Samuel Sanchez are Igor Anton among the 15 riders from Euskaltel-Euskadi’s roster still looking for contracts for the 2014 season following the disbandment of the Basque squad.
To date, just six Euskaltel riders have secured employment for next season. Romain Sicard will ride for Europcar, Mikel Nieve has signed for Sky, Mikel Landa is going to Astana, Ion and Gorka Izaguirre will ride for Movistar, while Ricardo Mestre steps down to Continental level with Portuguese squad Efapel.
“To this day, no team has offered me a contract to continue,” Samuel Sanchez told Deia. “I’m keeping my hopes up. I had a two-year contract [before Euskaltel disbanded] and if I signed it, it was because I had the motivation and strength to keep going, physically and mentally. But now I’m without work for the year to come.”
The 35-year-old Sanchez was one of Euskaltel’s longest-serving riders, and claimed third place in the 2010 Tour de France, the king of the mountains title in the 2011 Tour and the 2008 Olympic title while riding for the team.
“I’ve lived this with anguish and sadness because a family has been broken up and nothing can be done to save it,” said Sanchez. “It’s painful for someone like me, who spent 14 years on the team.”
Euskadi began life in 1994 as a team solely for Basque riders or for riders who, like Sanchez, spent three or more years as an amateur in the Basque Country. That policy was finally altered ahead of the 2013 season, as Euskaltel-Euskadi battled to retain WorldTour status, but Sanchez dismissed any connection between the move and the subsequent demise of the team.
“The team took a different course, a more global one, because of the requirements of the UCI WorldTour,” Sanchez said. “Nobody thought it was the beginning of the end. The disappearance of the team has nothing to do with that.”
Igor Anton was heavily linked with a move to Omega Pharma-QuickStep when it was first reported that Euskaltel-Euskadi would disband at the end of the season, but the Basque was ready to stay put when it briefly appeared that Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso was going to step in and save the team.
Anton’s agent reportedly met with Omega Pharma manager Patrick Lefevere two weeks ago in Malaga, but for now, he remains without a team for the 2014 season.
“I haven’t found anything and it’s a difficult situation. I’m trying to get through it calmly. Whatever will be, will be,” said Anton.
With so many riders left unemployed following the disbandment of teams such as Euskaltel, Vacansoleil-DCM, Sojasun and Champion System, Anton believes that it could be late in the day before he pens a deal for 2014.
“I would like to sign for a WorldTour team and for that reason, the situation is more difficult,” Anton said. “There aren’t a lot of places and I don’t know if I’ll get the deal I want. Hopefully I will have some good news soon.”