Van D’am Racing
A small departure from the norm, this week I sit down and have a chat with the Team Principle of Van D’am Racing, Lachlan Ambrose.
Lachlan has been involved in competitive cycling since 2006 and raced the NRS each year since 2009. He has raced all notable local and national events and spent time racing overseas including in New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland and France, and is passionate about providing young cyclists with the right opportunities and environment to reach their potential.
- Who are Van D’am Racing p/b Butterfields?
The short answer Van D’am Racing is South Australia’s only elite u25 Road Cycling Team.
- The team name is quite distinctive, where does it come from?
Van D’am Racing is highly reflective of me in the way things are done (it is my baby after all), the name also carries this link. So my mother is Dutch and her maiden name was van Breda, and my surname was anglicized by my grandfather from D’Ambrosio to Ambrose. I think it works based off the fact that you have the combination of two cycling mad countries (with the Dutch roots of van Breda and D’Ambrosio being Italian) and with the similarity to 90’s action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme, it just had a nice ring to it. Naming things is hard!
Butterfields Services is our major sponsor. They are a proud South Australian company who really share our vision of supporting riders in a healthy environment, enabling them to achieve on and off the bike. They are an air conditioning, electrical and plumbing project solutions provider, and are starting to expand interstate, so hopefully we are helping spread the word on what they are doing!
Van D’am Racing represents the teams identity. Unlike other sports, cycling teams have no real identity, and are too heavily tied to the sponsor. I would wager no one would feel particularly comfortable going to a game and yelling out the major sponsor’s name. The consequence of cycling teams’ not having identity is that teams struggle to develop a following. This identity will never be lost from our name. Developing continuity and a connection with teams is a key step in developing long term sustainability.
- What as the original idea behind VDR?
So I have raced bikes in Australia and overseas for over 10 years. In this time the support pathways for riders in SA (beyond the institute track pathways) were almost non-existent. I really want to help these riders stay in the sport, love the sport and progress through it. I feel I have a lot to offer, especially with my relatively diverse background, both on and off the bike.
- What is your objective?
So unfortunately my competitive nature from years of bike racing continues. The goal is always to be the best the team can be, and I have dreams of taking the team to the world. But on a smaller scale I really want to provide riders with opportunities that I feel that I missed out on. Helping riders achieve their goals is pretty special.
- What are the biggest obstacles to meeting your objectives?
Funding. Unfortunately I picked the most expensive sport. It’s expensive to ride a bike, it’s more expensive to race. Running a team takes it to a whole new level. Of course we don’t deserve money for nothing, so we are trying to create a model which is financial viable, with our key focus on creating interest and a following in the team. The are some roadblocks in this goal, but at this stage we are happy with the progress we are making.
- Where would you like the team to be in 5 years time?
I think in 5 years I would like the team to be a strong continental team, with a focus still on rider development, but with an expanded race focus to start including some racing in Asia and OS. We have a few other ambitions (a women’s team for instance), but one thing at a time.
- What is your vision for the cyclists on the team?
I want the best for them, no matter which direction they go. Obviously I hope they have the opportunity to progress as far as they want to in the sport. Apart from that I hope they will all leave the sport when they are ready, and not be burnt out by the process. Aside from that we hope that they set themselves with a career path which they enjoy, enabling them to prosper off of the bike.
- What is the local U25s scene like
Pretty poor to be honest, and I could talk all day on why I think this is the case… A lot of this comes down to it being such a hard sport, and when you are isolated from most of the big races here in SA, and don’t have any team support it gets pretty hard and lonely. So we are trying to address this, but it will take time.
- Who are your main local rivals?
I think SASi (SA sports institute) would be the obvious one, but at the same time coming from SA we actually have a pretty good relationship and try and help each other out where we can. We naturally like to try and beat the bigger interstate teams, but that doesn’t happen as often as we would like.
- How has the team been going?
We’ve had a pretty good first year. Rhys Gillett won the Mount Baw Baw Classic (which is probably the hardest course of the year, if you have never heard of the Mount Baw Baw it’s definitely worth a look.)
We also won two of the Cycle Closet Winter Road Series Rounds here in South Australia which was great as it was something we helped get off the ground with the help of Cycling South Australia and the member clubs.
Besides from the obvious successes, i’ve been really proud of how the team and riders have developed both on and off the bike. It’s been a pretty tough year for a couple of the guys as they made the progression from school to uni and I’ve been impressed with how they’ve handled it.
