Cardoso to lead bigger budget Caja Rural

Sponsorship for Spanish Pro Continental team confirmed until 2014

Already boosted by a significant increase in its budget for 2012, the Spanish Professional Continental-ranked Caja Rural team has significantly strengthened its roster with the signing of Manuel Cardoso from RadioShack. The 28-year-old Portuguese sprinter, winner of a stage at the Volta a Catalunya in March, is set to lead the Spanish team next year, when their principal goal will be securing an invitation to the Vuelta a España.

“While it’s true that all riders want to race at the top level, in the ProTour, Caja Rural showed more interest in me than any other team and since my first contact with them I felt very comfortable about the situation. That’s why I’m happy to be part of the team of 2012,” said Cardoso, who spent the 2010 season in the ProTour with Footon-Servetto before moving to RadioShack.

“Caja Rural will have a good calendar and I think they will have many more opportunities than they had this year, and I hope to be able to add something important to the set-up,” said Cardoso, who has won 36 races as a pro and ridden all three grand tours.

New team manager Mikel Azparren has also confirmed that Caja Rural have committed themselves to backing the team until the end of 2014. Speaking to Spanish paper Meta2Mil, Azparren revealed that the team’s budget is set to rise to two million euros next season, allowing him to boost both the riding talent on the team as well as the logistical support.

Azparren made clear that the team’s principal goal in the coming year would be to do enough to secure a wild card invite to the Vuelta a España. Race director Javier Guillén received a good deal of criticism earlier this year when he decided not to offer Caja Rural a place in the 2011 Vuelta, but Guillén also indicated he is keen to consider the squad for selection in future seasons.

“It’s clear that riding the Vuelta is a basic thing for us, but I can’t demand anything from [race organisers] Unipublic,” said Azparren. “All I can do is show Unipublic what we can offer and demonstrate the solidity of our sponsor, which has committed to backing us for another three years until at least 2014 and we know that if we work well… I am sure that this project is going to last for a lot more years.”

Azparren described new signing Cardoso as “the rider we’re going to be counting on. He’s managed to win on the ProTour in each of the last two years and we’re hoping that that run will continue with us. We don’t have a lot of lead-out men but we are going to support him in every way we can because he’s going to be the guy who gives us a presence in bunch sprints.”

Cardoso will receive support from former Euskaltel sprinter Aitor Galdos. The team is also looking at recruiting another fast finisher to be part of Cardoso’s lead-out train, and have indicated that they have found the rider they are looking for on an Italian amateur team.

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