The national downhill mountain bike team pleaded for financial help yesterday after all 11 bikes were snatched in France at the weekend.
The team’s bikes, worth an estimated €82,000, were taken from a hotel in Alpe d’Huez in the south of France.
The team was competing in the Union of Cycling International (UCI) World Cup when the bikes, each worth over €8,000, were stolen.
The theft has left the team in serious financial difficulty ahead of the next round of the UCI World Cup in Quebec in a fortnight.
“As of now we are defunct because most of the lads have to finance themselves and there’s just no money left,” said team manager Jim Smith.
“We’ll have to try and borrow some kit for Canada, after that we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The 10 riders, ranging in age from 17 to 26, had to borrow bikes from other cyclists at Alpe d’Huez.
“A young lad from Northern Ireland, Ben Reid, 17, managed to qualify for the final with a bike he’d never been on before. That shows the ability of this team but now we’re in danger of losing everything,” Mr Smith said.
If the team fails to compete in the upcoming races it won’t be able to participate in next year’s UCI events.
“We’re able to go to the European and World Championships in August thanks to our good results last year. If we don’t participate that would be a huge blow,” he said.
The bikes for downhill mountain biking are specially designed by each cyclist and some of the national team paid around €10,000 to get their bike right.
“Most of the lads work during the off-season just so they can get a good bike. It’s a long process and now it’s all wasted,” Mr Smith said.
The team had been rising up the ranks of the international sport and was hoping for its best season this year. Anyone wishing to help the team can contact email@example.com.