Friday, November 23, 2012

Gorospe - Now everything will be different

When Julián Gorospe speaks, people listen - and for good reason. As a two-time Vuelta al País Vasco overall winner and conqueror of stages in both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, not to mention main sports director during arguably Euskaltel' highest peak with the Mayo/Zubeldia-duo wreaking havoc at the turn of the century, his statements carry a certain weight.

As so many of the team's fans, the 52-year-old isn't happy with the changes being implemented at his old team. Not only that, he says it's likely to affect Basque cycling way down to the grassroots level.

"Yeah, now I think everything will be different", he told El Pedal de Frodo. "I think Euskaltel would have had a place at the Tour if they'd continued as they were - the team's history, what they've achieved in the past and what they still achieve would have been enough I think. What we're seeing now is the result of pressure from the UCI, as they needed those points to finish inside the top 15 and to be able to take part in the Tour.

"But things will change. It'll change because the riders that had a dream of joining their home team will lose that chance. The youngsters and the kids will now think twice about becoming cyclists. And when people from outside the region joined, Euskaltel became just like any other team".

While many are predicting a fan exodus in the wake of the fundamental changes in the team's policy, Gorospe think they'll still be around - if slightly less passionate.

"I think the fans will line the roadside, but not with the happiness and desire they used to", he stated. "If you're a cycling fan you'll continue to back the riders from the region and the team from the region, but I think we'll lose the brilliant years Euskaltel enjoyed (in the past). The riders who have joined are unknowns. If they perform well, the fans will support them, but not like earlier when everything was so close, everyone were from here, they were well known... ".

Speaking about his own tenure at the orange team, the Mañaria-born erstwhile Reynolds and Banesto rider labelled it "brilliant".

"I have very good memories (from that time)", he said. "I think it was a modest team (back then), a team that hadn't succeeded in reaching a high level. But little by little we made our way and went far: we won stages at the Tour, Midi Libre, Euskal Bizikleta... For me it was brilliant, and the truth is that those were very good years. I didn't expect to get to that situation, a situation in which I was directing a team after having been a rider, with the riders responding like they did. They were great years as everything we were doing became more and more important. We grew little by little, with local riders and a special philosophy, with great supporters... it was exciting seeing the roadsides drenched in orange. It gave me goosebumps."

When pressed on which victory was the most special one, Gorospe reverted to classical, diplomatic directeur sportif-language.

"Laiseka's wins in the Vuelta were brilliant, and the one at the Tour even more so. And then there was the Dauphiné of Ibán Mayo, Haimar's Euskal Bizikleta, Ibán also won País Vasco... I think all triumphs were important. I won't say that this or that one was more important, as every single one, at that time, made you feel happy and satisfied with what was achieved".


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