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Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
A potential budget cut may relegate Basque team to Pro Continental status
Miguel Madariaga, the president of the Fundación Euskadi that backs the Euskaltel team, has revealed that the team is a facing a significant budget cut that may force it to give up his ProTour status. Speaking to Basque paper El Correo, Madariaga revealed: "The team will continue [in 2011], but we don't have all the budget we need."
Euskaltel's budget for 2010 is approximately 5 million euros. However, 2011's commitments from Basque telecommunications company Euskaltel and the Fundación Euskadi are one million euros short of that figure. The team have yet to find a new backer to plug that gap.
"It would not be a trauma for the team to drop down a category," said Madariaga. "I'm not saying that we are going to leave the UCI ProTour. What I am saying is that the team is either going to continue on the right footing at that level or it will do so as a Pro Continental outfit."
As well as leaving the team needing invites to the major races on the international calendar, a drop in budget and status could also result in some of the team's key riders leaving the Basque squad. Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez and Beñat Intxausti are two of their key riders who are out of contract at the end of this season.
Sánchez has indicated he wants to stay where he is, but may rethink if the team can't guarantee him access to the sport's biggest events. Intxausti, meanwhile, is described by Madariaga as having "one foot and half the other" out of the team.
There is some good news for the Basque Country as El Correo has also reported that the Vuelta a España will return to the region in 2011 after an absence of 33 years. According to the paper, the Basque regional government and Vuelta organizers Unipublic have reached an agreement to feature some of Basque cycling's "mythical places" on next year's route.
The last time the Basque Country featured on the Vuelta's itinerary, back in 1978, the stage into Zarautz was shortened after Basque nationalist protesters blocked the road. Subsequently, the results of the race's concluding time trial in San Sebastián were annulled after some riders were forced to stop after being pelted with objects by spectators.