By Monika Prell
Euskaltel - Euskadi has signed the final rider that will make up its 2009 roster, with Sergio de Lis to join the squad next season. De Lis, who rode for the Orbea - Oreka S.D.A continental squad in 2008, will ride for the Basque squad for the next two seasons.
The squad signed the 22 years-old to fulfill the Union Cyclist International's (UCI) clause stating that ProTour teams must employ a minimum of 23 riders. The departure of Haimar Zubeldia left the squad with only 22 riders, following the retirement of Antton Luengo and Lander Aperribay and Dioni Galparsoro, Jon Bru and Beñat Albizuri not having their contracts renewed.
De Lis began his career with Alfus Tedes, where the Fundacion Euskadi (Basque Foundation) supported him, before he changed to Orbea Oreka S.D.A. in 2007. Having begun as a track rider, he is a strong rider and will fit perfectly the ideology of the team to build a strong block with riders that also have time trial skills.
"[It's an] enormous joy to form part of Euskaltel - Euskadi, a dream for every Basque rider," said de Lis. "They helped me when I rode for the team Alfus Tedes, then I went on progressing in Orbea - Oreka and now I have reached the highest level. For me it's an enormous gratification and now I am even keener on going on working. It is a possibility that I have to benefit at the maximum."
The team has only signed two other new riders for 2009. Mikel Nieve will join the squad also from Orbea - Oreka S.D.A while sprinter Pablo Urtasun will also ride for the outfit having spent the past two seasons with Portuguese team Liberty Seguros.