Drapac Professional Cycling today announced the re-signing of current riders Floris Goesinnen, Robbie Hucker, Darren Lapthorne, Tom Palmer, Malcolm Rudolph and Bernard Sulzberger. On Wednesday the team announced seven new signings, headlined by Saxo-Tinkoff sprinter Jonathan Cantwell, to help launch its return to UCI Pro Continental status. Today the team that will remain registered in Australia confirmed that six of their current roster would be retained for the 2014 season.
Tom Palmer has been with the Drapac squad since 2007 as part of the team's old track development program and will serve as a vital lead out man to Cantwell, or as a sprinter in his own right.
"From what I can tell it is rare if not unique in the whole sport for a rider to be able to progress from junior to professional without changing team," said the former triple junior world champion. "I have been fortunate that my progression has timed so well with the team. Drapac has offered me a stable and supportive environment to literally 'grow up' in as a bike rider and a person. I was blown away by [Team Principle] Michael [Drapac] and his staff's approach as a 16-year-old and now at 23, there's nowhere I'd rather be."
Despite being struck down by illness at various times throughout the last few seasons, Palmer has still notched up some respectable wins. Most notably four stage victories in four years at the Tour of Okinawa in Japan and two stage wins at the New Zealand Cycle Classic.
Palmer rode well for Drapac as part of their European campaign in 2011 where he finished on the podium twice at the Flèche du Sud. He then stayed on to race the Tour de l’Avenir -where he claimed another podium- and the world championships with the Australian U23 National Team and caught the attention of teams such as Agritubel. Selecting to remain with the Drapac team in spite of illusive offers now appears as a risk that will pay dividends for the 23-year-old
Hucker, a former U23 Australian MTB XC champion, and Rudolph, a graduate of the Australian Institute of sport road program, both stay on board as talented all-rounders earmarked for development.
Experienced Dutch rider Floris Goesinnen will also stay on with the team that he joined in 2011 following his departure from Skil-Shimano. Having moved to Melbourne to start a new chapter in his career after joining the team, the Dutch rider was officially adopted as a de facto Australian after winning the historic Melbourne to Warrnambool one-day race last year.
Riders reborn after Pegasus collapse
Lapthorne provided the team's true coming of age in early 2007 when he was crowned the Australian road champion ahead of many more fancied rivals. What followed for Lapthorne was enormous tragedy at the loss of his sister in 2008, then temporary retirement following the Pegasus demise in early 2011. With a lifeline contract from Drapac in 2011, and having spent the last three years transitioning from full-time work back to full-time cycling, Lapthorne has now come full circle and hints at possible racing options for the team next year.
"I'd love to make a return to the Tour de Langkawi, I really love that race," explained Lapthorne. "That's definitely a goal. I'm also looking forward to racing in America, especially towards the end of the season. That should be a great block of racing and it should really suit our team. For me personally, it should suit my type of racing as well. There's some quite hilly parcours and I'm looking forward to it."
Sulzberger, like Lapthorne, and Crawford -who was announced yesterday- is another rider considered by many to be unlucky not to have established himself at Pro-Continental or WorldTour level. As is a common theme, he was set to make his first steps in the world's biggest races in 2011 but lost out in the Pegasus fiasco. In recent years he has performed well each January in the Australian nationals, even earning a birth to ride the Santos Tour Down Under this year with the Uni-SA National Team, but it was his overall win in the 2013 Tour of Taiwan that identified his true potential.
"I've been knocking on the door to step up to a Pro Continental team for a little while," he said. "I'm just happy that I've had a decent start to the year with that win in Taiwan and secured my spot to re-sign with the team. I'm pretty happy where I am this year. It's been really good compared to last year in the UK, being home and close to the family as well, it's been a much better experience."
Of Drapac's current UCI Continental roster, Amir Rusli, Adam Phelan, William Walker, Johnny Walker, Luke Davison and Gordon McCauley all remain unsigned. With 13 riders now announced out of a projected 16, Cyclingnews understands that two spots are confirmed and yet to be announced and the final spot will be confirmed internally by the end of the week and announced soon after.