Euskaltel close to new deal?

Euskaltel-Euskadi team bosses Miguel Madariaga and Gorka Gerrikagoitia have moved to calm fears among their riders that the team will not continue beyond the end of this season. However, Madariaga has admitted he is not sure whether the team will be “WorldTour, Professional or Continental”.

Madariaga travelled out to the recent Giro d’Italia with the express intention of reassuring riders competing there, some of whom are being courted by rival squads. “I could see that things were turning ugly, because some of the riders are in the hands of vultures,” Madariaga said of riders’ agents when contacted by Marca. “I went to Italy to tell them that, although no one has said anything to me officially, something is going to happen, although I am not sure if the team will World Tour, Professional or Continental.”

Madariaga, who has been the team’s figurehead since its establishment 19 years ago, added: “Third parties have told me that the new project is advancing. But it has to be confirmed within two weeks at the very most.”

Speaking on his return to Spain after his stage-winning appearance at the Giro, Ion Izagirre told Basque newspaper Gara that Euskaltel’s riders had been reassured by the team management’s reassurances. “They gave us peace of mind by informing us that the team would go one in one way or another,” said Izagirre, who is one of a number of the squad’s big names who are out of contract at the end of this season. Others include team leader Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón and Mikel Landa.

Mikel Nieve, who finished seventh in the Giro and does have a deal with the team running into 2013, also admitted he has been reassured by what he has been told by the management. “We should find out about how things are going to be in the next few days and if we are lucky the project will keep moving ahead,” he told Gara.

However, the team’s riders are sure to be concerned about the possibility of the squad moving down a level or even two levels in the UCI’s hierarchy. In order to guarantee World Tour status, the Basque team needs to retain Sánchez’s services because he has earned almost all of their ranking points. They probably also need to sign new riders who have ranking points, which will require an increase in the team’s budget, which has not risen for the past five years.

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