Euskaltel-Euskadi has announced the final two riders who will complete their 29-man roster for next season. Like all of those revealed last week, neither is Basque, but both bring with them vital UCI ranking points that should ensure that the team maintains its WorldTour status next season.
Morocco's Tarik Chaoufi is the top-ranked rider on the African Tour. Competing in his national team's colours, the 26-year-old won the Moroccan road title this year as well as a stage in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon.
Also joining the Basque set-up is time trial specialist Ioannis Tamouridis. The 32-year-old Greek was due to ride with the Geox team before the plug was pulled on it last year. When that deal fell through he remained with the Greek SP Tableware team, picking up his fourth consecutive national time trial title in their colours. He also competed in the Olympics and World Championships this summer.
The pair join nine other new arrivals on the Basque team: Jon Aberasturi (Orbea), Gari Bravo (Caja Rural), Jure Kocjan (Team Type 1), Juan José Lobato (Andalucía), Ricardo Mestre (Carmim-Prio), Steffen Radochla (Team NSP-Ghost), André Schulze (Team NetApp), Alexander Serebryakov (Team Type 1) and Robert Vrecer (Vorarlberg).
Speaking at a press conference at Euskaltel's headquarters in the Basque Country, returning team manager Igor González de Galdeano said that the new arrivals were fundamental to the team's survival at the top level of the sport. "We want to be able to participate by right in the Tour de France and in the best races. That can only be achieved by being part of the WorldTour, which has its points' system," said González de Galdeano.
He stressed that the riders joining Euskaltel will have to "respect the philosophy that has brought the team so many successes". González de Galdeano added that the team will "continue to be a Basque project, with Basque sponsors, Basque leaders and its focus on races that the fans want to see it winning".
Under fire in some quarters within the Basque Country for his decision to release some of the team's stalwarts, notably Amets Txurruka, González de Galdeano countered: "It's no longer a case of deserving to be in the WorldTour - that's not enough. You have to fulfil the requirements. There's no point wasting time by criticising the situation, the team, its decisions and the bodies that oversee this sport."