Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has played down fears that Spain’s big drop in representation in the 2014 UCI WorldTour will lead to one of cycling’s top nations suffering a large scale decrease in its relevance in the sport.
Compared with 2013, Spain has dropped from 55 to 33 riders in the WorldTour, the most significant decrease for any nation, while the average age of Spanish WorldTour pros is 30.5, the highest of any country. Valverde, Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez are all in their thirties, as is Samuel Sanchez, the former Olympic road-race winner who is yet to find a team for 2014.
Speaking to sports daily AS, Valverde pointed out that the “disappearance of Euskaltel-Euskadi has left a lot of riders out of the WorldTour,” but predicted a new wave of Spanish riders would soon begin to make their mark.
“There’s talk of a crisis, but we should expect more new riders to come through. I’ve been lucky enough to belong to a generation of Spanish riders that will be very hard to see again [in terms of their success].
“But there are new riders, coming through. Like Rubén Fernández, winner of the  Tour de L’Avenir. I hope Movistar sign him.”
While Euskaltel-Euskadi’s disappearance has hit Spanish cycling hard, leaving Movistar as the only WorldTour team, the delay in the arrival of the new Fernando Alonso-backed squad from 2014 to 2015 has also had an impact.
However, it remains to be seen whether the Formula 1 star’s new cycling squad, which presumably will have a large percentage of Spanish riders, actually starts life in the WorldTour or as a ProContinental squad. Meanwhile Spain will have to rely on Valverde – who used the AS interview to point out he has yet to decide if he races the Tour or not – and its other more veteran stars.
Internationally, France now rules the WorldTour roost in terms of representation, with 78 riders compared to 53 in 2013, thanks in no small part to Europcar’s promotion to the top flight. Italy has the second most WorldTour riders (down three to 65), followed by Belgium (down seven to 47). Of the top ten nations, only France and Great Britain – with 16 riders, one more pro than in 2013 – have increased their WorldTour representation.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.