Vaughters: Cannondale could compete with Sky if we had 70 per cent of their budget

The American team are looking for new avenues of investment to help them compete for the biggest wins in the future

Pierre Rolland riding for Cannondale-Drapac at the Giro d'Italia (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The Colorado based Cannondale-Drapac squad expect to be competitive with the other WorldTour teams during the Tour of California this week.

However, the team have struggled in the biggest European races recently, not having won a Tour de France stage since 2014 or a WorldTour race since Davide Formolo took stage 4 of the 2015 Giro d’Italia.

CEO Jonathan Vaughters says the team needs more than the $15 million per year budget they currently run on to win now against big budget teams like Team Sky and BMC Racing.

“We’ve got great backers with Drapac and Cannondale,” Vaughters said to the Wall Street Journal. “But if we want to make it to the next level, we need to find (additional sponsors) willing to see the vision of what this can be.”

Cannondale-Drapac’s best paid riders earn less than domestiques on teams like Sky and BMC.

It's become increasingly difficult for Cannondale to replicate past successes like Ryder Hesjedal's victory in the 2012 Giro d'Italia (Watson)

“We could win through creativity, and we proved that over and over again, with the Giro and Paris-Roubaix. But little by little, the highly-funded teams start taking the staff that have been crucial in your success,” Vaughters said.

Vaughters compares his approach to Michael Lewis’s best selling book, “Moneyball,” on how the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane competed with wealthier teams like the New York Yankees by finding diamonds in the rough.

“Billy Beane-type things kept us ahead of the curve, even with a small budget. But just like the A’s, eventually everyone figures out your shtick, and it comes down to raw horsepower and being able to buy the best athletes.”

Vaughters knows it's unrealistic to outspend the big money teams of the peloton, but he’s convinced that securing just 70 per cent of a top team’s budget would increase their competitiveness: “I’m 100 per cent confident that not only would we be competitive, but (we’d) outstrip them.”

Watch: Pro Chef Kitchen - Cannondale-Drapac

Securing long term sponsorships is no easy task, with teams regularly folding after one or two seasons at the sport’s top levels.

Doug Ellis, a New York investor who’s been involved with the team since the beginning, sometimes covers expense gaps personally and he’s open to considering atypical options.

“We’re obviously looking at the sponsorship model, because that’s the model the sport’s always has been in,” Ellis said, yet concurrently “we have an instinct that there is maybe a collection of brands, a conglomerate, movie studio, venture capital or private equity group who, year after year, would have different things they’d want to promote.”

Now finding those with deep enough pockets who want to take a risk on Cannondale-Drapac leaves Vaughters with a difficult task ahead, particularly if they want to stay relevant on the WorldTour in the years to come.

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