Tauranga's sole remaining multisport race is on hold after running out of money, with organisers uncertain whether the popular Kaimai Classic will be resurrected next year if a major sponsor doesn't step in with some cash.
The 70km Classic, Tauranga's biggest multisport event, has been canned next weekend, angering multisporters who'd been training for the race - a 5km run through McLarens Falls Park, a 17km mountain bike down to the Ruahihi Power Station, an 11km kayak down the Wairoa River, a 26km road bike around Te Puna followed by an 11km run.
Eight-time winner Dwarne Farley said he was surprised to hear the race had been parked given the good level of support it had received.
But Luke Garea, of Auckland-based race organisers Event Day, said he'd struggled to break even last year after taking over the Kaimai Classic from Sport Bay of Plenty, which had run it for three years after assuming control from Community Sport.
The loss of major sponsor Page Macrae and an inability to find a replacement at short notice meant the Classic was barely viable financially, Garea said.
"Page Macrae had been backers for a few years but they'd finished their final year when I took over. With no title sponsor I managed to get through but it was tough and, after re-evaluating it post-race, I realised I needed a few more ducks in a row to make it viable. There was no point ramping up the entry fee just so I could do it again and the way the model was set up meant it relied heavily on a cash injection."
But Farley, a Tauranga businessman who has finished on the podium at the Coast to Coast, said he was curious where all the cash was needed given a lack of prize money and seemingly small cost to stage the race.
"Where does he incur his costs? I've never won any prize money. The only time in 11 years prize money was paid out was $1000 when Richard Ussher came up and, in eight wins over 11 years, the best I've got was a school bag, a box of chocolates and a few trophies sitting somewhere around the house.
"I simply don't know what money he [Garea] needs. If there's no prize money then what are the major costs he's incurring? There's no road closures and volunteers are used to man the course. The big question then is what is he valuing his time at?"
Farley said the race postponement has generated plenty of conversation, especially after the only other multisport race in the region, The Grinder, was canned last year.
"The Kaimai Classic is one of the most well-supported events in the North Island, constantly getting 100 individuals, and last year they put out 750 race packs so numbers-wise it's up there. The price [around $70] wasn't turning people away because that's nothing compared to what we pay for other races."
Farley was also critical of the lack of information about why the race had been binned, with a few paragraphs on the race website saying only that it had been postponed.
"A one-liner tells us nothing. My big hope is that is is resurrected next year but the best thing that could happen is it comes back under a local umbrella and not an independent contractor," Farley said.
Garea has been trying to find a major sponsor since last year without luck. He felt the sponsorship of the race was worth at least $10,000 and any less would be underselling it.
"The amount of staff hours we put in was ridiculous and these races aren't cash cows. We managed to pay the bills we needed to pay and nothing else and the money has to come from somewhere. I had to put on an event without the cash of previous years and it was break-even only for me."
Garea said numbers had been dipping and he didn't want to run an inferior race this year, but planned to honour the remaining year of his three-year contract to organise and promote the event.
"I can't afford to be paying to put on an event for people; we're not a charity.
"Hopefully though we can do some hard yards in the next few months and get some support behind us so it'll be all go next year. "If people want it and it still has a place in the market then a year off won't matter, but next year's the telling year because it'll either float or sink when we bring it back."