Basque squad bids farewell after two decades in peloton
Euskaltel-Euskadi has confirmed that it will not continue in 2014 due to its failure to secure a second sponsor. Riders and staff were informed of the news at a meeting on Monday and on Tuesday morning Basque Cycling Pro Team, the management company behind the squad, released a statement confirming that the team will cease operations at the end of the season.
“The arrival of a second sponsor, essential to ensuring the sustainability of the cycling team, has not taken place, which makes the continuation of the team in 2014 unfeasible,” read the statement. “From this moment, Euskaltel will begin an orderly winding down of the project, including the immediate negotiation of the release papers of the team members.”
The team has been in existence since 1994, when it was established as a project named Euskadi and funded purely by the subscriptions of local fans. Telecommunications company Euskaltel came on board in 1997, and the Basque squad has been a constant presence in the UCI WorldTour.
“Today is a sad day for Euskaltel, for the team, for the current sponsors and for all of those who have supported the project. We regret that no company has opted to back this team, the doyen of the world cycling elite,” read the statement.
The collapse of the team is linked in part to austerity cuts in the Basque Country. In January of this year, Euskaltel had promised to continue backing the team for a further four years but when the €3.5 million promised by Basque public institutions as part of the €9 million annual budget failed to materialise, Euskaltel had to meet the shortfall for 2013 by doubling its original annual investment.
The telecommunications company made known earlier in the summer that such a situation was not sustainable into 2014 but the search for a co-sponsor has proved fruitless, with recent speculation linking the team to Russian magnate Oleg Tinkov proving to be just that.
“During these months we have worked actively to maintain multiple contacts with companies to try to ensure the survival of the team into the future, exhausting all possibilities of negotiation,” read the Euskaltel-Euskadi statement.
After the Euskadi Foundation and the team went their separate ways ahead of this season, a 19-year self-imposed condition that all riders were either Basque or had spent their amateur career in Basque cycling teams disappeared, and a number of foreign riders were signed up by the team as it looked to secure its continued status as a WorldTour team.
Fourteen Euskaltel-Euskadi riders – Samuel Sanchez, Mikel Nieve, Igor Antón, Mikel Landa, Ion Izaguirre, Romain Sicard, Egoi Martínez, Gorka Verdugo, Juan Lobato, Garikoitz Bravo, Jon Aberasturi, Pello Bilbao, Ruben Perez and Miguel Minguez – hold contracts for 2014 and it is understood that Euskaltel will be asked to respect their deals if they cannot secure new teams for next season.
Sanchez, Nieve and Antón will lead the squad in its final Vuelta a España, which gets underway in Galicia on Saturday.
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