THE PHONE CALL came in on August 25, early in the morning. Jonathan Vaughters picked it up, listened for a few minutes, and was sure his team was dead.
Vaughters and Slipstream Sports, the management company behind Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling, had been on the sponsorship prowl for a year. They were already looking, really. Since 2010 the team endured two mergers and added or changed title sponsors five more times (Garmin, Garmin-Transitions, Garmin-Sharp, Garmin-Barracuda, Cannondale). Slipstream kept moving, grasping onto whatever funding it could find because cycling's sponsorship model punishes idleness with death.
"We're cockroaches in a nuclear apocalypse," Vaughters says.
Despite the near-constant financial flux, never before August 25 had the team been so close to collapse. That fateful, early-morning call came from a sponsor the team had courted for months. At the eleventh hour, it pulled the plug. The deal was off. Vaughters has declined to name the company.
Slipstream suddenly needed $7 million to simply meet the UCI's financial requirements for a WorldTour team. It had just weeks to find it.