Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Facing the end?

Make no mistake: these are testing times for Euskaltel-Euskadi. With Igor González de Galdeano retiring, a WorldTour-licence looking increasingly unlikely and the team's current sponsorship agreement up in a year's time, it's unclear what the future holds for one of the worlds most iconic professional cycling teams.

José Antonio Ardanza, president of Basque telecommunication giant Euskaltel, admitted as much yesterday. "I think it'll be difficult for us to keep sponsoring the team beyond next season", he told ETB. "The team need to show us where they're headed for the future", he said, obviously referring to Galdeano's recent resignation.

Where they're headed isn't easy to predict. Least of all in sporting terms. The UCI's new points ranking system is making life hard for a team with a philosophy like Euskaltel's, and a place in the WorldTour in 2012 is everything but secure. While teams are scoping every corner of the globe for riders with UCI points in a bid to boost their all-important ranking position, Euskaltel are forced to recruit from within. And the pool from within is limited, very limited. Basque riders under the age of 23 - no matter how talented - don't bring a lot of points to the table. And thus Euskaltel lose out to pretty much every single rival team out there. And probably, I reckon, the WorldTour-licence with it.

So what? Euskaltel will probably get invites to the GTs and the most important races on the calendar anyway, I hear you say. That might be, but Fundación president and Euskaltel's returning general manager, Miguel Madariaga, isn't equally optimistic. The often controversial Madariaga, always ready to ruffle a few feathers, told Cyclingnews - ever so bluntly - that the team will cease to exist if a WorldTour-berth is not obtained. "Yes. If the team is degraded we will leave the sport", he said yesterday. "We've always been a part of the ProTour... it's better to quit the whole thing than going down."

Madariaga is, naturally, entitled to his opinion. He created the team, he's stuck by the team in the bad times and he's still going. He deserves all the respect in the world. But his latest statements doesn't really add up. If you can still take part in the Tour, Giro, Vuelta, País Vasco and the likes without being part of the WorldTour, why would you want to end the whole project? It's beyond me. It makes no sense. But Madariaga usually gets his will I'm afraid.

That being said, Ardanza didn't rule out continuing their sponsorship. He's just worried where the changes to its staff is taking Euskaltel and how the team is supposed to compete with the super-teams and their super-budgets of the new cycling era. He's rightly worried.


Nick said...

I can deal with pro-contji level. But if euskaltel downright folded I will never look at cycling the same again.

There has to be some large basque bank willing to fork over some money to have unlimited public exposure?

Stephen said...

Is this really what the UCI intended?

The way things are going they will be lucky to have enough teams to make up an elite number in a few years. It's no wonder that people like Bob Stapelton are talking about a different model based upon sharing TV revenue. High profile sponsors - like HTC - are only in the sport for as long as it suits them, the UCI need to consider the teams and sponsors that make a contribution to the sport at all levels and ensure that they are not squeezed out by a team - like Green Edge - that may only last a few years.

Maybe awarding points on a yearly basis to a continuing team as well as counting points earned by the riders would help and then say take an average for the past five years to determine the ranking.


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