By Mal Sawford in Melbourne
The striking red colours of the Drapac-Porsche Development team have been a familiar sight at road and track races around Australia for the past two years. Drapac-Porsche sponsored riders have racked up numerous wins in this time, including the Teams Prize at the 2005 Jayco Bay Classic, the 2005 Preston Mountain Classic, the 2004 Austral Wheelrace and innumerable Australian Championships.
The Program is the brainchild of quietly spoken Melbourne property developer Michael Drapac, who was concerned that existing elite cycling programs did not cater for rider's personal and professional development. Cycling is by no means alone in the sporting world, but all too often finds itself in the mainstream press when a former champion goes 'off the rails'.
The immediate success of the initial three team members both on and off the bike led to the team's decision to formally launch the program's philosophy. Fittingly, the launch took place in the impressive Porsche Centre on Victoria Parade, with the pinnacle of German engineering forming an impressive back drop for the gala night attended by a who's who of Australian Cycling and Business leaders.
Introduced by the Managing Director of Porsche Cars Australia, Michael Winkler, Drapac detailed the primary objective of the Drapac-Porsche Development Program - to holistically develop elite athletes, particularly at the formative stage of their career. Drapac challenged the audience by saying, "should an athlete - having been a product of an elite sporting program or team - descend from a successful sporting career to an unfulfilled or inglorious life post sport, we would say the athlete has done us proud, but most probably we, society, have failed the athlete."
The Drapac-Porsche Development Program aims to ensure its riders avoid the lonely "black hole" at the end of their sporting careers by committing sufficient resources to develop an athlete's skill set and life balance, which will support their wellbeing beyond their productive sporting career in conjunction with developing their sporting potential. Success for the team, according to Drapac "will be measured by a cost to benefit ratio which includes long term social, educational, financial and health factors as well as on field success."
Cycling Australia's Vice President, Klaus Mueller, was on hand to endorse the program, and welcomed the creation of an alternative pathway to the top of the sport to the traditional Institutes of Sport. He indicated that CA had recently (unsuccessfully) lobbied the UCI to broaden the Junior World Championships to include Under 21 riders, arguing that a four year age group would prevent many riders being forced to sacrifice their final years of schooling for the chance to impress on the world stage.
The Drapac-Porsche riders were introduced by Mike McKay, a member of the Olympic Gold Medallist 'Oarsome Foursome' rowing team, who confirmed the validity of Drapac's thinking by drawing a parallel to his own rowing career, saying his experience had taught him that "personal development is not just for after sporting life. It is tied to sporting excellence. Success in one feed the other."
The Development Program requires the riders to:
1. Concurrent with their sport, undertake studies (school or tertiary) or career development
2. Maintain a social network outside their sporting friends
3. Remain in the most nurturing environment available (usually home)
4. Pursue personal development and achieve success in areas other than their sport.
Rahna Demarte - Elite Women
Zak Dempster - Under 19 Men
Mitchell Docker - Under 23 Men
Tess Downing - Under 19 Women
Damion Drapac - Under 19 Men
Patrick Drapac - Under 15 Men
Pip Grinter - Under 19 Men
Adam Murchie - Elite Men
Daniel Thorsen - Under 23 Men
Porsche Cars Australia
Selle San Marco
IOS Inspired Orthotic Solutions
Balance & Control Pilates
Essential of Health
Australian Sports Foundation