By Monika Prell
The UCI track world cup in Moscow this weekend will feature not only the Spanish national team, but also a delegation from the Basque Country. Team Cespa-Eustrak will represent the region in the north of Spain for the second time after its participation in Sydney.
The squad is the result of hard work. Twenty years ago, in 1985, Néstor Lejarreta founded the team "Velodrome of Berriz". The outfit had no idea about track cycling, and the first steps were to learn about it, to find the cyclists and also form the technical staff. "It was a time of investigation and learning", commented Daniel Larruskain, one of the founders of the team, to the Basque newspaper Gara.
In the 90s, they joined the Basque Cycling Federation. Together with the new-comer Raúl Mena, Lejarreta and Larruskain worked hard and in 2001 they signed a contract with the Center of Technical Perfection (CPT) of Fadura. The Spanish national track championship of 2001 started the success of the Basque selection, as they won the league four times.
The next step would have been arriving at the international level, but inside of the Spanish selection the number of participants was limited. Doors were opened in 2004, when the UCI changed the rules and allowed the creation of professional teams, that are allowed - in addition to the national teams - to participate in all international competitions, except the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
The sponsorship contract with Cepsa, signed on December 12, lasts only for one year, but the project will go on longer than that. The objective for the three cyclists of the team, Leire Olaberría (individual pursuit, scratch and points race), Unai Elorriaga (points race and madison) and Aitor Alonso (scratch and madison), are the Olympic Games of Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. The team will always have only a small number of cyclists as only one can participate in each discipline of the World Cup. The Basque Asier Maeztu, another possible candidate for the team, preferred joining the national team to participate in the Olympics.
The qualities of the three cyclists forming Cespa Eustrak are very different. 28 year-old Leire Olaberría is the biggest female Basque hope, while Unai Elorriaga (27) specialized not only in track cycling, also riding on the road for Spanish Elite 2 Team Alfus Tedes. 26 year-old Aitor Alonso is the "eternal hope", who hopes to find continuity on his very high level and still looks for the opportunity to show his talent.
The next steps will be the formation of a team that combines road and track racing and the creation of the "Eustrak Foundation", which will incorporate all the people who have been with the team from the beginning.