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Cannondale Pro Cycling to set WorldTour first through merger deal

American UCI WorldTour team Cannondale Pro Cycling has announced a merger deal with Australian Pro Continental outfit Drapac that will take effect from the 2017 season.

While the full merger is set to take hold next year, a five-year title sponsorship deal has been signed that will take effect from the forthcoming Tour de France. Under the agreement between Cannondale’s operator Slipstream Sports and property funds management business Drapac Capital Partners, the elite team will be known as Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling.

Under the wider merger agreement, Drapac’s philosophy of preparing riders for lives after cycling will be enacted at the WorldTour level by Slipstream Sports. The Cannondale-Drapac team will offer a service to its riders next season that encourages growth beyond cycling.

Together with Crossing the Line Sport, an organisation designed to assist athlete transitions out of professional competition, the pro team will offer workshops, individual counselling services, mentoring, and educational support to its riders. It is said to be the first program of its kind at WorldTour level. Michael Drapac, chairman and founder of Drapac Capital Partners and now part owner of Slipstream Sports, will oversee the wellness program internally as its executive vice-president.

Slipstream chief executive Jonathan Vaughters said: “Michael Drapac and I have been friends for some time. I have always been impressed with his entrepreneurial vision and understanding of markets. However, what piqued my interest in partnering with Michael is his passion for helping athletes find their way through life in a healthier way. Although it’s seldom acknowledged, most professional cyclists have given up everything in order to pursue excellence in their sport. While commendable, this leaves them very vulnerable to an ever more complex world.”

Drapac added: “We want to win bike races, but not at the expense of broader values. Sustainability in this sense is about ‘what are the broader values in the cycling team?’ We need to look at that. We want to win the Tour de France. We want to win Paris-Roubaix. But we also have other metrics by which we measure our success.”

The professional team will also offer a bridge to younger athletes on Drapac’s development team, Drapac-Pat’s Veg. The partnering of the two teams in 2017 will see the bulk of the resources from the current Drapac professional cycling team transitioned to Drapac-Pat’s Veg, the Continental-level development team announced earlier this year, while also providing the opportunity for a number of riders and staff to move to the WorldTour at Cannondale-Drapac.