Cannondale-Drapac retains Rolland, Urán, other top riders

Despite two weeks of uncertainty in the midst of transfer season, Cannondale-Drapac's top riders are staying on the team for 2018.

Despite Cannondale-Drapac’s two-week period of financial uncertainty, smack in the middle of the transfer season, the team appears set to hold onto most of its biggest names for 2018. Rigoberto Urán, Sep Vanmarcke, Pierre Rolland, Dylan van Baarle, and Mike Woods will all stick around, according to sources within the team.

Many of the team’s most desirable riders were linked to other programs as Cannondale-Drapac teetered on the edge of collapse last month. All were released from 2018 contracts as soon as the funding gap was announced. Most immediately set about the task of securing a backup plan.

Rolland was rumored to return to French team Direct Energie. Urán was tied to Astana, though the Tour de France runner-up promised to give the team two weeks to find new funds. Van Baarle had made up his decision to leave, according to a Cyclingnews report. Vanmarcke claimed he couldn’t afford to wait for team CEO Jonathan Vaughters to find new funds.

Multiple sources within the Slipstream organization, including Vaughters, confirmed to VeloNews Sunday that all five riders will remain with the team as it becomes EF Education First–Drapac next year.

On Monday, Vanmarcke, Urán, and team staff, flew from Montreal to Boston to meet the team’s new sponsor, EF Education First.

Though the team has kept many of its biggest names, the usual merry-go-round of rider transfers and retirements persists. Cannondale is losing Tom-Jelte Slagter to Dimension Data. Andrew Talansky announced his retirement from the sport. The team’s Italian contingent is mostly on its way out, too. Vuelta a España king of the mountains Davide Villella is heading to Astana. Alberto Bettiol will ride for BMC, and young talent Davide Formolo is off to Bora-Hansgrohe.

That leaves a gaping hole in Cannondale’s roster, even with many of its top riders staying put. The team would not comment on how it plans to fill out its roster.

The team budget, historically one of the smallest in the WorldTour, is not set to increase dramatically in 2018. “We had a bit of a hole to dig out of from 2017, when we were running the team pretty threadbare,” Vaughters said. “So if people are expecting us to go and buy Peter Sagan out of his contract, that’s not gonna happen.”

However, Vaughters expects budgets to increase in the years following. The EF deal is not a traditional sponsorship with a set end date. The international education company will step toward majority ownership of the Slipstream organization. Its goal is to gain majority ownership by the end of the current three-year deal.

That could mean a modest increase in funds, according to Vaughters. “We’re not going to suddenly be Sky,” he said, referring to the British outfit’s large budget. “But maybe we’ll be closer to the middle.”