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Euskaltel-Euskadi's Miguel Madariaga, left, and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano at the 2008 Tour de France.
Stable backing for Basque squad as it takes on foreign riders
Euskaltel-Euskadi's application for a UCI WorldTour licence is based on a solid financial backing and a change in the Basque squad's hiring philosophy. Euskaltel, a telephony company, has assured the team of their sponsorship throughout the next four years and a total of almost 40 million Euros, according to Biciciclismo. The team's immediate goal is to remain on WorldTour level and contract new riders - even from outside the Basque Country - to that effect.
The news that Euskaltel-Euskadi changed its hiring philosophy came a few weeks ago when Amets Txurruka, one of the squad's domestiques, was let go because he had no WorldTour points. Txurruka was critical of this new stance, as Euskaltel had been a purely Basque team for the last 19 years of its existence. Team manager Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano opened up the outfit to foreign riders in order to prevent the team from downgrading to Professional Continental status.
According to Gonzalez de Galdeano, if the team does not continue on the highest level, "it will disappear." The team manager does not want to rely on wildcard invitations to the world's greatest races, and insisted that "we will value Basque riders first and foremost, the team's leaders will be Basque. The foreign riders we will take on will serve to fill up the team's deficits."
Regarding the squad's 2013 WorldTour licence, Euskaltel would seem to be in direct rivalry with Ag2r-La Mondiale, Argos-Shimano and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. As it stands, the Basque team reportedly has 401 points on the UCI points ranking, against 440 for Saxo Bank, 619 for Argos and 644 for AG2R. These figures, however, are inofficial and do not take into account recent rider signings that have been kept secret for obvious reasons. One of the four teams is likely not to make the cut.
According to Biciciclismo, Euskaltel will keep 18 riders of its 2012 roster, namely: Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón, Mikel Nieve, los hermanos Ion y Gorka Izagirre, Mikel Landa, Romain Sicard, Egoi Martínez, Pello Bilbao, Gorka Verdugo, Pablo Urtasun, Mikel Astarloza, Juanjo Oroz, Miguel Mínguez, Rubén Pérez, Jorge Azanza, Ricardo García and Adrián Sáez de Arregi.
There will be ten new arrivals, of which three have been made official: Gari Bravo (Caja Rural), Jon Aberasturi (Orbea) and Ricardo Mestre (Carmin-Prio). "In principle, the team will be classified in the top 18 of the points ranking, and it could even enter the top 15," Biciciclismo stated.
Four riders have been released: Alan Pérez, Amets Txurruka, Iván Velasco, and Pierre Cazaux.