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Don’t call it a merger. Call it a marriage.
That’s what Jonathan Vaughters said in announcing the new relationship between Cannondale, the American bike manufacturer, and Slipstream Sports, the American sports management group behind the Garmin-Sharp UCI ProTeam.
With Brixia Sport, the Italian management group behind the current Cannondale team, closing up shop at the end of the season, the American bike manufacturer is shifting its equipment sponsorship into Slipstream Sports, which was seeking a title sponsor to replace Garmin, its title sponsor since 2008.
Earlier this year, Cervélo, Garmin’s bike sponsor since the merger of Garmin and Cervélo TestTeam in late 2010, announced it would be sponsoring MTN-Qhubeka in 2015, lending credence to the rumors that Slipstream Sports’ riders would be riding Cannondale bikes in 2015.
Cannondale will back the team through 2017.
“Technically, it’s not a merger,” Vaughters said. “It’s still Slipstream Sports, LLC, as the owner and management of the team. Cannondale becomes a large shareholder. Slipstream chairman Doug Ellis remains the primary shareholder.”
In addition to the obvious bike sponsorship, Cannondale brings eight riders under contract, as well as potential staff members — directors, soigneurs, mechanics — that may or may not find a home into the Slipstream organization.
“For the riders under contract with the current Cannondale team, we will offer all eight of them contracts under the terms they had in place,” Vaughters said. “It’s undetermined at this point which will accept, and which might not. As far as our riders go, we have 14 riders under contract for next year, and they all will be honored. Anyone who had a contract in this scenario will be honored. There is nobody who has a 2015 contract that we are shuffling off to the side.”
Among those eight riders are 2012 Tour of Poland winner Moreno Moser, 2013 under-23 world champion Matej Mohoric, Kristijan Koren, Alan Marangoni, and Elia Viviani.
One rider contracted with Cannondale, Davide Formolo, has already signed a Slipstream contract. Formolo, 21, was second to Vincenzo Nibali at the Italian national road championship in June, and seventh overall at the Tour de Suisse.
Vaughters said that Slipstream Sports’ policy is that the team does not sign any contracts until management has reviewed a rider’s entire UCI blood profile, adding that it has not yet gotten to that point among many of the eight riders coming over from the Italian team.
Vaughters said the eight riders would have until the UCI’s WorldTour registration date of October 15 to decide, though he doubted it would take that long.
Among the 14 riders who have contracts with Slipstream Sports for 2015 are Andrew Talansky, Daniel Martin, Ryder Hesjedal, Tom Danielson, Ben King, Nathan Haas, Sebastian Langeveld, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Nick Nuyens, Nate Brown, André Cardoso, Norman Hansen Lasse, Ramunas Navardauskas, and Dylan Van Baarle.
“On the whole the riders [that may be] coming over are a very young, super young bunch,” Vaughters said. “Many are first-year pros, but they are an unbelievably talented bunch of young riders.
“In terms of our overall objectives, it will still be Sebastian Langeveld for the classics, Andrew Talansky for the grand tours, Dan Martin for the Ardennes, with Ryder Hesjedal kicking around in there. We will be a team with a lot of young talent. In addition now we have an incredible crop of talent including Formolo who can already lead the team in weeklong stage races and will apprentice to Hesdjal in the 2015 Giro. There’s also Moreno Moser who’s already capable of winning WorldTour races as shown by his win in the 2012 Tour of Poland, and his third-place on Alpe d’Huez in the 2013 the Tour de France.”
Should all eight riders move over to Slipstream Sports, Vaughters said there would remain five spots available to fill the team’s roster of 27 riders.
American riders still seeking contracts for 2015 include Cannondale rider Ted King and Garmin’s Phil Gaimon.
“Eight guys have been extended offers, but they might decide they would rather go ride for another team. They’re not obliged to ride with us, but we hope they will” Vaughters said. “Until all of that becomes apparent, we don’t know our final 2015 roster.
“Cannondale will be a title sponsor, no matter what” he said. “As of today, the name of the team is Team Cannondale. There is the possibility of another brand moving into the first name, or second name, of the team’s title. Either way, the budget is secure and similar to our 2014 budget. But as of August 18, it’s Team Cannondale for 2105. We are still looking for a co-title on either end of that in order to reinforce our program in the years to come. But we’re very fortunate to have a great partner in Cannondale for the next three years, and the security that comes with that.
“Garmin will still be involved, on a very large scale. As of now, Garmin won’t be a title sponsor, but that is still an ongoing discussion. Garmin does have a contract with Slipstream Sports, and I think Garmin will be in the sport for a long time.”
Vaughters, who recently graduated from the University of Denver with an MBA, said that he never thought he’d be using lessons learned from a mergers and acquisitions course so soon after graduation.
“This is one of the most complex deals to be put together in pro cycling,” Vaughters said. “It entails a sponsorship component, and also a team ownership component. Cannondale receives two seats on Slipstream Sports’ board of directors. It’s a real marriage, and that’s been interesting from a business perspective. This deal is much more complex than just ‘give us this and we’ll put your logo on our jersey.’ There are some very interesting added business elements.”
Vaughters said that he didn’t know who would fill those board seats, but imagined that one would likely be taken by Cannondale CEO Peter Woods, and the other might be occupied by global brand manager Bob Burbank, stressing that it was yet to be determined.
“Cannondale is excited to team up with Slipstream to create the next evolution of Cannondale Pro Cycling with the most progressive and innovative team in the peloton,” said Woods.
Vaughters also emphasized that the team will remain American-registered, English speaking, and based in Girona, Spain.
“There is nothing changing about that, the management and direction of the team will be conducted in English,” he said. “Although the majority of our staffing will be similar, we’re always looking for new and qualified staff members, and in our recruiting for 2015 staff, people from the Cannondale team will be given priority.”
As for the team’s color scheme — Cannondale has used a lime green in line with its former title sponsor, Liquigas, while Slipstream Sports has utilized a blue-and-white argyle theme for years — Vaughters said that lime green and argyle will, well, merge.
“We’re leaving the possibility open that someone comes in as a first-name title sponsor,” he said. “But as of today, it’s going to be green argyle for next year.”