Drapac had a stint in Europe recently; we thought we’d have a word with Athlete Co-ordinator, Jonathan Grady over in Melbourne to find out a little bit more about the team whose philosophy is different from the “chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out when you’re finished with ‘em,” mind set of many teams.
PEZ: What’s your background, Jonathan?
Jonathan: I’m a triathlete; I’ve raced in Europe for a number of years. I started to work with the team in March of this year; I do three days each week.
PEZ: What is Drapac?
Jonathan: It’s a property investment company, named after the founder Michael Drapac; despite the downturn in the world’s finances I believe it’s still doing well.
Drapac-Porsche represented in a break at the Tour of Qatar in January.
PEZ: ‘Porsche’ is a nice name to have on the jersey.
Jonathan: It’s one of the most prestigious and recognisable brands in the world; it doesn’t do any harm when you are looking for invitations to races.
PEZ: How long has Drapac been around as a cycling team?
Jonathan: Michael Drapac started the team in 2003 with three riders. It has evolved from there, with the team having a spell of racing in Europe each season since 2006.
PEZ: It’s not just about racing in Drapac, though?
Jonathan: What Michael Drapac envisaged was a team where you don’t just develop the athlete, you develop the person. That’s done in line with their future career ambitions – for example, one of the guys on the team would like to get into sports journalism, when his career on the bike is over; he’s being mentored by Matthew Keenan the broadcaster.
PEZ: But the support ends, if the rider moves on?
Jonathan: Yes, that’s in their contract. The rider talks regularly to his mentor, maybe they’ll have a bite of dinner together, meet or talk over the phone – they offer guidance on all aspects of the rider’s life. It’s so that the rider isn’t just getting attention when he’s winning.
PEZ: What’s the team budget?
Jonathan: Extensive! But we’re always looking for more!
PEZ: What’s in it for an Aussie sponsor when the team is racing in Europe?
Jonathan: Michael Drapac has a genuine interest in the sport, what he invests isn’t justified by the publicity the team generates. For our other sponsors, the best fit is with an Australian company with ties to Europe or trying to break into that market.
PEZ: What’s it like to get race invites?
Jonathan: Tough! But Dirk Van Hove in Belgium has been a tremendous help in getting us invites – he does a great job for us. We got a good level of racing this summer, in France, not too hard, races where we were definitely in the bike race. The problem is that when you step up levels, there are 50 teams looking to fill 20 places. The hope is that next year we can build it up and perhaps aim for the Belgian semi-classics.
PEZ: Peter McDonald gave you a great start to the year.
Jonathan: Yes, beating Adam Hansen and Michael Rogers to take the Australian title; he followed that up with victory in the Tour of Wellington in New Zealand and then he was second in the Tour of Taiwan.
PEZ: How has Europe been?
Jonathan: Good, for example Gene Bates was third in the Halle-Ingooigen in Belgium – that’s a big race – and he won the Wolder criterium in Holland. In France, Peter was King of the Mountains in the Tour de Gironde and Ronde de L’Oise. All of the guys benefited from the experience; back in Australia they work or are studying – this is the first experience of being full time bike riders for most of them. The level in Europe is just so much higher; apart from the Tour Down Under and Herald Sun Tour there just aren’t races to compare to Europe back in Australia.
Drapac’s Gene Bates pulled in a fantastic 3rd place at the UCI 1.1 Halle-Ingooigem.
PEZ: You went back for the Tour of Gippsland in Australia.
Jonathan: Yes, but unfortunately we were up against Leigh Howard and Jack Bobridge – that’s a hard combination to beat! But we got tenth on GC, which was good result for us. Gippsland is the start of the National Series in Australia, next up is the Tour of Geelong.
PEZ: What’s next for the squad?
Jonathan: After Geelong we have the Tours of Hokaido and New Caledonia then at the end of August it’s the Tour of Tasmania which is the lead in race for the Herald Sun Tour. It’s a pretty cosmopolitan programme – Europe, Australia, Asia.
Drapac-Porsche has been successful in moving riders to the highest levels as well – former Drapac rider Mitch Docker moved to Skil-Shimano for 2009.
PEZ: And 2010?
Jonathan: We’re still planning, it depends on the sponsors!
A familiar sentence; with thanks to Jonathan for his time and wishing Drapac Porsche every success for the future.
Check out the Drapac Porsche Cycling website HERE!
The Drapac Cycling Philosophy is well worth a read. On the Drapac site, click on About Us, then Philosophy.