another year but this year, there were no major problems, I just didn’t show myself like I would have liked. It’s another small speed bump but it’s a very difficult year to be in my situation.

Archbold last week competed in the velodrome at the London Six Day with compatriot and former Aqua Blue Sport teammate Aaron Gate. It’s the first time the Commonwealth Games track gold medallist has raced since August, just before he received an email from his team about their sudden closure amid sponsorship woes and reports of a sour relationship with 3T bikes, which riders and management have since openly criticised.

“I didn’t know how long the team would stay in the sport but I was sure this season was definitely going to finish, and they were talking to riders for next year. It definitely came as a shock on a Monday morning to wake-up, go out training and receive a whole bunch of messages,” he said.

“Then there was a week or two of uncertainty. I was meant to be racing that next weekend, they were meant to go ahead and then a couple of days later it was okay no, stop effective immediately.

“Like any business, there is always going to be cracks. You can’t dip straight into the professional cycling world and in two or three years have everything rosy and going smoothly,” Archbold continued.

“There are things that people just don’t know when they start a team… but the bike wasn’t the difference. It might have cost me a few races, but it wasn’t the difference between winning 20 races and not winning anything this year. I can’t blame the bike for not winning races, but it definitely didn’t help the cause at certain times. I’ve had bad equipment at other teams as well so it’s all part of it.”

Archbold noted the Commonwealth Games in Queensland, Australia, which he marked an incredibly tight turnaround to compete in the men’s road race, as a season highlight.

He finished sixth in a reduced bunch sprint behind Australian Steele von Hoff, before embarking on about a 24-hour flight to start the Tour of Croatia days later.

“That was probably one of the top three days on the bike this year. It’s always good to represent New Zealand where possible. It made the Tour of Croatia two days later very difficult - 230km in the rain straight off the plane from Brisbane. I won’t be doing that again,” he mused.

Archbold has in earnest contemplated a full-time return to track competition in 2019 but is hopeful of securing a road contract between now and then.

“More than anything I was happy this year just to show that I was injury free and able to race,” he said. “I didn’t do too many WorldTour races slash nearly none, so I didn’t really go back to the top level but in all the racing I did do I showed I was capable. That already was an achievement for me. After last year and 15-months of no racing, it was good to show that I can do it again.”