Current Australian UCI Continental team Drapac is poised to earn its long-awaited berth in the Santos Tour Down Under.
In a media release sent by South Australian Tourism Minister Leon Bignell, the race organisation has announced that an Australian Pro Continental team will earn an invite for the first event of the WorldTour next January. Earlier this year, two Australian Continental teams revealed their intentions to move up a notch for 2014, but with Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers putting their plans on hold for at least another 12 months, Drapac will be the lone outfit from the continent at Professional Continental level.
Cyclingnews understands that a deadline set by the team for race organisers was not met late last week and it was looking more-likely that the outfit would register in the United States. Drapac owner Michael Drapac told Cyclingnews in April that the US could be a good fit for the team:
"We've thought of registering in the US, it's where most of my business is these days, it's highly likely," the wealthy property developer and the largest benefactor to Australian cycling outside of Gerry Ryan, said. "We already tried to register in Singapore but as a Continental team you've got to register where the bulk of your riders are. I think we'll end up going ProContinental next year and we'll probably register in the US or Asia."
With the deadline extended, and paperwork due to be sent to the UCI by August 15 stating the country of registration, the news from the Tour Down Under will ensure Drapac will register as an Australian team. However, the team will still have a concentrated race program in the US.
Race director, Mike Turtur said that the move was simply the next step in the evolution of Australian cycling.
"We have been committed to the development of cycling right from the start with the introduction of the Under 23 National Team in 1999, followed by the Under 23 United Water Team and then the Australian National Team (University of South Australia) after our elevation to ProTour status back in 2008.
"With the success and evolution of the National Road Series, the time has come to add an Australian Pro Continental team to the Tour Down Under peloton."
Oceania President Tracey Gaudry has played a considerable role in the negotiations, with many Australian teams lamenting the demise of the local UCI calendar and tense relations between Drapac and Cycling Australia.
"Providing a connected pathway from club level to elite international competition is vital for the development of cycling," said Gaudry.
"For the first time an Australian Continental team who achieves ProConti status will compete in the WorldTour – the highest UCI road event classification – against the world's best teams, in their own backyard. This is a great step forward for cycling in Oceania."
It would be the second time that Drapac has raced in the ProConti ranks, given that the team became the first Australian team to do so in 2008 following the team's inception in 2004. After the team's one-year stint at an elevated status, in recent seasons Drapac has gone back to racing as a Continental outfit with programs in Australia, Asia and Europe.
Drapac will make a formal announcement later today.