Euskadi team edges closer to survival in 2014
"We're in a better place than we were a month and a half ago"
The original Euskadi squad may yet continue to exist in 2014 as a Continental team after team manager Miguel Madariaga managed to secure two more sponsors this week.
"We're not there yet," Madariaga said, "but we're getting there."
A graduate of the original Basque squad when it started in 1994, Madariaga told Cyclingnews on Thursday about the team's sponsorship deals that will hopefully keep the team financially afloat and operational in 2014.
"We're in a better place than we were six weeks ago, that's for sure. And" - referring to the current dearth of teams south of the Pyrenees - "this is very important both for the Basque Country and for Spain."
Formed by Miguel Madariaga after he and the Euskaltel-Euskadi WorldTour squad went their separate ways at the start of 2013, the Euskadi squad was set up and run at Continental level by Madariaga as a completely different entity to the WorldTour team.
Whilst Euskaltel-Euskadi is now due to fold at the end of the season, the much smaller team, which now has 60 percent of the 2014 budget, may yet continue with Euskaltel-Euskadi's former boss - and act as a showcase for cycling in the Basque Country, much as the old Euskadi team did in its earliest format.
Given there will be just one WorldTour team in Spain and one ProContinental squad - Movistar and Caja Rural - the continuation of even one more Continental squad could not be more important, even if access to WorldTour races is not possible for a team of that category.
"I'm giving myself until the week of the 25th," Madariaga says about how long he will continue to search for sponsors and the final 200,000 euros he is reported to need. "This is a step forward, in any case."
Speaking to Basque newspaper El Correo, Madariaga added, "We can't say for sure we will be racing again next season but a lot of things would have to go wrong for that not to happen."
Should it continue, Euskadi would once again be the top 'level' of a pyramid-like structure that also includes a U-23 squad, Naturgas, and the Euskadi Foundation cycling 'school' where over the years thousands of young riders from the area have learned to improve their cycling technique.
A second Basque Continental squad, directed by former pro Jon Odriozola, also remains a possibility, although it, too, needs more sponsorship. As Madariaga sees it: "Better two teams than one and much better than none."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.