Movistar the home-team favourites for Women's WorldTour Emakumeen Bira

Development more important for new Spanish outfit than results

Perhaps better known for its bull run, Pamplona is also home to one of the sport's longest running teams. Known now as Movistar, the team have been competing in cycling's biggest events for 38 years, taking some of the sport's biggest names to success in the biggest races in their ever-changing colours.

Now wearing striking blue, the team have been seen in some different races this year after owner Eusebio Unzué announced a women's team in the immediate aftermath of last year's Vuelta a España.

Less than 100km from Pamplona, the small industrial Basque town of Legazpi hosts Saturday's opening stage of Emakumeen Bira, the 12th round of the 2018 Women's WorldTour. So close to home, the four-day stage race provides Movistar with their first Women's WorldTour outing on Spanish soil since September's Madrid Challenge and the team's launch.

Without a UCI race win this year, on the face of it perhaps Movistar have not had a good start, but that is far from the truth. Throughout the spring they have ridden with ambition, they have been endlessly aggressive, attacking or sitting on the front with the most prominent teams. And, with Boels Dolmans dominating again, many more established teams have been living off scraps, so six WorldTour top-20 finishes from nine starts is not bad for a new squad where wins are not the immediate ambition.

"The victory is always difficult, but we won't say no," smiled Jorge Sanz, the team manager, whose vision the team is. "The main target is working like we are working because we are doing well and maybe with that kind of work a victory will arrive.

"One of the targets of the team is to develop Spanish riders, and inside that is to change the mentality. They come from different cycling in Spain, and it is low level because it is national cycling and when they go to UCI races they are less aggressive than they have to be. So one of the things is to change that mentality, be aggressive and grow more confident in themselves."

Sanz himself used to work with Lointek, one of two small women's teams flying the Spanish flag, but while these teams were game, they lacked the firepower and resources for success. This gave Movistar a small pool of experience and perhaps more importantly, a lack of UCI points, meaning recruiting foreign riders was essential.

Having raced professionally since 2009, Australian Rachel Neylan has been impressed since joining the setup.

"It's taken a lot of people by surprise how they executed the new team," she told Cyclingnews. "It's not easy, but they've been doing this for 38 years, so for us to have such solid foundations, it has been seamless. It's integrated, and it's not forced either. When we get the opportunity to race on the same day we're in the same hotel, we have the same media people, we have the same quality of equipment, and I think it's a leading example.

"We are sharing around the leadership, and we're not afraid to get amongst it, and I think we're fast getting respect for that. I hope to bring some leadership and experience to these young girls, but at the moment I am really impressed and proud about how these girls have taken the opportunity, they have stepped up incredibly."

Unlike many women's 'professional' teams, Movistar pay their riders enough to live off, allowing riders like Lourdes Oyarbide to make the step Neylan has witnessed.

"I was on another team, but it was like amateur cycling, for me it was like a hobby it was not a job," Oyarbride said. "This year I am full-time cycling, and I have improved a lot. We have done nine Women's WorldTour races, and I have been in seven of them, and that helps to improve the level.

"We have changed the way we think. When we were more like amateurs each of us was racing for ourselves, now we have the main goal for the team."

While Movistar have based their model on teams like Sunweb, whose women's project is entirely integrated, their intention to concentrate on developing Spanish women means they are starting from some way back. However, while their active approach to racing may bring them success on the home roads of the Basque Country the weekend, they're unlikely to win the race. Not just yet anyway.

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