Alberto Contador’s new Continental team, Polartec-Kometa, had their official 2018 team launch on Monday in his home town of Pinto.
Polartec-Kometa are, together with the Euskadi Foundation, one of two new Continental squads in Spain this season. After a 10-year spell during which Spain’s cycling has suffered a serious sponsorship crisis with a relentless succession of teams and races disappearing off the map, the arrival of Contador’s squad, albeit in the sport’s ‘third’ division, represents a welcome reversal of the trend.
The Continental squad were presented in Pinto’s local theatre alongside the other, longer-standing Alberto Contador Foundation U23 and junior teams, bringing the whole Polartec-Kometa project to a global total of 38 riders. Also present was Ivan Basso, a longstanding collaborator with Contador’s various teams, who is this year working as a manager of the Continental team.
The Polartec-Kometa Continental team line-up includes sprinters such as Matteo Moschetti and Michele Gazzoli, as well as a Spanish all-rounder Miguel Ángel Ballesteros. Trek, Contador’s last WorldTour team, is a new secondary sponsor, as are Vittoria. But although expectations are high, the emphasis will not be on results.
“They are all young racers and some will be very successful, but the important thing is to help them grow as people with a series of key values,” Contador said during the launch. “We want to give back to cycling everything that it gave us.”
The Alberto Contador Foundation initially entered the world of competitive cycling in 2013 with the junior team and then added a U23 team and the Éboli Cycling School in Pinto the following year. The Polartec-Kometa sponsorship deal will cover the next three years, until the end of 2020.
Contador’s direct and increased involvement has already seen the Spaniard accompany the riders on training rides and camps, and give them detailed ‘classes’ on time trialling and other racing techniques. This winter, the Spanish star has already been training with the Polartec-Kometa team in Arizona and last week in Valencia.
Monday's team presentation also saw the confirmation of a new deal between the Foundation and the ‘Freno al Ictus’ NGO, an organisation which works on promoting lifestyles and choices to help prevent strokes. Contador had a major stroke early in his career, while racing in the 2004 Vuelta a Asturias, and has always been a keen supporter of the charity.
The Polartec-Kometa team have already raced this season at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, their first event of the season. Two of Contador’s former teammates, Jesus Hernandez and Rafa Díaz Justo, also form part of the project, with the Continental and U23 teams, respectively.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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