Jason Lowndes will ride for the Cycling Academy Team in 2017 with the Israeli team making the jump up to the Pro-Continental ranks. Lowndes joined Drapac at the start of 2016 but with the Australian team merging with Cannondale from January 1 2017, the 21-year-old has found a new home in the Middle East.
Lowndes is the second Australian signed by Cycling Academy Team for 2017, joining fellow Victorian Zak Dempster on the roster.
"I have signed for Cycling Academy and I am pretty happy to stay Pro-Continental," Lowndes told Cyclingnews of his team for 2017.
Although he signed with Cycling Academy, it was the second contract that Lowndes signed for the 2017 season as he explained.
"A goal was to stay professional," he said of his season aims."To be honest, coming into Worlds, it wasn't looking good. I talked to a lot of teams who were interested but they would just give me the 'no deal'. Thankfully a Canadian team Silber offered me a contract, it was a good one, and they put a clause in it that if I was to be offered a contract from a Pro-Continental team before November 1, I could freely take that and they would rip up the Silber contract."
Sixth place on his Worlds debut in the U23 road race for Australia saw Cycling Academy offer the contract to Lowndes, who was full of praise for Silber's understanding and how team management handled the deal.
"I have a lot of respect for Silber for giving me that confidence and that really put my mind at ease and let me focus on Worlds and not stressing about whether I would even be able to ride a bike next year. That was great and then a couple of days after Worlds I got the offer from Cycling Academy which is great," he said.
Top-ten results at the Tour de San Luis, Tour de Taiwan, and Tour d'Azerbaïdjan earned Lowndes a lead out train from Drapac for the first time in the season at the Tour of Norway with the first year pro placing ninth on stage one before withdrawing the next day due to illness. His Norway result was a sign of his potential at the pointy end for a bunch sprint finish and saw the Australian national team reach out and ultimately call him up to the Worlds team.
While Lowndes was initially disappointed to miss out on a WorldTour ride, he explained that he believes the ride with Cycling Academy Team will ultimately be beneficial in the long run.
"We were told quite early in the year that the team was merging, which was good to know, but I also wish I didn't know it because it played with my mind," he said of the deal which was announced on the eve of the Tour de France. "Drapac had confidence and said 'we think you have the ability' and you would be a good development rider to take, but 'what you need to work on is your professionalism' and the way I conduct myself and that sort of stuff. Which I think I have definitely made big improvements on this year but maybe not as much as they wanted. Which I completely understand. In saying that, I don't think I am ready for the WorldTour. I am sad that they didn't take me because it is a golden opportunity but I have already moved into this sport pretty fast, I guess I need to learn properly how to race."
Having started his season at the Australian nationals since he begun racing, Lowndes won't be making any appearances on home soil over the 2016-17 summer. His season will start in February with his first race in Cycling Academy colours expected to take place in Europe. While the team has secured its Pro-Continental license for the new season, team management is currently finalising the race programme for 2017 and waiting on invites from race promoters.
Along with the Dempster and Lowndes signings, Cycling Academy have also announced that Tyler Williams (Axeon Hagens Berman), Hamish Schreurs (Klein Constaina), Dennis van Winden (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Krists Neilands (Axeon Hagens Berman) will be joining the team in 2017, while Dan Turek, Guy Sagiv, and Dan Craven have extended their contract.