WHAT better way to launch an up-and-coming cycling team than to compete in an inaugural tour of its home region?
After months of planning and preparation, South West Coast Cycling will contest its first open tour this weekend.
The team has entered the Tour of the South West, which starts today with two stages before culminating with a criterium tomorrow.
South West Coast Cycling director sportif Andy Graham said the aim of the newly-formed team was to act as a launching pad for talented young riders.
Cyclists in the initial team are Darcy Woolley (Port Fairy Cycling Club), Luke Aggett (Port Fairy), Dylan Lindsey (Portland), Lachlan Nolte (Portland) and Matt Lane (Warrnambool).
With Lane seriously injured in a race accident a fortnight ago, Glenn Scouller (Camperdown) will take his place this weekend.
“It’s a relatively new experience for all of them,” Graham said.
“It’s an opportunity for them to develop as a team, but not with the pressure you would have with some of the bigger, high-level teams who are better funded.
“We want to give them more opportunities and get them to a stage where they can join another team that’s got better facilities.”
Graham, who is also a local coach, said the members would be focused on riding together as a team, a strategy which is unfamiliar for them.
“I guess we’ve got this real ethos that we’re all working together,” he said.
“No one person is greater than the team. It’s about looking after each other and learning the race craft.”
There are long-term plans to expand the development-focused team by adding more young riders. But for now, organisers are pleased that they were able to gain enough support from sponsors to introduce it.
“It’s been in the pipeline for three or four months,” Graham said.
“There’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes work but we’re going to really kick off as a team this weekend.”
He said that there would not be too much pressure placed on the riders for the Tour of the South West.
“But we believe that we’ve got someone who is capable of the overall win and we’ve also got someone who could pick up a stage win,” he said.
“It’s about looking after each of those people and doing the grunt of the work.”
Graham said the introduction of the South West Coast Cycling team was a combined effort.
“I was holding a meeting with a few people involved in cycling around here,” he said. “It was about getting expressions of interest to . . . get a team together which would help develop young riders in the district.
“At the same time, Paul Nolte and Andrew Lindsey from Portland were doing the same thing.
"We heard about what each other was doing and between the three of us, we started getting sponsors on board and selecting a group of riders.”
He said it was not easy to attract sponsors.
“But, in saying that, the ones that have come on board have put in significant sums of cash, especially seeing as we’re only starting off the team and we haven’t had any huge results,” he said.
With the funding put towards race clothing, accommodation, travel costs and entry fees, Graham said it didn’t go very far.
South West Coast Cycling has a busy schedule ahead of more than 20 races.
The Tour of the South West, which has attracted 185 competitors, starts today with a road race from Wangoom Recreation Reserve at 9.30am.