Australian Continental team African Wildlife Safaris enjoyed its most successful season in 2015 as it finished third on the National Road Series (NRS) team standings, had the second ranked rider on the individual standings in Michael Schweizer, enjoyed a handful of stage wins and defended Sean Lake's Grafton to Inverell title.
In the days leading into the final race on the 2015 NRS calendar, the Grafton to Inverell, the team announced it would not be continuing into next season, unable to secure a new title sponsor for 2016. The team's unsuccessful search has become a familiar story in professional cycling with teams being forced to fold when a sponsor announces its withdrawal from the sport, something team co-founder, team manager and head sport director Steve Waite experienced personally last month.
"It is ironic coming off our most successful year, where we have influenced races, riders and hopefully the future of the sport in Australia, that we are facing a sponsorship issue for 2016. Success doesn’t always produce success in our sport, we see it so many times. So, surprised at not landing a new title sponsor, no, disappointed, very much so," Waite said of the situation.
Cyclingnews spoke to Waite about his time with the team, the joy of having Sean Lake become the first rider to win back-to-back Grafton to Inverell titles and what the future holds.
Cyclingnews: Can you describe the kind of sponsor you were looking for, i.e, bicycle company, commercial company, etc?
Steve Waite: We looked for companies that can gain value from the amazing community around cycling. The cycling fan demographic spread is really broad, filled with driven people, on the early adopter's side and typically with some level of disposable income. This makes it suitable for so many types of companies. We also looked for a shared passion for the sport and companies that could take advantage of the team delivering unique activation's as it raced all over the country (and possibly abroad).
CN: Can you describe what it felt like to finish off the season with Sean Lake's Grafton win in the team's last race?
The announcements over the coming months will be exciting and proud moments.
SW: The big wins were nice and I'll never get tired of that but it's the rider's development and bonds we have formed that doesn't necessarily get seen or reported that really fills your cup. I've worked with some amazing people over the life of the team and that's where the true highlights have been.