Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Orbea team in race against time

Little is known about the future of the Fundación Euskadi's Continental-ranked Orbea team, but Miguel Madariaga today shed some light on where the blue team is at little more than a week ahead of its scheduled season start at the Challenge Mallorca.

As has been reported earlier, the team, still to be given a new name, currently has eight riders in its ranks, and will be unveiled to the public on Wednesday the 30th of January in Derio. Talking to Gara on Friday, alma mater Miguel Madariaga revealed he's in talks with a local company regarding sponsorship, and that an eventual deal might see two more riders join Euskaltel's former feeder team.

"I have an important meeting in Gipuzkoa today (Friday), and that meeting might result in two more riders from the region being added to the team", he said. "At the moment we have Aritz Bagües and Mikel Aristi from Gipuzkoa, riders I consider to be future jewels of Gipuzkoan cycling and who are called on to replace the Izagirres, Zubeldia, Astarloza and co".

So far, Jon Larrinaga (Naturgas Energía) and Mikel Aristi (Debabarrena) have joined the team, while the trio of Aritz Etxeberria, Xabier Zabalo and Andoni Blázquez have been let go. Counting on only eight riders for the entire season might be too big an ask though, Madariaga admits.

"We'd like to have 10 riders on the team - eight is not much for our calendar of races. But economically we cannot go further than that (and expand the roster). For the whole foundation, including the base, Naturgas Energía with 18 riders and the Continental team, we need 1,1 million euros, and we only have 350 000 to start with. We'll have 220 000 more if the 1732 Fundación members we have now stick with us. We'll start collecting the money this month, but as many might not continue, we may end up losing money".

In other words, Madariaga is looking for half the money they had last season. He's allegedly looked "everywhere" for a new title sponsor, and is still holding out hope that he might reach a deal with one of the three companies he's been in touch with to replace Orbea as naming rights sponsor.

The Basque bike brand will continue to supply the team with bikes and material, but the foundation will have to pay Orbea in order to race their bikes. Still, Madariaga only has words of gratefulness for the Mallabia-based bike manufacturer.

"Of all the companies we've collaborated with, Orbea have been the ones who've behaved the best. Chapeau!", he said. "They've realized they've grown alongside the foundation for the last 20 years, and they've helped out with equipment in the hard times. They're not giving us the bikes, they can't afford to, but they're handing them over at a very reasonable price".

That the Fundación Euskadi and Euskaltel didn't cease their collaboration on the best of terms is no secret. Madariaga's wish for Euskaltel to buy the team's vehicle fleet to help balance the foundation's books was eventually grantes, but Igor González de Galdeano et al. got them on the cheap, according to the founding father of the whole project.

"The deal we reached wasn't anything near what it should have been", he argued. "But as time was running out, we had to accept it. Now we're in a race against time to get all the paperwork done to be able to start our season on February 3 on Mallorca".

The presentation of the team and its jersey will be held in Derio outside of Bilbao on the coming Wednesday, January 30, at 11:00 am.

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