Drapac prepares riders for life after professional cycling
Michael Drapac will watch this year’s Tour Down Under as a cycling fan, rather than a team owner.
The Education First — Drapac p/b Cannondale team that finished sixth in last year’s TDU will race in this year’s event, which starts in Adelaide on Tuesday, as Education First after Drapac sold his share.
Drapac, an avid cyclist who first put a team together in 2003, has opted to instead focus his attention and money on the third-tier Continental Tour through his DrapacCannondale Holistic Development Team.
“We sold Education First our substantial interest and I think the more we got to know each other, the more we recognised we were going in one direction and they were more interested in another direction,” Drapac says.
“I think with Education First being such a big company … ultimately they wanted to control the ship themselves, but it was a friendly parting of ways.
“I was more interested in focusing on wellbeing, not that they’re not, but when you’re funding a big team your primary concern must always be to win races.
“As I’ve become more and more involved with the sport, I really enjoy the grassroots more than anything else and my ongoing involvement in the sport will be more and more in grassroots.”
It’s at the grassroots level where Drapac believes he can best influence young athletes and help set them up for life after cycling.
He has long been a vocal critic of professional sporting bodies’ lack of action in this regard, including cycling’s overarching Union Cycliste Internationale.
“Most sports are giving lip service to the problem,” Drapac says. “I think we entice, almost coerce in some ways, young men and sell them the dream of becoming a full-time bike rider when they’re 17 or 18.
“Invariably they’ll always go back to being ‘normal’ people, but very often they don’t have the skills or foundations to REED be able to do that year well.”
Drapac cites examples of athletes going bankrupt soon after they retire, experiencing drug or alcohol addiction, or, at worst, committing suicide.
“One of the problems with sport in Australia is that success is only measured by the number of medals someone has around their neck,” he says.
“That doesn’t happen in the real world. For the most successful company, there’s more metrics than how much money it made: were they socially responsible and ethical, for example.”
To be on Drapac’s development team, riders must be enrolled in a university or a recognised educational facility.
Will Clarke riding for Drapac last