In the week when one historic Spanish team, Euskaltel-Euskadi, rode its last race ever in the Tour of Beijing, there was some good news for cycling in Spain, too. Movistar has confirmed that it will continue sponsorship of its WorldTour team for the next three years.
The news, although widely expected, had not been made official until a launch took place this Wednesday in Madrid, with Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and team director Eusebio Unzue all attending.
Movistar – one of cycling's longest standing squads together with Lotto-Belisol – has had a spectacularly successful 2013, crowned this week by an overall victory in the Tour of Beijing and the clinching of top spot in the UCI World Tour teams rankings, when the team moved ahead of Sky thanks to Benat Intxausti’s victory in the Chinese race.
The Spanish squad has taken 32 wins this season, three more than in 2012, and 11 more than in 2011, when it won 21 – a tally, which was itself four more than the total number of wins for previous sponsor Caisse D’Epargne in 2010. Looking back over the last three years since they became the main sponsor in 2011 of a formation which stretches right the way back to Reynolds in the 1980s, Movistar’s failure to take a Grand Tour is perhaps the one blot in their copybook to date.
This year has been one of success on almost all fronts barring the Classics. Quintana finished on the podium in the Tour de France and secured the King of the Mountains title as well as the Best Young Rider’s jersey along with second overall and a stage win, Alejandro Valverde claimed third in the Vuelta a España, second in Il Lombardia and third in Liege, Rui Costa – also the winner of the World Championships for Portugal – clinched the Tour de Suisse and Quintana the Vuelta al País Vasco.
The team also took Grand Tour stage wins in the Giro (four) and Tour (three). Even following Rui Costa’s departure to Lampre-Merida, Quintana and Valverde are two of a further seven winners for Movistar in 2013, and both will remain with the squad in 2014.
With teams folding with unremitting regularity in Spain and no replacements found in the country's worst sponsorship crisis since the late 1970s, Movistar are now Spain’s final WorldTour team. One question mark still remains about the Spanish squad, though: it is not yet known who will take over from Pinarello as the team's bike sponsor in 2014.