All change for Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2013?

There are increasing reports in Spain that the Euskaltel-Euskadi team is set to undergo a major overhaul in the coming months that is likely to result in non-Basque riders appearing in the team’s distinctive orange colours for the first time. The reports also suggest that former team manager Igor González de Galdeano could return to his former position after a year’s sabbatical.

Ever since its foundation under the Euskadi banner in 1994, the team has been run by the Fundación Euskadi, a non-profit organisation established in 1993 to promote cycling within the Basque Country. The foundation receives both public and private finance to promote grassroots cycling for children, as well as having a more competitive aspect in the shape of the Euskaltel professional team and its affiliates, Orbea and Naturgas.

However, reports suggest that the team will adopt a structure more in line with other WorldTour squads from the 2013 season, when control will be relinquished by the Fundación Euskadi and handed over to a management company linked to the team’s long-standing primary sponsor, Euskaltel. A new management team will be put in place overseeing a budget reported to be in the region of nine million euros a year for four seasons up to the end of 2016, which is well in excess of current levels of backing.

Significantly, the team will also open up to non-Basque riders for the first time in its history. Up to now, all of the team’s riders have either been Basque-born or formed as cyclists in the region, as was the case with current team leader Samuel Sánchez, who comes from Asturias but spent much of his amateur career in the Basque Country. The exclusion of non-Basque riders has been a point of contention within the team in recent years, with former boss Galdeano and several key supporters within Euskaltel believing that the restriction is detrimental to the team’s success and long-term development, and effectively encourages many of its best riders to move on.

Speaking at the Vuelta a España presentation last week, Fundación Euskadi president Miguel Madariaga confirmed that change is afoot. “I’ve got a lot of faith in [new Euskaltel president] Alberto García Erauzkin, who has said one or two things of great significance about a new project with a new captain at the helm. We are the only team in the world that depends on a foundation to guarantee its existence. This foundation will keep giving backing to whoever needs it, but modern cycling is going down a different road. That is the only solution I can see,” revealed Madariaga, who has taken over the running of the team since Galdeano’s surprise resignation late last year.

Although Galdeano is refusing to be drawn on whether he will be part of the restructured set-up, the fact that he has not taken up another role has been seen as significant. During his six years as the team’s manager, he built up a very good working relationship with the top brass at Euskaltel and raised the level of the team considerably. Team leader Sánchez has also indicated in recent weeks that he expects to work with Galdeano in the future, increasing suggestions that Galdeano is set to lead the revamped set-up.

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