They’ve still maintaining an incredibly professional approach to training and racing.
- Who designed and / or supplied your team kit
So we were pretty lucky to be put in contact with Joel Pearson, who is the Australian Director of Sportful Custom. If the kit is good enough for Peter Sagan and Alberto Contador, it certainly is good enough for us. Joel was really good to us and we are really happy to be continuing this relationship in 2017.
- How do riders get on your roster?
So the nice things about the SA scene is that it’s a pretty small community, so I generally have a pretty good idea of what is going on. Our key criteria is that they really need to be good people, and that they need to have the drive to take the sport as far as they can. We also have a team policy that all riders must be either working in the chosen profession, or studying. So in other words it’s not all out what they can do on a bike (though that’s still important).
- How much time does your team train and how do you manage training?
So depending on the riders program they’ll probably do between 12 and 20 hours a week on the bike. We do have team sessions, but they are only once or twice a week. With riders living on each side of the city and with pretty full time tables it can be pretty hard to get everyone in the same place!
We keep an eye on all the riders training (as this is part of the quest to make sure that they stay healthy). A few of the riders are coached by Tim Clayton of Omnis Development who is our performance manager but different riders prefer different styles of training, so it’s important they find someone who matches what they want to do.
- You have two other key staff, who are they?
Our Sports Director is Nils Wartemann. Nils holds a degree (MA) in Sport Sciences with minors in Sociology and Educational Sciences, and starting as a rider some 3 decades ago and was a founder of a springboard program assisting riders to race in Europe.
And lastly, one of the most critical members if you ask the riders is the Team Physio, Dave Moen. Dave has a Masters in Musculoskeletal & Sports Physiotherapy and is the director of Form Physiotherapy in Adelaide. Dave works alongside the coaching staff at Van D’am Racing to optimise the athletic condition and fit position of team cyclists, with the goal of improving performance. He also manages bike fitting, motor control and strength programs, as well as injury prevention for the team.
- What bikes, wheels etc does the team ride?
So unfortunately we don’t have team bikes yet. At this level no team gets given bikes, and i wasn’t comfortable asking riders to buy bikes (even though we did receive a couple of generous offers).
Bike Society have been pretty generous and helps us out where they can, so a big shout out to them!
- What is the best part of the team?
It’s definitely sharing the success. People tend to forget how much of a team sport cycling is, so when when one rider wins, it a contribution of what everyone has done, even when it’s not so obvious. We all rely heavily on each other (riders and staff).
So who is the team?
Top – left to right
- Tom Allford (19yo/71kg/188cm)
- Connor Butterfield (17yo/62kg/168cm)
- Ethan Egglestone (18yo/62kg/177cm)
Bottom – left to right
- David Fumpson (21yo/64kg/167cm)
- Shaun O’Callaghan (22yo/70kg/173cm)
- Callum Pearce (18yo/71kg/181cm)
(Eds note for perspective – iPib (51yo/81kg/178cm)- ouch!)
- How then would you you define success?
Obviously those sought after wins, but I really define success for the team as sticking to the goals that we set out to achieve. That is to support up and coming riders, ensuring that they stay healthy, develop on and off the bike, and importantly that they come out the other end still enjoying riding their bikes.
- You mentioned your major sponsor Butterfields, and Sportful, has the team got any other sponsors?
So we do have a couple more sponsors. Brentnalls SA gave us some really good support. They’re an Adelaide based Chartered Accounting firm who really share our vision of supporting young South Australians. We also were supported by Rojomoma Red Art, a boutique winery from the Barrossa Valley. Definitely worth checking out if you are heading down that way. Their Grenache Shiraz is my personal favourite.
We were also supported by WHS and Dr Jones & Partners, who surprisingly for a cycling team, we didn’t need to call on this year (well touch wood).
Thanks Lachie, its great to see someone with a passion put back into the cycling community. Wishing you all the best in the coming years. I’ll look forward to touching base again in 2 years time to revisit this interview.
You can follow them on their facebook site here: https://www.facebook.com/VanDamRacing/
I recommend you have a read of this article about the NRS prizemoney and the troubles facing the Domestic Cycle Racing. It not only shines a light on the prizemoney isues, but also offers up some thoughts on what should be done with what little money s available with the aim to make the domestic scene sustainable in the long term.