Slipstream Sports, the company that manages Cannondale Pro Cycling, will partner with Drapac Capital Partners, managers of Drapac Pro Cycling, to create a UCI Continental development team in 2017 that emphasizes racing and higher education, according to a press release from Slipstream Sports.
The team will register in Australia and compete across Europe. One of the mandatory requirements in joining the team will be for riders to enroll in university courses or apprenticeship programs during the off-season, and the team will schedule racing that is conducive to studies.
“I’ve seen too many great people dedicate their lives to cycling and they’ve totally ignored everything else. And then something happens, a crash or they aren’t able to move up in the ranks, something. And they have enormous difficulty recovering as human beings. We seek to prevent that. We seek to prevent athletes being used as disposable assets,” said Michael Drapac, who founded the Drapac team, in the statement.
Slipstream Sports is headed by Jonathan Vaughters, a management company that has backed development teams like 5280-Subaru and TIAA-Cref.
“Michael and I have been friends for over five years. We share a lot of the same philosophies and visions, and we’ve worked together on other projects. I’ve been helping him scout potential investments for his real estate company in the Western U.S., for example,” said Vaughters in the press release. “I look forward to working with him and creating a unique development team for riders who want to divide their time between studies and moving their way up to the WorldTour.
“Do I think that you can successfully identify talent that can succeed in the WorldTour when riders are dividing their time between studies and racing and training? Yes, I do,” he said. “In fact I’ve seen many examples where highly intelligent riders perform better when they have one physical and one intellectual focus. It balances them out. It can lead to better performance. A great example of an up-and-comer in the United States who I think is doing this pretty well is Sepp Kuss — he won the mountain-top finish at Redlands and he’s a university student."
Likewise, Drapac’s program started on the basis of developing young athletes. The two team owners have found a common ground in prioritizing education for riders.
“Cycling has been and continues to be a sport that uses up and quickly discards riders without looking out for their futures beyond results and immediate salaries,” Drapac said in the release. “We’re going to keep working to make it a more sustainable business and sport from both athletic and intellectual perspectives.”
Vaughters noted that the team will race in Europe, but their schedules will be built around their formal breaks from school. And when they are working on their studies, they will be expected to race and train locally.
Asked if dividing time between racing and formal education will slow down the riders’ athletic endeavours, Vaughter’s said, “No, I don’t think so.
"The upside is too great to ignore, anyways. It benefits some guys tremendously to be able to explore intellectual and physical avenues at the same time. We just want to make it easier for the right athlete to strike that balance.”