Thursday, August 15, 2013

New deadline set for decision on Euskaltel future

In a candid interview with BiciCiclismo, Euskaltel Euskadi's general manager, Igor González de Galdeano, has revealed how the riders have not been given the freedom to sign with new teams after all, that there've been talks of a merger with a pair of American teams, and that there'll be an announcement on the team's future by the start of the Vuelta a España.

Unsurprisingly given the team's current predicament, rumours of riders signing for rival teams have circulated in the media ever since the Euskaltel riders were told by Basque Cycling Pro Team's corporate director Mikel Astorkiza ahead of the Clásica San Sebastián that they were free to look for new teams.

Now, three weeks on, it transpires that the riders haven't actually been given that freedom. The riders under contract in 2014, which totals out at 14, have to receive a signed document by their employer in order to be freed from their commitments. First then, with that document in hand, are they truly free to negotiate with prospective new employers.

Both Basque daily Deia and BiciCiclismo today report that this carta de libertad hasn't actually been handed over to the riders. Instead, the team have asked the riders to wait just a little bit longer before officially leaving the team in case a new sponsor should decide to come on board.

"We're working, right now, on securing the team's continuity, to find a sponsor. But it's not easy", de Galdeano tells the cycling website. "Time's not on our side, and we keep waiting for news".

Various reports have had it that the team heads would have to take a final decision on the team's future by August 15 or 18 (depending on who you believe). That appears not to be the case after all, but de Galdeano says the world will know what will happen with the team in two weeks' time.

"I think September 1 is our deadline", he says. "As well I expect an announcement to be made ahead of the start of the Vuelta a España on August 24".

While it appears more unlikely by the hour that Euskaltel will stay on as the team we know in 2014, it's by no means sure the team will disappear altogether.

Earlier in August, there were reports of Lampre-Merida wanting a merger, but that offer is thought to have been rebuffed. BiciCiclismo claim to know that there have also been negotiations with American teams Optum Pro Cycling (who are on Orbea bikes) and UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.

"Nothing has come off it, though", the website reports. "They're dead-ends".

According to de Galdeano, the team's future is very much in Euskaltel's hands - the telephone company that is.

"They are considering all options. It would be sad if the team was to disappear after all these years, but they're looking for ways to keep the team going. It's their choice".

One of the obvious options, to downsize and seek a Professional Continental license, has been discussed at the Euskaltel head quarters. For now, though, dropping down from the WorldTour is not an option.

Photo: BCPT

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