After receiving a last-minute invite to the Drapac Professional Cycling team launch, I made my way down to Solitaire Jaguar feeling very nervous.
I was met at the door with a lovely cold beer and some delicious food, which was an excellent start. There was a real buzz in the air and you could feel a genuine excitement from the crowd.
The event was hosted by Matt Keenan and as usual he spoke very well – he’s a great ad-libber.
He introduced the members of the team, which consists of: Graeme Brown, William Clarke, Dylan Girdlestone, Robbie Hucker, Brenton Jones, Jordan Kerby, Martin Kohler, Peter Koning, Darren Lapthorne, Travis Meyer, Lachlan Norris, Cameron Peterson, Adam Phelan, Timothy Roe, Malcolm Rudolph, Samuel Spokes, Bernard Sulzberger and Wouter Wippert.
The team is mostly Australian, with one South African, a Swiss and two Dutch riders.
The directeur sportif for Drapac, Tom Southam, spoke about returning to the team where he rode back in 2007, and how he felt it was a great place to be due to its philosophy. With respect to the 2015 Tour Down Under, Southam made the observation that 2014 was about “lighting up the race”, but this year they are looking at stage wins and a high place in general classification.
Travis Meyer was interviewed by Matt Keenan and spoke about his return from injury and indicated that he is up for a crack at the GC this year. For the year ahead the team is targeting the Asian Tour but also North American races such as the Tours of California, Gila, Utah and Alberta.
Mark Blewett from Swift Carbon talked about his partnership with Drapac and how a South African company has a similar thinking and way of life as a Australian company like the Drapac Group. He made mention that both Swift Carbon and the Drapac group were southern hemisphere companies both trying to compete in traditional markets. He also managed to the compare the handling of his sub-five-kilo bike to a temperamental “supermodel”.
The most interesting of the speakers was certainly Michael Drapac. He spoke of the reflection he made after Wouter Wippert achieved third place in the Peoples Choice Classic as a segue into his explanation of his philosophy behind the team. Sustainable and enduring success is what he would see as the basis of Drapac Pro Cycling, and that enduring memories and the journey is as important as results.
He went on to talk about ethics in cycling teams and that an effective transition program for riders to move from riding to post-racing is a foundation of his team, and a new project by Tom Palmer will demonstrate the team’s transition program. Michael mentioned that all riders in the team must be studying. He made comment that he believes a transition program should be compulsory for all professional teams.
The message I took away was something important to me as a educator: “just because you didn’t win, doesn’t make you a loser”.
Michael spoke fondly of his riders and staff, alluding to some nicknames: ‘The Colonel’, ‘The Sergeant-Major’ and ‘The Colt’. In conversation with Michael Drapac you could feel his genuine warmth and affection for the team.
Talking to the riders, they also seem to share the positive vibe. Tim Roe said he feels he is in a really good place and is ready to push for GC in some big races in the USA, like the Tour of California.
Will Clarke was happy with his 2015 race program, which is similar to the program of last year with a focus on the Asian Tour. He said he “likes races with prologues”.
Thanks to Kelly Reed and the team at Drapac Professional cycling. I was so impressed by the hospitality that I changed my twitter name.
Follow Robin on twitter @DrapacFans