• Oliver's Real Food Racing will take on the big boys of Australian cycling (Alastair Reither)Source: Alastair Reither
Sitting in the backyard of the house where his team have set up camp for the nationals, Sam Layzell, manager of Oliver’s Real Food Racing looks proud to be discussing the team that he has built up from the grassroots.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
6 Jan 2016 - 11:39 AM 

Born out of a local Newcastle bike shop team, Two Wheel Industries, the team has gradually ground its way up to the National Road Series. On Saturday and Sunday, they will line up against some of the biggest riders on the World Tour, as they look to make their mark on the Nationals.

Sam Layzell talked to Cycling Central ahead of the racing.

“Yeah I guess when you build something from the ground up, it’s sort of your baby, and you tend to get quite passionate about it. I founded the team in 2010, it came about because I suffered a hip injury in late 2009, which prevented me racing. The team I was with didn’t honour the contract for next season, so I put everything in place and got the team started mid-2010 with the goal of developing local Novocastrian riders.”

Australian cycling is an unstable industry, where even the larger teams can find themselves in trouble and having to fold, like African Wildlife Safaris and Budget Forklifts have this off-season. But Layzell has so far managed to shepherd his team through both the rough and the good times.

“At times, with the struggles logistically and financially, it’s felt like building a house of cards. Our philosophy however is to keep the environment stable for the riders and the staff. There are the highs of registering as an NRS team, getting the first big sponsor on board, and with Oliver’s Real Foods coming onboard that was another step up. You have the downsides of struggling to make ends meet, getting things happening and riders leaving, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

Those positives include seeing his team lining up next to some of the best riders in the world at the Road Nationals in Bunninyong.

“I remember the first time we brought a team down for the nationals in 2012. We did the Bay Crits support race beforehand, where we got a stage win and held the yellow jersey until the last stage. We came off the Bay Crits on a real high, and at Nationals it was the first year for Orica-GreenEDGE, and to see our jersey and our riders lining up against them on the startline that day… it’s one the moments where you sit back for a second and think ‘Wow, we’re there’.”

For the road races on Saturday and Sunday, Oliver’s Real Foods are rank outsiders, but they are more than capable of posting a good result, particularly in the under 23s where Layzell was optimistic.

“For our elite guys, having three riders in the bunch going against WorldTour riders, we’re under no illusions. It’s going to be a case of doing as many laps as you can, and see if you can get through it. On the flip side I feel we have genuine contenders in the under 23 race. We have a good team of climbers, plus riders that can finish it off in the sprint. There is going to be a really strong field in the under 23 race, but we’ve definitely got a shot.”

After a season of growth, there’s always a new goal in the works and Layzell. For those that have seen them steadily rise through the ranks, it would be no surprise for those ambitions to get larger and larger into the future, as they continue to tick the boxes.

“Last year with our success in getting top 10s and King of the Mountains jerseys, I think a podium in the NRS is a realistic goal and one we’ll be striving for in 2016.”