While other WorldTour teams have continued to compete around the globe following the Tour Down Under, the EF-Education First-Drapac team gathered at their European base in Girona, Spain for a get together before beginning their multiple race programmes.
The riders clocked up some final training rides but also spent time on a nearby motor racing circuit, working on the lead-out trains for new sprinters Sacha Modolo and Dan McLay, and dialing in their time trial positions. The riders wore their bright orange training kit and their pink race kit as they also posed for official photographs and enjoyed time together before the season turns serious.
EF Education First stepped in to become the new title sponsor of the team after an expected €7 million sponsor backed out during the summer, saving the team from the risk of closure and sparking a new chapter in its history under Jonathan Vaughters’ management.
Rigoberto Uran and Michael Woods will share team leadership at EF Education First-Drapac in the Grand Tours and stage races in 2018, with Uran heading back to the Tour de France after finishing second behind Chris Froome in 2017. Woods will target the Giro d’Italia after showing his Grand Tour credentials with seventh overall at the Vuelta a Espana.
Sep Vanmarcke leads the Classics squad, with Matti Breschel and Mitch Docker signed to help him on the cobbles.
EF Education First-Drapac lost Davide Formolo, Alberto Bettiol, Dylan Van Baarle and Davide Villella, but they hope to secure success in the sprints after signing McLay and Modolo, and building lead-out trains to help them. The US core of the team remains, with Taylor Phinney, Lawson Craddock, Nate Brown, Alex Howes, Joe Dombrowski joined by the talented Logan Owen, who made a solid debut at the Tour Down Under.
Getting the juices flowing
Vaughters explained that the camp is important because it is the only time the team will all be together. He prefers to call the get together an organizational camp rather than a training camp, pointing out that the “training a rider does to truly achieve fitness and win races is done at home, on their own, or in small and invisible camps with a few teammates. Not at the big 'all team gaggle' each team has mid-winter.”
“Pro cycling is a funny beast in the modern era: constantly in motion as we are doing 240 race days a year on multiple continents,” Vaughters explained in his blog on the team’s website.
“This leaves almost zero opportunity to actually talk to one another. A rider doing the cobbled classics and the Vuelta schedule might not ever do a single day of racing with a rider doing an Ardennes Classics and Tour de France. They’ll be on the same team, but never actually speak. That’s always seemed a bit sad to me.
“The camp is also a chance for me, the manager, and all the directors to observe how riders interact with one another and how a diverse staff comes together to make a team happen. Various cultures, languages, and ideas can come together in a positive way, or sometimes interact negatively with one another. Better to get this sort of thing figured out away from the competitive pressures of a race.”
An EF Education First-Drapac squad that includes Modolo, McLay, Pierre Rolland and Sep Vanmarcke will head down the Spanish coast from Girona to ride the five-day Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (Jan 31-Feb 4), while Uran will travel home to Colombia to lead a squad in the new Oro y Paz race (Feb 6-11).