Cannondale-Drapac will continue racing in 2018 and beyond after confirming that EF Education First is to become its main sponsor.
The news comes a fortnight after team owner Slipstream Sports released all riders and staff from their contracts after a previously planned sponsorship deal with Unibet fell through, leaving the team with a $7 million shortfall in its budget.
EF, which is privately owned and based in Lucerne-Switzerland, will also take a majority stake in Slipstream Sports whose CEO, Jonathan Vaughters, said that the support shown by fans who raised more than $500,000 in a crowdfunding drive had been crucial in securing the new backing.
“This partnership would not have come off without the fan support,” he said. “That groundswell showed a level of engagement that enticed potential sponsors to step forward.
“The world we live in is all about engagement. It’s not about pure numbers. It’s about ‘are you really reaching your audience?’ and our crowdfunding proved that our fans are engaged — engaged all the way into their wallets.
“That’s incredibly special and humbling. That demonstrated to the world that this team is an entity that people love and support. We could not have gotten this deal had our fans not mobilised the way they did.”
Edward Hult, CEO North America at EF Education First commented: “We are honoured to begin working alongside Slipstream Sports, Cannondale, Drapac, and all of the wonderful partners at Slipstream Sports to keep our cyclists riding into 2018 and for years to come.
“We were inspired to step in and become the team’s title partner, and will become majority partner, after learning about the #SaveArgyle campaign and witnessing the incredible outpouring of support from fans around the world.
“We have been moved by the powerful way that cycling unites people of diverse backgrounds in a peaceful, fun, and friendly way to achieve extraordinary athletic feats,” he added.
“It aligns perfectly with EF’s mission of opening the world through education and our commitment to bringing different cultures together.”
From next season, the UCI WorldTour outfit will be renamed Team EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale.
Vaughters said: “I’m incredibly happy and also exhausted.
“These last two weeks, I’ve put in more hours working than I ever have and fewer hours sleeping – that’s telephone calls, meetings, flying here and there. I’ve been holed up in a hotel all week in New York. I’m exhausted but I’m also so happy and so proud.
“I’m proud of how the organisation held it together through all this – the riders, staff, sponsors, fans,” he added. “Every single minute I’ve worked on this was so worthwhile.”
Tour de France runner-up Rigoberto Uran, who recently signed a new three-year contract, will remain with the team and Vaughters said: “We didn’t lose any more riders than most teams lose in a normal transfer season.
“While I’m not in a position to comment on the full make-up of our squad for 2018, I’m excited to share plenty of contract news in the coming weeks.
Regarding the crowdfunding campaign, he said: “Given the feedback we’ve received from our backers, we will be using this money in 2018.
“We’re exploring several different options as to where these funds can best be used to bolster our efforts next season, as well as funding post-career rider education, and we look forward to communicating this with everyone when decisions have been finalised.”
Meanwhile, the campaign remains live on Indiegogo, with Vaughters explaining: “While our needs have changed with EF coming aboard, this campaign offers #GreenArgle fans the opportunity to support this team.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.