All 17 riders that make up the squad took to the Mercury Cinema stage as the unique philosophy of Drapac Professional Cycling was brought to life in front of media and invited guests including South Australian Minister for Tourism Recreation and Sport, Hon. Leon Bignell, MP.
Team Principal and highly successful property mogul Michael Drapac spoke emotionally of the importance of developing athletes outside their sport, and how “every worthy business has a social responsibility agenda.”
Drapac began his journey with the team a decade ago and in the time since has focused on giving athletes the awareness, skills and support to be great citizens not just within sport but within the wider community.
Drawing on the ideals of the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency, Drapac explained that the team wasn’t “reinventing the wheel”, instead reinforcing what these sporting luminaries were stating at a time when change is required in cycling like never before.
“There comes a point in time in an athlete’s career when they must transition and re-integrate back into the world.
“Everyone in sport has a duty, a responsibility, to ensure that that difficult process and it is a difficult process – ask any athlete that’s been through it – that it’s as painless as possible. We need to invest the resources, the time, and the real heart and soul into assisting those athletes otherwise we’ve just exploited them.”
On Tuesday, Drapac Professional Cycling will make its UCI WorldTour debut at the Santos Tour Down Under. From the car, Directeur Sportif Henk Vogels will lead the team on the road. Vogels said that fans could expect much the same racing attitude that won so many hearts a week ago at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships.
“You’re going to see a lot of red and white and I’m not talking about Katusha, either,” Vogels told MC Matthew Keenan.
One of the team’s longest-serving members, 2007 Australian Road Champion Darren Lapthorne said there was a good feeling within the squad about competing in the six stage race.
“I’m amazed here,” he said. “It feels like the WorldTour has really invited us to this race… We feel welcome here. We feel worthy for this race and all the races to come.”
New recruit for the 2014 season, Jonathan Cantwell who is overseeing bike partner SwiftCarbon’s operations in Australia said that he was “really grateful that the opportunity [to race with Drapac] came my way.” Cantwell exemplifies the model of preparing himself for life beyond a sporting career.
“When I see the guys out in their kit with the SwiftCarbon on their shoulders and riding down Mt. Hotham at 90km/h, it’s really satisfying and I feel really privileged to be in the position that I’m in,” Cantwell said.
The Santos Tour Down Under begins Tuesday with a 135km stage between Nuriootpa and Angaston.
Team owner Michael Drapac addresses the crowd