By Monika Prell
The Team Euskaltel Euskadi was presented on Wednesday evening in Bilbao, under the slogan "Talde hau ere zuretzat da - Este equipo también es para ti" (This team is also for you). The 29 members of the team, staff, were joined by guests such as Jean Marie Leblanc, former Tour de France director, Abraham Olano, and Álvaro González de Galdeano, director of the team Orbea. The attendees were welcomed by two "bertsolariak" (basque singers) with a traditional Basque song.
Miguel Madariaga, the general manager of team, said that the goal for 2007 will be "working like a team, acting like a team and exciting the fans, because that way victories will come." José Antonio Ardanza, the president of the company Euskaltel, honoured the team as "a new project that adapts itself to the times. We are a team in which everybody is working for everybody", an important thing to Haimar Zubeldia, one of the leaders of the team, who considered this as "perhaps the thing we had forgotten during the past few years".
Ardanza thanked Leblanc for "having opened the doors of the Tour de France to Euskaltel since 2001." Juan José Ibarretxe, the president of the Basque government, thanked Leblanc saying, "The Basque country needs the Tour." Leblanc for his part recognized that he always had a "special affection for the Basque team" and marked it as "an exemplary team."
Another honoree was Roberto Laiseka, who had to end his career after thirteen years with Euskaltel due to a bad fall in the Giro d'Italia. He recommended warmly that fans should "continue supporting Euskaltel 100 %!"
The team, whose changes are not only noticeable from inside, has changed the colour of its clothes for the first time in many years. The jersey that is still orange, but a little brighter, shorts will have black instead of blue accents. The new scheme appealed to Samuel Sánchez, one of the leaders of the team. He defines the changes in the team as "rejuvenation" and "changes in the clothes, the directors and the cyclists."
Sánchez had an outstanding 2006 season, and is looking forward to "being in great competing form almost all the year, primarily in the first and the last part of the season, the spring classics, the Vuelta a España, the world championship and the classics at the end of the year."
By contrast, the other leader, Haimar Zubeldia, will focus on the Tour de France. He hopes to be in form at the Tour de Romandie and the Dauphiné Libéré for "driving confidently the Tour."
Igor Antón, one of the team's big hopes for the future, explained that the personnel changes brought along a "rigorous work, that could be difficult from time to time, but that will surely bring rewards." He hopes to "improve this year and to be able to take a step forward". He gives himself "one or two years time" but likes when "the fans demand something of you".
The young riders Unai Urribarri and Rubén Pérez, both first year professionals in 2006, hope "to improve ourselves and to reach something more than last year." Lander Aperribay himself has not come this far yet. The 24- year-old neo-pro resolved to try "to follow the rhythm of the team and to fulfill the expectations." He considers the team "phenomenal and very familial."
For Jon Bru, a new arrival from the team Kaiku, the situation is different. "The team is twice as big as Kaiku. There we were 15, here we are 30. It's crazy." His goals are "to get to know the Pro Tour races and to help Samuel Sánchez in the classics." A bit of good news came to the team on Thursday evening - the new signing Dionisio Galparsoro has been operated successfully on his right knee after a long period of pain and will presumably restart his training one week after.