Hopes that Basque Pro Continental squad Euskadi Basque Country-Murias could continue in 2020 evaporated completely on Monday when the team sending out a communique confirming that it would cease operations at the end of this season.
As recently as two weeks ago, Euskadi-Murias looked set to continue for a sixth straight season in 2020. As the peloton headed into Madrid on the final stage of the Vuelta a España, it was reported live on Spanish television that a replacement sponsor for construction company Murias was in the pipeline,
The prospective sponsor expected to take over from the Basque company, however, ultimately failed to come through.
As a result, the 20-strong rider squad, together with its team management and staff, has been left in the lurch at a point in the year when most teams have already finalized their rosters for 2020.
"Our ongoing success saw us continue to grow but faced with the impossibility of continuing to do that with our own means, we are now obliged to stand aside," the Euskadi-Murias press release stated.
"We believe we've put the name Euskadi on display in countries across the world, and we believe that's been to the benefit of all the Basque people."
During its Professional Continental phase, as the highest level Basque professional cycling team of the time, Euskadi-Murias took over where the popular Euskadi-Euskaltel team had left off after it folded in 2013. The team can count two Vuelta a España stage wins among its palmarès, along with overall victories at the Tours of Turkey and Norway, plus numerous stage wins elsewhere.
A final crisis meeting between Murias and the team management on Friday to try and secure last-minute funding for 2020 – albeit on a lower level – failed to work out.
The disappearance of Euskadi-Murias comes despite success in the team’s biggest race of the season, the Vuelta a España, where Mikel Iturria took his first ever professional victory in the Navarran town of Urdax thanks to a spectacular lone attack.
Euskadi-Murias have so far secured nine wins this season, the same total in 2018, when the team first turned Pro Continental. The team’s biggest triumph last year also a stage in the Vuelta, through Óscar Rodríguez.
The Basque Country will not be completely bereft of a local professional team as a result of Euskadi-Murias’ demise. Next year, Fundación Euskadi, currently racing at Continental level, is expected to move up to Pro Continental category.
Their roster is set to include Iturria, Mikel Aristi – winner of a stage in the Volta a Portugal and Tour de Limousin this year – Julen Irizar and Mikel Bizkarra, all of whom are currently with Euskadi-Murias.
Euskadi-Murias’ last race, meanwhile, now looks set to be Paris-Tours in two weeks’ time.
COMUNICADO OFICIAL | Euskadi - Murias no continuará la próxima temporadahttps://t.co/bOdCu16U0f pic.twitter.com/6KnBGuTNX4September 30, 2019
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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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