Amid off-season sponsor tumult, EF Education First-Drapac saw 10 riders leave for other teams — the most of any 2018 WorldTour outfit — but the American team kept two familiar stars at the helm: classics ace Sep Vanmarcke and Tour de France podium finisher Rigoberto Urán.
“This is a totally different team but with the same anchor points,” said Slipstream Sports founder and CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “It’s a very different team than the one we had last season. It will be a different look and feel in many ways given the turnover we had with our sponsorship situation.”
As cycling’s spring season gets underway, the team will pin its hopes on Vanmarcke, a perennial factor in cobbled classics.
The Belgian won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2012 and scored podium results in Paris-Roubaix, Gent-Wevelgem, and Tour of Flanders over the years. Although he was third at Omloop last season, Vaughters says he was hamstrung by illness.
“Sep wasn’t healthy last year, and I’m eager to see what he can do at full strength in the spring,” Vaughters said.
While Vanmarcke, a new signing for 2017, fell short of expectations, the team’s other star, Urán, delighted teammates with a fairytale run at the Tour de France. He finished second overall with a stage win. Prior to that, the Colombian hadn’t reached a grand tour podium since the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
“Rigo [Urán] is uniquely suited to this Tour. It’s a dynamic parcours with so many different elements. Rigo is an adaptable, Darwinian rider, and we hope he can be very competitive,” said Vaughters, referring to the 2018 Tour route’s unusual blend of punchy, unpredictable stages.
To fill its vacant roster spots, EF hired nine new riders to bring the roster size up to 25. “Grand tours are only eight riders and other races are only seven, so we reduced our roster size accordingly,” added Vaughters.
Although the team’s size has shrunk by two riders (Andrew Talansky retired from cycling to race triathlon at the end of 2017), it will diversify its objectives with two new sprinters.
“There’s something new for us in Dan McLay and Sacha Modolo and the support crew we’ve built up around them,” Vaughters added. “For the first time, in a long time, we’ll be competitive in the sprints. I’m excited about that.”