While some ProTeams struggle to secure sponsorship funds, there are no such worries for Australia's Team UniSA with the announcement that the tertiary educator will continue its backing for the outfit for a further four years.
The team comes together once a year for Australia's sole UCI WorldTour event, the Tour Down Under, with Patrick Jonker now at the helm. Jonker rode for the team when he took out the 2004 event.
UniSA's Vice Chancellor, Professor Peter Høj says the University is proud to confirm its continued support of South Australia's major sporting event, the Santos Tour Down Under, signing on as naming rights sponsor of the national team for another four years.
"We are coming up to our 12th year of involvement with the Tour and are very pleased to continue to support this great South Australian event," Professor Høj said. "UniSA is committed to backing major South Australian events across the arts, education and sports, and to support both excellence and the opportunity for participation. We are also especially proud to provide an opportunity for young riders to showcase their talents on an international stage as part of the Australian team in the annual cycling event. The Tour Down Under promotes the wonderful place that is South Australia, but it is also about health, teamwork and community access to international excellence - values with which we strongly associate."
Team UniSA has a unique place in the sport, given that it provides both a stepping stone for young riders and a safety net for those with uncertain futures.
In 2011, Luke Roberts joined the team after he was left stranded following the demise of Pegasus. He rode to 10th overall and took home the mountains classification before resuscitating his career with Saxo Bank-SunGard.
For Jonker, it's a simple equation.
"If it wasn't for UniSA then what would Luke Roberts be doing now?" he mused with Cyclingnews following the sponsorship announcement. "He didn't have a contract at the start of the season. UniSA was a lifeline. UniSA is a team for the guys to fall back on if something goes wrong and for the young guys, it's a stepping stone."
Tim Roe (BMC) and Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Cervelo) both rode their way to the attention of the cycling world at the Tour Down Under, in 2010 and 2009 respectively with daring attacks through the Barossa Valley.
With Australia's top WorldTour veterans on the cusp of retirement in coming years, Jonker is confident that Team UniSA will be the way the likes of Stuart O'Grady, Robbie McEwen and Cadel Evans farewell cycling on home turf.
"In a couple of year's time we'll have all of them come through Team UniSA to say goodbye to the sport and it's the only way to say goodbye to the sport," he said. "So it's going to be a busy few years ahead. They'll be teaching the younger riders what to do and it really is a great concept."
As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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