Amets Txurruka responded to Euskaltel-Euskadi's decision not to offer him a new contract with a highly critical appraisal of the Basque team's new philosophy. Txurruka said of the changes about to be introduced, which are likely to include the arrival of foreign riders. "I will now see the team as just any other. It won't be special any more."
Formed in 1994 and supported since then by a foundation headed by Miguel Madariaga, the Euskaltel team has only ever fielded riders born in the Basque Country or schooled within the cycling set-up in that region. However, the management company set to take over the squad at the end of the season, which is headed by former team manager Igor González de Galdeano, has made it clear that it will sign foreign riders with UCI points in order to ensure the team's continued presence in the World Tour.
Speaking to Basque newspaper Deia, Txurruka, who has been on the roster for six seasons and has been a member of the foundation since its inception, said he would prefer to see the team drop down to Pro Continental and maintain its existing philosophy.
"I joined because I felt that this team was different, that it was a team for the Basque Country, a bit like Athletic [Bilbao]. It's always been like that, but it seems to me that this is ending," he said.
Txurruka confirmed that he supported the letter written by seven former Euskaltel riders (Fernández de Larrea, Haimar Zubeldia, Markel Irizar, Beñat Intxausti, Jonathan Castroviejo, David López and Iker Camaño), who criticised this new philosophy, as well as the decision not to retain Txurruka and Iván Velasco on the roster. "It is going to be difficult to accept the fact that a lot of good riders from the Basque Country who have been part of this project will be sidelined from it while the team is filled up with foreigners," said Txurruka.
The 29-year-old Basque also criticised the timing of the call he got last week from González de Galdeano. Although recognising the returning team manager was totally within his rights to select whomever he wanted for the squad, Txurruka said he had received indications throughout the year that he would remain on the roster, and did not know any different until González de Galdeano called him last week.
He fears that it may now be too late for him to find a place on another team for next season. He added that seven other riders currently on the team may find themselves in the same position. "It's a question of human respect," he said.
Txurruka explained that González de Galdeano had told him that the reason he is not getting a new contract is because he does not have any WorldTour points. "He also told that he thinks that I haven't progressed as I should have and that the Amets of 2007 hasn't steadily improved. For that reason, he thinks a change of environment would do me good," he said.
Txurruka confessed he agreed with González de Galdeano's assessment to an extent, but suggested that injuries had played a major part in his failure to build on his biggest success, which was his selection as the most aggressive rider at the 2007 Tour de France.
He acknowledged that this isn't a great way to end his career with the team. "I am sad to be leaving. I felt I was valued, I rode the best races and the fans supported me. I've been part of a team that was a very tightly knit group. Part of my sadness stems from the fact I can see this is ending, that the atmosphere is changing because of the issue of points and due to the path that the team is going down. It's not going to be the same now. It runs the risk of being a team where everyone looks out for themselves without being bothered about what happens to the guy next to them," said Txurruka, who added that he still hopes he can find a new team for next season.
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).
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