Pierre Cazaux will return to the amateur ranks in 2013 after Euskaltel-Euskadi opted not to renew the Frenchman’s contract due to his lack of WorldTour points. The Basque squad dispensed with its policy of signing only riders from or developed in the region in order to ensure its place in cycling's top flight next year.
Although Amets Txurruka and Ivan Velasco were among the riders released by Euskaltel-Euskadi at the end of the season, Cazaux was confident that he would be retained at the squad. In a situation sadly familiar to a number of other riders this winter, however, he eventually learned of his fate in the press.
“I often tried to call [Euskaltel-Euskadi directeur sportif] Alvaro Gonalez de Galdeano but he never replied to a single call,” Cazaux told Directovelo.com. “Everything had gone so well with the team that I didn’t have reason to worry. But finally, in mid-October, I discovered that I hadn’t been kept on. I found out the news in the press! I never had an explanation.”
After two seasons riding in the service of others at Euskaltel, Cazaux ended 2012 with no WorldTour points, which ultimately cost him his place on the team. “The leaders and management of the team were always happy with my work, and that’s why it’s enraging,” Cazaux said. “Without doubt, I didn’t score enough UCI points but only the leaders score them, not their teammates who work for them for 150km. The system needs to be revised.”
In a bid to retain its WorldTour status for 2013, Euskaltel-Euskadi unveiled ten new signings but Cazaux is unconvinced by the quality of the riders who were brought in to replace him, and questioned the validity of the current points system.
“Nieve finished 10th in the Vuelta last year, 10th in the Giro and 5th in the Tour de Suisse this year and he doesn’t have any more points than a guy who goes and wins small races in Asia,” Cazaux said. “If I found myself squeezed out by lads who were really at the level, I wouldn’t say anything, but the situation here is scandalous.”
Since its foundation in 1994, Euskaltel had signed only Basque riders such as Cazaux, or riders who raced as amateurs in the Basque Country, but that policy has gone by the wayside this winter, with riders from Slovenia, Germany, Portugal, Morocco and Russia joining the squad.
“Honestly, as a Basque, it hurts to see that. All the riders on the team share that sentiment, just like the supporters. Euskaltel-Euskadi has lost its soul, that’s for sure,” Cazaux said. “We would have been given wildcard invitations to a lot of WorldTour races in any case, so it would have been better to drop down to Pro Continental and keep our identity.”
In 2013, Cazaux will return to the amateur ranks in the colours of GSC Blagnac, a move that the 28-year-old would never have envisaged when he turned professional in 2008.
“I had always promised myself that I would never go back to the amateurs, no matter what happened. Eventually, Damien Branaa, who is a real friend and who has just left the pro scene as well, convinced me to do a year with him. I’m still young so why not try a season?”
Paradoxically, however, Cazaux is aware that a stint in the amateur ranks will do little to raise his value in a market where UCI points are the commodity of choice, but he said that he had little desire to chase points on other continental circuits in a bid to return to the WorldTour. “You’d need to be ready to drop everything, go to an Asian or African team and score a lot of points to came back go back to the pros in Europe the following year,” he said. “But I’m not 20 years old anymore. Now I have a house and a family, and I can’t allow myself that kind of adventure.”