No Basque cycling team in 2014 after all?

Deal with ner business group stranded

The chances that the Basque country will go without a professional cycling team for 2014 is getting bigger and bigger. After the demise of World Tour-team Euskaltel-Euskadi, the Continental team Euskadi is also on the verge of disappearing. Fans of Basque cycling are trying to persuade local institutions and the Basque cycling union to fund a team for 2014 to create continuity in the region.

There seemed to be an agreement between the ner business group and Fundación Euskadi to continue the Continental feeder team Euskadi which operated in 2013 too. However, that deal seems to be off, Spanish media report.

The Fundación Euskadi is led by Miguel Madariaga and the ner group appointed former pro cyclist Jon Odriozola as team principal. “This new venture is looking to the future, [to] support the promotion, development, dissemination and development of Basque sport of cycling, where thousands of young people have a place,” the press release of October 24 stated.

The ner consortium and the Fundación have however parted ways which makes the future of the Continental team very insecure. Now both Madariaga and Odriozola have applied for a Continental license at the Spanish cycling union but neither has announced that the project will actually take place under their management. And time is running out.

A Facebook group of fans called SOS ciclismo en Euskadi is trying to save the team by asking public institutions, companies and the general public to help Basque Cycling. “We need continuity for our amateur-cyclists and our young riders. Euskadi has been a name that travelled around the world. We have the riders and we have the best fans in the world. We ask the Basque government and the Basque Cycling Union to find a solution. Our cyclists deserve this,"  the page with over 3,000 likes in 24 hours states.

It’s not the first time the public is mobilized to save cycling in the northern part of Spain. When the Tour of the Basque Country and the Clasíca San Sebastian were in financial trouble in 2012, a crowdfunding project was started to save the WorldTour races. Eventually Banco Sabadell saved the races from extinction by taking over the role as title sponsor.

With potentially another team closing shop in Spain, only Movistar, Caja Rural and the Continental team Burgos BH remain as UCI registered teams. Of the 29 Euskaltel-Euskadi riders, only ten have found a team so far: six of them at WorldTour level (Landa to Astana, Gorka and Ion Izagire and Lobato to Movistar, Nieve to Sky and Sicard to Europcar), one to a Pro Continental team (Bilbao to Caja Rural) and three riders to Continental teams (Tamouridis to SP Tableware and Mestre and Bravo to Efapel). The 12 riders of the Euskadi team might be added to the now very long list of unemployed Spanish pro cyclists.

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