For the Newcastle based National Road Series (NRS) team, Paradice Investment Cycling Team, having been created in 2010 with the aim to identify, develop and provide opportunities for Hunter-based cyclists, 2013 was the year that it all became a reality.
With the ambition of becoming a UCI Continental team in 2016, results such as two stage wins at last year’s Air France Tour de Novelle Caledonia suggest that team manager Samuel Layzell has assembled the right riders and provided an atmosphere for success with the help of several financial backers.
Cyclingnews spoke to Layzell in the latest of the NRS team feature articles about the 2014 season and attracting a second sponsor to continue its upward trajectory.
Cyclingnews: How was your preparation for the start of the 2014 NRS series and how are finding the season?
We started off by doing a week long camp up in the Barrington Tops, NSW which is sort of our home turf now that we have a few guys from Tamworth and Scone. Everyone got to know one other at the camp by doing 200km days. We were staying in lodges which had no TV and that was the week that TDU was on which was good.
CN: How do you decide on your team rosters? What processes do you go through in recruiting riders?
Because we started as a Newcastle based team we've always favoured young riders from the Newcastle and Hunter area. We've always had a philosophy of mixing young under 19's and under 23's with older guys on the roster who are between 25 and 30-years-of-age because we believe that that balance between young and old tends to work well with the older guys taking on a mentoring role. We're not just taking a group of six under 19s to each race who don't know what to do with themselves.
When we became a NRS team last year with the inclusions of our new major sponsor, Paradice Investment, we started to broaden our recruitment range to places like Tamworth and Scone. To give you an idea, at the moment out of the 12 riders, five are from Newcastle this season compared to last 100% last season. We've taken on two guys from Scone, one from Armidale, one from Taree and two from Tamworth; and I guess with Paradice Investment coming on board, David Paradice is from Scone originally, so we've started to look at riders up the valley a bit further along.
I'm always inclined to give young mountain bikers a go because you look at the likes of Cadel Evans (BMC) or ex-professionals for example who started their carers on mountain bikes and they tend to have good engines and suit road racing more than they give themselves credit for. We saw that with our young rider Cam Ivory last year who did a lot more road than mountain bike last year.
He did the full road season and won stages at the Tour of Tahiti and New Caledonia [Tour de Nouvelle Caledonie] and finished with a few top ten's later in the season in the NRS and now you see him on the verge of becoming part of the Australian under 23 mountain bike team and being selected for the Commonwealth Games. [Ivory was the overall winner of the 2014 Subaru National Mountain Bike series in the Under 23 category].
If we can help riders along in their development like that, I am more than willing to give young guys a punt.
CN: What is different about the team this year, compared to last?
I guess that to a certain extent we know what to expect now, and from the rider's point of view, they know exactly what's expected and the training requirements they need to uphold, what the races are going to be like, what the pace is going to be and how the racing is going to go. Up till last year, most of our riders didn't have national level of [racing] experience.
From a management point of view, logistically, you know exactly what to expect, what to do, what riders need and so on. This year compared to last year, we had a smaller set up with just a small van and a trailer. We've been able to invest in a bigger van and a bigger trailer, we've also invested in a few other things that the riders require at the races. I guess that the expectation of what we need to know at races is the biggest difference from last year.
CN: What is your racing calendar?
This year we started with the Adelaide Tour, we skipped Tour de Perth, we'll the two races up north – the Battle on the Border and Tour of Toowoomba – and then we enter the break in NRS. We'll take six riders over to the Tour de Polynésie which is in French Polynesia and then we'll be back at the end of August for the Tour of the Murray and then the Tour of the Great South Coast.
The only two races that we'll skip are the Tour of Tasmania and Tour of Gippsland due to constraints on the budget and travel that we have to get to those races is just a little out of reach for this year.
We only did seven races last year, so it's a few more than last year and our aim for next year is to do the full NRS calendar but that obviously depends on our roster and whether we can recruit a second naming sponsor.
CN: What are the benefits to the team and your riders in racing overseas?
