The Tour of Beijing is the first race that Miguel Madariaga will follow outside Europe. The 67-year-old Euskaltel-Euskadi funder, who only speaks Basque and Spanish, has traveled to China with his team and its leader, Samuel Sanchez.
"I want to be here because cycling is now very global and a race like the Tour of Beijing is the key of that future", Madariaga told Cyclingnews.
The ex-team manager has some very good reasons to be in China: he's going back to the head of the ProTour squad two years after his departure.
"I launched the team in 1994 and I'm back as a general manager in 2012," he said.
Last week, it was announced that Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano was leaving the role of general manager officially after the 31st of December, "for personal reasons".
Madariaga is in Beijing with his two directeurs sportifs, Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano, Igor's brother, and Josu Larrazabal, who is also the team's coach.
"I didn't want to appoint someone else other than Igor", Madariaga said. "The team is like a family and if he can't be the team manager anymore, I have to come back".
Euskaltel-Euskadi's strong man had not really left the squad, however, as he was still the president of the Fundacion Euskadi, which is in charge of the management and the sponsoring of the WorldTour group and the feeder clubs.
Madariaga's comeback occurs at a very important time for Euskaltel-Euskadi. The team is indeed facing its 100 percent Basque-identity's limits in an era of globalized cycling whose new Tour of Beijing is a symbol.
As he analyzes the 2011 performances of his squad, Madariaga said: "It just was wonderful!" Despite the general classification letdown at the Vuelta he described the race as "fantastic because Igor Anton's victory in the Basque Country is better than everything."
The ex and future general manager is realistic though. "That team has reached its maximum level following its philosophy."
In other words, Euskaltel-Euskadi will have difficulty progressing because of its rule of only signing riders born in the Basque Country or "made" by local clubs, like Sanchez.
Madariaga, who formerly studied a potential opening of his team, doesn't seem ready to change the policy anymore. "If we recruit a non-Basque rider, we will lose all the millions the Basque government gives us", he said.
At the same time, Madariaga knows he's running one of the smallest WorldTour budgets, while new projects like Australia's GreenEdge are coming to the business.
"It's always a question of money", he said. "That's said, many teams speak a lot but the single one where all the riders are perfectly paid on time is Euskaltel."
In order to scrupulously follow the Basque identity of the team, Madariaga is ready to skip potential leaders and foreign sponsors, which could lead to a loss of its first division's license.
"If the team is degraded, we will leave cycling", he said. "We have been part of the ProTour since the first year, people are used to seeing us every year at the Tour de France... Better stopping everything than going down!"
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