In 2018, Oliver's Real Food racing will make the jump into the Continental ranks. Founded in 2010 by Sam Layzell, the Australian team has previously complemented its National Road Series (NRS) programme with UCI races in Oceania and Asia.
While the team had toyed with the prospect of taking out a Continental license, its most successful season to date and increased financial backing from Oliver's convinced Layzell the time was right.
"It's a commercial decision as much as it's a team decision. It is win-win for both us and our sponsor," Layzell explained to Cyclingnews of the decision to take out the Continental license from 2018.
Another reason for the application is the "potential to do the Herald Sun Tour" with race director John Trevorrow regularly rewarding Australian Continental teams with a place at the 2.1 race. With eight Australian teams applying for a Continental license in 2018, a start at the race though is not a certainty.
"It is not any one thing, it is a combination of things," he added. "You don't get the additional budget without the results. Another determining factor was Oliver's becoming a publicly listed company. It was always an end goal and something we wanted to do with the team and this is the right time for a couple of reasons."
In recent months, South African Brendon Davids, a former mountain biker, has taken the team to another level. At the NRS Battle Recharge stage race, Davids took a maiden stage win for the team and then finished off the job by sealing the overall. He and Oliver's then headed to Asia for the Jelajah Malaysia, repeating the stage win and GC double. Davids' results, in particular, were added incentive to make the jump into Continental life.
"We wanted to at least have an NRS stage win under our belt and obviously a bit more experience," Layzell added. "There also wasn't really a need to as we were doing Continental races in Asia and we felt like we weren't strong enough to have a team at the Sun Tour in 2017 if we are honest with ourselves. It has worked perfectly and I wouldn't do it any other way. I am very happy with how it has progressed."
With the team building its base and securing a medium to long-term future via Oliver's, Layzell outling that he isn't expecting significant changes from the 2018 season with the focus on continuing a steady progression. Explaining that "when something is working very well and you're having success, you don't need a lot of change.
"There will be a few things that we will bring in on a contractual level with the riders. That I won't go into too much detail with but that, there will be more expectation for the riders and how we write out the contracts," he said. "Apart from that, we will also be in a position to pay staff. Which is something we haven't done in the past and will hopefully translate into better performances and higher levels of professionalism. On the flipside, as a unit we already punch about our weight in terms of results and races we go to, so I can't see a lot changing in terms of the structure and how we manage the team."
One change for 2018 will be an expanded roster due to the double programme of NRS and Asian Tour racing.
"That is one of our key principles, developing riders from northern New South Wales and the Hunter region. There will be a NRS programme and a Continental programme and we will have a slighter bigger roster but you are limited to 16 riders as a Continental team anyway," he said. "We will have more than that to cater for and race both the NRS and Continental side of things."
Having already tested the waters of UCI racing, Layzell is well aware of the need to secure race invites to build a race programme. Having made inroads at such events as the UCI 2.2 NZ Cycle Classic, Le Tour de Fillipinas, Tour de Tochigi and Jelajah Malaysia, Layzell is hoping to complement the UCI 2.2 races with a handful more. Including the major objective, the Herald Sun Tour. Although Layzell is well aware of the task at hand.
"We'll be pursuing as many races as possible on the Asia circuit provided that they don't clash with the NRS. We obviously want to support the domestic road series," he said. "There is not a whole lot set in stone and that is to be expected, as that is the nature of the Asia Tour. It is not like we aren't trying, we are a first year Conti team so it not going to be easy to get into the bigger 2.1 races but we have a good reputation from the last few years of racing in Asia."
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