On the startline of stage 5 of the Tour of Britain, Cannondale-Drapac riders and staff reacted positively to recent reports regarding the future of the team.
An internal email saw team CEO Jonathan Vaughters tell riders that all current contracts will be honoured by the team, indicating that a new title sponsor had been found.
"As of right now, I am writing to tell you that if you have a contract with Slipstreamsports for 2018, we are enforcing your contract. More to come," the email read, reported Velonews.
While any official news of a sponsor signing has been confirmed neither publicly nor to team staff, an announcement is expected at some point today.
Ken Vanmarcke, the team’s sports director in Britain and brother of the cobbled classics star Sep, confirmed the news but didn’t know anything more than what was said in the email.
"We got the message yesterday that the team was gonna stay," he said whilst taping the day’s stage guides to the riders' stems.
"Normally the announcement will be today. I cannot say much because I don’t have much information.
"It doesn’t make the job easier, but it gives a good feeling. But ok, we were focused on the race anyway; it’s not that we were crying all the time or whatever. It’s just that we’re doing our job and we have to continue."
Asked about his brother, Vanmarcke said that negotiations with other teams hadn’t progressed too far, and confirmed that the 2012 Paris-Roubaix runner-up would be staying with the team.
"From what I know Sep is going to stay. It’s [the news] on time; they sent out the news to him and his management on time so it’s good for the team. Yep, he’ll stay."
Since the August 26th announcement that an unnamed sponsor had pulled out, leaving the team scrambling for a replacement and turning to crowd-funding, riders have been free to talk with other teams.
Tour de France runner-up Rigoberto Urán, who had signed a three-year contract extension earlier in the month, had set a deadline of two weeks before he would begin negotiations while others began the search immediately.
According to Vanmarcke, some riders have already found other teams and will be moving on, hinting at their identities but not naming anybody outright. Given recent news it’s likely that the names will include those coming to the end of their contracts this year.
"For sure there are going to be some guys leaving the team that are very important for the classics," he said. "But I think you have to look forward and there’s no point in looking backwards. It’s just important that we will see who we have and that we work with those guys."
Reaction from the team’s riders at the start of the day’s stage five was unanimously positive, though the fate of several is still unclear. Davide Formolo has already agreed a move to Bora-Hansgrohe, while two of the remaining five riders at the Tour of Britain are out of contract this winter.
"Obviously it’s good for the team, and it’s good for cycling," said New Zealander Patrick Bevin. "Nobody in cycling wanted to see the team go away so then to hear it’s carrying on is very positive. I’m not under contract for 2018, so I’m hoping to get things sorted soon."
Irish time trialist Ryan Mullen, whose contract ends this year, cut a more confused figure, with the 23-year-old taken by surprise when asked about the email.
"Have we?" he asked when asked about the good news of the past 24 hours. "It’s the first I’ve heard of it. Fair enough. I didn’t get an email. It’s good for the team but I can’t really say [if I’ve been talking to other teams]."
Young Brit Hugh Carthy was quieter, but seemed pleased by the news. "There’s not much to say; I know as much as you do. It’s good news and that’s it, there’ll be more to come soon."
The cycling world will wait with bated breath for the sponsorship announcement, rumoured to be a company not related to cycling. One thing is for certain, and that is that the emotions displayed by the team’s riders today will be echoed around the sport as another team is seemingly safe.
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