Wildcard invitation secures Drapac's third Tour Down Under appearance

Australia's sole Pro Continental team, Drapac Pro Cycling, will line up at the Tour Down Under for a third straight year later this month, having secured a wildcard invitation from the WorldTour race organisers. Drapac claimed victory on the final stage of the 2015 race via Wouter Wippert and bring a balanced squad of riders to contest for stage and overall honours.

New signing Gavin Mannion is the only non-Australian in the seven-rider team, which also includes fellow new addition Nathan Earle, while Graeme Brown makes his 14th appearance at the race and will look to guide Brenton Jones to stage win success.

"We are very appreciative of the Santos Tour Down Under organisers for again offering the team the wildcard invitation to 2016 iteration of the race. The team left the race in 2015 with the best possible result, winning the final stage and we will go back again to have a similar impact," said Drapac team manager Jonathan Breekveldt. "It is also a special occasion for Graeme as it is his 14th TDU, and we are excited to help him commemorate this feat over the course of the week."

Brown, who has won three stages and the 2001 sprint classification since making his debut at the race, described his excitement to be returning for a record apperance. 

"This race is very special to me. It is such a great atmosphere, and the spectators are sensational, with fans lining the roadside for most of every stage," Brown said. "I am looking forward to my 14th start at this event, and the course for this year's race looks to set up an action packed event."

Lachlan Norris is likely to lead the team's GC aspiration, following a 2015 season in which he won a stage and finished sixth overall at the Tour of Utah, repeated his sixth place at the USA Pro Challenge and also finished 11th on GC at the Tour of California. Mannion and Earle will support the 28-year-old, although both riders are capable of mounting their own GC challenge as well, providing the team with numerous overall options.

Breakaway specialist and former stage winner at the race, William Clarke, has also been selected in the team and alongside Adam Phelan provides horsepower to the sprint train.

Drapac sports director Tom Southam will be writing an exclusive blog for Cyclingnews during the race.

Drapac for the 2016 Tour Down Under: Graeme Brown, William Clarke, Nathan Earle, Brenton Jones, Gavin Mannion, Lachlan Norris and Adam Phelan.

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