Euskaltel-Euskadi team manager Igor González de Galdeano has described stories questioning the commitment of his squad’s sponsors as "lies". Doubts about the team’s ongoing viability arose in the wake of positive tests by Iñigo Landaluze for third-generation blood-boosting product CERA and by Tour de France stage-winner Mikel Astarloza for EPO.
Speaking to El Correo before the start of this weekend’s Vuelta, where Euskaltel’s Samuel Sánchez wears the number 1 jersey and starts as co-favourite with Alejandro Valverde, González de Galdeano admitted the team is extremely worried by the positive tests and subsequent stories. "There have been lots of lies about us and that’s really concerned us," he said. "The team has never been in danger but that’s one of the lies I’ve heard. It’s been said that the team will disappear and also that they wouldn’t let us ride the Vuelta. But we’re not only going to the Vuelta but we’re starting with the number 1 jersey.”
González de Galdeano stated that far from threatening to withdraw, his team’s backers have offered their complete support. He added, however, there are still concerns within the team as they await news on the testing of Astarloza’s counter-analysis. "We know that the testing process is a long one and that allows a good deal of time in which lies can spread. So it’s no surprise we’re worried, but we’re still motivated [for the Vuelta]," he said.
González de Galdeano also added his thoughts to a growing push within Spain to move the Vuelta back to a spring start date. "I would be in favour of this because the season is extremely long and when riders finish a race like the Tour de France it’s very hard to motivate them again. By taking in April, the Vuelta would be more attractive and competitive," the Basque team boss stated.
In an interview with AS today, new Vuelta director-general Javier Guillén suggested he is in favour of the race’s move to a spring date. "There’s willingness and desire to do this, but there are plenty of difficulties," he said. "We’re working on the calendar for 2011. Before we make any decision we have to know what other top-quality races there will be [in the spring] and what their criteria for team selection will be. We’re are working on this option but I’m pessimistic about it because the UCI prefer the Vuelta to be in September in order to lengthen the calendar."
Guillén also acknowleged that the Vuelta organisers have talked about shortening the race in future in order to boost its spectacle and raise the level of participation. "But, in principle, the Vuelta is a monument that we must conserve as it is," he concluded.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).