Drapac Professional Cycling is excited to announce that current team members Floris Goesinnen, Robbie Hucker, Darren Lapthorne, Tom Palmer, Malcolm Rudolph and Bernard Sulzberger will continue to ride in red and white.
“We are excited to be able to be taking this step forward as a team and this is credit to all the hard work of the riders and staff of the last couple of years. It is great that we will have so many familiar faces for 2014 and I look forward to seeing them take full advantage of the opportunities ahead."
The move follows Wednesday's news that the team, which is currently in the midst of the application process to upgrade to UCI Professional Continental status for next season, has signed Jack Anderson, Jonathan Cantwell, Jai Crawford, Ben Johnson, Jordan Kerby, Lachlan Norris and Wouter Wippert.
The longest-serving member of the current squad, having begun his career with Drapac's track development program in 2007, Tom Palmer, said that he was buoyed to be a part of the team's new era.
"From what I can tell it is rare if not unique in the whole sport for a rider to be able to progress from junior to professional without changing team," the most-recent winner of the Tour of Murray River said. "I have been fortunate that my progression has timed so well with the teams. Drapac has offered me a stable and supportive environment to literally 'grow up' in as a bike rider and a person. I was blown away by [Team Principle] Michael [Drapac] and his staff's approach as a 16-year-old and now at 23, there's nowhere I'd rather be."
Palmer can boast of four stage victories in four years at the Tour of Okinawa in Japan, two stage wins at the New Zealand Cycle Classic and is a three-time gold medalist from his days on the track at the Junior World Championships.
Asked to pick a highlight from the last seven years in the saddle for Drapac, Canberra-based Palmer found it difficult to pinpoint one specific moment.
"It is hard to pick a highlight because my time with Drapac has been my whole adult life!" he explained. "I honestly can't pick one, but high-fiving Ago [Directeur Sportif Agostino Giramondo] after a victory is always a highlight. Returning from year-long illness, racing 260km on my first day back and seeing my good friend Floris win the Melbourne - Warrnambool is right up there. Watching Pete McDonald's nationals win at my first Australian Road Championships when I was in the Under-23s was a life-changing experience. Riding for Bernie to win Taiwan was also an extremely satisfying event for me."
Dutchman Floris Goesinnen has been with Drapac since joining from the Skil-Shimano outfit in 2011, excited to return to the Professional Continental ranks. The 29-year-old took the double in 2012, standing alone over the tough weekend in October winning the Melbourne – Warrnambool and Shipwreck Coast Classic. He followed that performance up by finishing second overall at the Tour of Taihu in China.
Another long-term member of the squad Darren Lapthorne, 30, said that it was a “special feeling" to be a part of the new era for the team.
“I'm really excited about it," he explained. “I'm really happy for Michael Drapac as well because I know he has wanted to do this for a while now."
Australian Road Champion in 2007, Lapthorne can also boast wins at the Tour de Beauce, Launceston to New Norfolk, Tour de Hokkaido, and the Cologne Classic to name but a few and in 2014, there's a number of targets already on his to-do list.
“I'd love to make a return to the Tour de Langkawi, I really love that race," he said having twice finished on the podium in stages and worn the leader’s jersey for a day. “That’s definitely a goal. I'm also looking forward to racing in America, especially towards the end of the season. That should be a great block of racing and it should really suit our team. For me personally, it should suit my type of racing as well. There’s some quite hilly parcours and I'm looking forward to it."
Lapthorne believes that the amount of riders continuing on from the established group in 2014 is testimony to the dynamic team environment.
“It’s a sign that we're all really happy here at Drapac,” he explained. “No one wants to leave this team. There’s a core group of us and we all want to be a part of next year and it shows that this team works."
Young-gun Robbie Hucker has shown a lot of promise in this, his second season with Drapac. Thirteenth overall at the Tour de Taiwan, and 10th overall at the Tour of Japan, the 23-year-old also narrowly missed out on the podium at the OCBC Singapore Criterium finishing fourth and has been a consistent performer for the team in Asia. Hucker has also claimed three podiums this year in Australia – at the Baw Baw Classic, stage 5 at the Battle on the Border, and most-recently in the third stage of the Tour of Tasmania. Hucker is also a former Australian Under-23 XC MTB Champion.
Rudolph will head into his third season with Drapac in 2014, a graduate of the Australian development program, Jayco-Skins. Winner of the 2009 Grafton-Inverell, the Queensland-native showed he has a taste for the tougher races by finishing third at the one-day classic in 2012. Versatile, Rudolph won the Charles Coin Memorial Road Race in August, and has also stepped onto the podium on two other occasions this season, at the Tour of Toowoomba and New Zealand Cycle Classic.
Sulzberger has certainly found his feet with the team having linked with Drapac at the start of this season. Reaching the Professional Continental ranks has come agonisingly close for the 31-year-old on a number of occasions and Drapac's planned elevated status in 2014 comes as somewhat of a relief for the Tour de Taiwan winner.
“I've been knocking on the door to step up to a Pro Continental team for a little while," he said. “I'm just happy that I’ve had a decent start to the year with that win in Taiwan and secured my spot to re-sign with the team. I'm pretty happy where I am this year. It’s been really good compared to last year in the UK, being home and close to the family as well, it’s been a much better experience."