Movistar manager Eusebio Unzue has been running bike teams for nearly half a century, but he says he has “never seen” such huge levels of interest as the support the squad’s new women’s team has garnered. And that’s before it’s even begun to race.
Made up of 10 riders in its first year, 2018 will be the first time that the Navarre-based Movistar squad, which began in 1980, has its own women’s team - which is also Spain’s third.
“The team was born as part of collaboration with a government campaign for sponsors to help women’s sport in Spain, and our parent sponsor, Telefonica, was willing to do that,” Unzue explained on Friday in a press conference.
“They asked us to form a women’s team. The truth is that originally, as we barely knew about the subject, we were cautious about how we were going to approach it all.
“But the women’s team has generated a great deal of support from the general public even before it’s started, right across the board. In fact, I’ve never seen so much interest and support in such a new sports project.”
The fledgling womens’ team and the mens’ team have been riding and building towards the new season this week in a training camp held near Pamplona, staying in the same hotel and using the same logistical back-up.
“Fortunately, with the backing of Telefonica and all our sponsors, we’ve been able to count on a lot of support," Unzue said. “And the women’s team has got an identical level of infrastructure and backing as the mens’ team.
“It’ll be a tough start, I’m sure, all new projects are until they find their feet. But I’m confident they’ll live up to expectations and do a great job.”
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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