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by Neal Rogers
August 27, 2017
Photography by Gruber Images
American WorldTour team Cannondale-Drapac faces an uncertain future, with contracted riders and team staff actively entertaining offers from other teams.
The squad, founded in Colorado by Jonathan Vaughters in 2003 and a fixture at the WorldTour level since 2009, is facing sponsorship issues and may not have the resources needed to maintain into 2018, the team acknowledged in a statement issued Saturday.
Managed by Slipstream Sports and sponsored over the years by companies such as Garmin, Chipotle, Cervélo, Sharp, Cannondale, POC, Drapac, and most recently Verizon digital media brand Oath, the team has struggled to cover costs and has often relied on Slipstream owner, New York financier Doug Ellis, to underwrite its losses.
Over the past seven years the program has twice merged with pre-existing teams, first with the Cervélo TestTeam, prior to the 2011 season, and more recently with the Drapac Professional Cycling Team, at the end of last year. The team also acquired the title sponsorship, and took on several contracted riders, from the former Italian Cannondale squad, changing names in 2015 from Garmin-Sharp to Cannondale-Garmin.
In that time, the team has won one Grand Tour, with Ryder Hesjedal at the 2012 Giro d’Italia, and three Monuments — Paris-Roubaix (Johan Van Summeren, 2011), Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2013, Dan Martin), and Il Lombardia (2014, Dan Martin).
Running on what Vaughters has described as one of the lowest budgets in the WorldTour, the team went over two years without a WorldTour victory, from May 2015 through May 2017, though stage wins at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France have followed, as well as Rigoberto Uran’s second-place finish at the Tour last month.
The team is currently ranked 11th out of 18 UCI WorldTour teams; last year, it closed out the season ranked eighth.
Since the Tour, Uran renewed his contract with Slipstream Sports for three years, while Dylan van Baarle extended for another two years. That, plus the partnership with Oath and what Vaughters had said looked like an additional likely sponsor, seemed to put the team on stable footing for 2018.
An announcement of the team’s anticipated additional sponsor, which Vaughters had described as European, did not come, however, and it now appears that riders with contracts are on the market; telesport.nl is reporting that van Baarle, Sep Vanmarcke, and Pierre Rolland, as well as staff members, have all been in talks with various other teams.
In a statement issued Saturday, team management said it had “received some discouraging news about a new partner we anticipated joining us in 2018,” prompting notification of all riders and staff of the uncertainty of the organization’s future.
“Without this partner’s support, we cannot guarantee our financial security and subsequently our UCI WorldTour license [for 2018],” the statement read. “We remain hopeful that this situation may resolve itself in the next few days and that the team may find new financial backing; however, without this guarantee, we felt an obligation to the individuals who make up our team to notify them of our current situation and give them time to look for their best options.”
“All Slipstream Sports staff have been released from any and all contractual obligations for 2018. All 2018 contracts will be honored if our future is secured… All of our current sponsors and partners (Cannondale, Drapac, Oath, POC) have remained committed to support our team in 2018. These sponsors have lived up to their promises; however, without additional financial backing, the numbers simply don’t add up.”
The Cannondale-Drapac team features seven North American riders — Americans Andrew Talansky, Taylor Phinney, Alex Howes, Lawson Craddock, Joe Dombrowski, and Nathan Brown, as well Canadian Mike Woods. It holds headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, and Girona, Spain.
The team statement added that Slipstream Sports management remains “steadfastly invested in keeping this team alive.”
“We believe in our team ethos, and we believe in the dedicated, passionate, hardworking and talented group we have assembled. We have several opportunities that we are exploring, and while we remain hopeful, we are not comfortable exposing our staff and riders to the uncertainties of our future, which prompted the team-wide email this morning.
“We’ve overcome incredible odds for over a decade and can do it again, but we need someone to step forward and fill in that last piece of the puzzle. It would be an incredible bargain, that’s for certain. We are open to any conversations with new financial partners and supporters at this time.”