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Igor Anton (Euskaltel Euskadi) during the third stage of the Tour de Suisse
It's time to pick up the phone, says Euskaltel-Euskadi lynchpin
With Euskaltel-Euskadi’s hopes of continuing beyond the end of the season fading by the day, Igor Anton has acknowledged that it is “time to pick up the phone” and start looking for another team.
A shortfall in funding from Basque public institutions left Euskaltel to cover the deficit for 2014, but the telecommunications company will withdraw its backing altogether if another sponsor cannot be found. Although the search is ongoing, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s riders were told by management at the weekend that they are free to speak to other teams.
“They gave us the worst possible news, it’s all very difficult,” Anton told Marca. “They have allowed us to look for new teams because finding a new sponsor is complicated. You have to present part of the documentation to the UCI in September, so we have to resolve the sponsorship issue in August, when many businesses are close for holidays or moving slowly. The picture looks bad.”
The 30-year-old Anton is optimistic that he will remain a WorldTour rider in 2014 and Marca has linked him with a possible move to Lampre-Merida for next season.
“Up to now, it would have been too soon to move but it’s about time to pick up the telephone,” Anton said. “I hope to have some offers from some WorldTour teams. At WorldTour, they are practically all at a high level.”
A professional since 2005, Anton has spent his entire career at Euskaltel-Euskadi and claimed one of the team’s most significant victories in 2011, when he won the Vuelta a España’s first stage in the Basque Country in 33 years with a solo triumph in Bilbao. He acknowledged that riding for a foreign team would be a very different experience.
“On the positive side, I’m thinking of the excitement and motivation that would come with riding in another country, getting to know new teammates and other kinds of racing,” Anton said.
Anton and Euskaltel failed to make a telling impact at the Tour de France, but he is hopeful that the squad can at least sign off in a fitting manner at this year’s Vuelta, if this is indeed the end for the set-up.
“We’ll go there with a very strong team, with riders like Nieve and Astarloza,” said Anton, who will provide key support to Samuel Sanchez. “Samu will go in as our leader, and he knows what it’s like to get on the podium. With him, we can dream of the highest step.”