The benefits that we see is that is you look at a week-long tour, for example the Tour of Tahiti which is a lot longer and the riders can get experience. The Tour of New Caledonia is a ten day race so I guess that getting by riders over there, they get experience of racing against European’s with several small amateur French teams attending.
The main benefit is that if one of our young riders does well in one of those races and then an amateur French team sports director sees him do well, we tend to network a lot with teams at those races which means the potential for riders to head overseas and potentially race with those teams off the back of their impressions that give at the races.
That is one major thing we can achieve that rather than just doing the standard NRS season, is to give riders a slightly different opportunity to race overseas and take up potential offers.
We've had a few offers in the past but so far none of our riders have been able to take them up because it entails racing a full season in Europe. But I guess that [the offers] shows the level that the NRS is at now and that the riders would rather stay in Australia than race on the amateur circuit.
CN: What are the expectations of the team for the 2014 season?
We'd like to achieve top ten finishes to begin with and obviously a podium would be a fantastic result for us. Its small steps to begin with and coming off our results in Adelaide, we have a lot of work to do to achieve our goals but everyone is committed to doing so by working hard and we have a good group of guys to achieve our goals
CN: Is there a particular race the team is targeting this year? Why?
We always wanted to do well at the Santos Tour, which has been removed from the calendar, simply because all our sponsors are NSW based but we have riders who aim for different races and we aim to get the best results we can at each race, so there isn't a particular race.
Chris Aitken is the main man for Battle of the Border, as the best climber in the team and he's been working hard for that and then we'll be looking at guys like Mitch Carrington for Toowoomba in the sprints.
CN: What is the hardest race on the NRS calendar?
I'd probably would have said Grafton to Inverell before riding the Adelaide Tour a few weeks ago. That was unbelieve, it was absolute chaos with all the dirt. Not to say it was a bad thing, it was just a very, very hard stage for the riders. [The stage included a section of Strade Bianche]. Previously, I would have said the Grafton to Inverell which is race our team would like to do well.
CN: Do you expect there to be a stand-out rider this season?
It's hard to say, you can see that Brodie Talbot has put the work in and is finally achieving the results that he's capable of. You can't really go past Jack Haig though who has told everyone that his just focusing on the road this year and not going to the Commonwealth Games, so you can expect big things from him this year. You just can't go past the Avanti team, they are so strong.
CN: Financially, what are the major challenges in racing the NRS?
With racing overseas, all the boys have to do is pay for their plane tickets. One they get over there, all the expenses are paid for and the team pays the race entry. The major challenge is that in Australia, compared to racing overseas, you don't get any assistance whatsoever in terms in finance, not that we are asking for a cash hand out or anything, but I'd like to see a discount on accommodation or something like that because when the travel expenses add up, it’s really really expensive.
I think that rather than travel being funded entirely by private sponsors, maybe the races can get a few more major sponsors and that money can go toward helping out all the teams with expenses.
The Tour de Perth is the perfect example, although we haven't attended the race, I still have the information that they provide the cars, cheap accommodation and so on. Really, the only major things that the teams have to pay for is the flights.
CN: Who are your main financial and equipment sponsors?
Paradice Investment Management is Australia's first boutique investment firm specialising in smaller companies. Oliver's Real Food is a new, Australian, healthy fast food concept, selling sushi, gourmet pockets, juices and smoothies and coffee from a range of locations along our nation's highways. Our Newcastle based sponsors: Hunter Valley Orthodontics, Creer Property, Honeysuckle Dental, WAKI Lubrication Engineering. Our equipment sponsors: Focus Bikes Australia, HED Wheels, Topeak and Carrera thanks to Cassons Australia
Our service course is Two Wheel Industries in Newcastle. A bike shop that has been a big supporter of our team since its inception. A big thanks to Marek and the team there for helping us grow from a local shop team to a national team.
2014 Paradice Investment Cycling Team roster: Chris Aitken, Ben Marshall, Lewis Chapman, Billy Bailey, Guy Brown, Mitch Carrington, Dane Crawford, Michael Curran, Carsten Chapman, Samuel Hill, Harrison Munday, Matthew Warner-Smith and Samuel Layzell.