After making their Vuelta a España debut in 2018, Euskadi-Murias have designs on earning selection for the Tour de France in their second season at Pro Continental level in 2019. The Basque squad have applied for one of the four wildcard berths on offer at next year’s Grande Boucle.
For the past two seasons, ASO have awarded wildcard invitations to the same four teams – Cofidis, Direct Energie, Fortuneo-Samsic and Wanty-Groupe Gobert. Those four squads will once more be in the running in 2019, together with French Pro Continental outfit Vital Concept, who signed Pierre Rolland in a bid to bolster their prospects of selection.
Euskadi-Murias have lost Tour of Turkey winner Eduard Prades to Movistar for 2019, though they have signed Benat Intxausti from Team Sky, while Vuelta a España stage winner Oscar Rodriguez remains in place.
In an interview with AS, Euskadi-Murias manager Jon Odriozola explained that Francis Lafargue, formerly part of the management at Reynolds and Banesto, has served as a conduit between the team and ASO.
“Only a few months ago, people were saying that we wouldn’t get to the Vuelta, and here we are, showing that with humility and work, you can go a long way,” Odriozola said. “We do our talking in the races, which is where you have to do it. To that end, the results we have had and the help of Francis Lafargue have impressed the directors of the Tour.
“They know that support from the Basque Country is very important, especially in the stages in the Pyrenees.”
The old Euskaltel-Euskadi team rode the Tour on 13 successive occasions between 2001 and their final season in 2013. There are currently two separate Basque teams in the peloton bearing the Euskadi name, with Euskadi-Murias operating at Pro Continental level and Fondacion Euskadi racing as a Continental team.
Odriozola declared himself satisfied with the team’s performances in 2018, most notably Oscar Rodriguez’s victory atop La Camperona and Prades’ success in week-long stage races. “Not even the most optimistic person could have thought that we would win a stage of the Vuelta at La Camperona or the general classifications in Norway and Turkey,” he said.
Euskadi-Murias will begin their 2019 season at the Challenge Mallorca on January 31.