Sunday, 25 March 2012

Catalunya Success For Troubled Euskaltel-Euskadi

I watched yesterday as one of my favourite riders, Samuel Sanchez stormed to a fantastic solo victory on stage 6 of the Volta A Catalunya which had all of the hallmarks for a sprint finish. A small incline 2km from the finish provided a perfect kick for Sanchez as he put his foot on the gas and took off from the front of the bunch securing the victory with a 2 second time gap, placing him second in the overall classification.

After a very classy victory, Sanchez said "I won perhaps the most difficult day, because it was presumed it would be a sprint finish, but we were surprised by that hill with two kilometres to go." He was quick to add "If we finish this way it is a double mission accomplished, winning a stage and getting onto the podium, which for us is a more than positive."

Sanchez was not exaggerating, his Euskaltel-Euskadi team only just made the WorldTour selections this year after major difficulties obtaining the funds needed to race at the top level and now the team that prides itself on its Basque Country roots will have to look further afield for sponsors and riders in order to gain more points for the UCI ranking system which goes against its own philosophy for developing predominantly young Basque-Country based riders. It was revealed earlier in the year that Euskaltel ran on a 7million euro budget that hasn't changed for 5 years and may even have dwindled slightly due to sponsorship cutbacks. 7million euros is the smallest budget of any WorldTour team and is less than some Continental teams. Team manager Miguel Madariaga suggest a budget of 9million euros is needed to be properly competitive.

Add to this the ridiculous 'Logo row' which could see the team lose financial backing from the Basque Government and it certainly does spell trouble for the team. The logo in the question it the green 'Euskadi' logo. This green-lettered logo belongs to the Euskadi Foundation that set up the team 20 years ago and still runs it. However, the Basque government's Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, which is providing the team with €400,000 this season, is insisting that the logo be substituted with their own version in white and upper case lettering. The ministry's logo is used to promote tourism within the Basque Country. The ministry made the request to change the kit to coincide with the Tour of the Basque Country in April, but they only made the request in January, after the kit had already been branded for the 2012 season.

With all of the backstage gossip and goings-on the riders can only do their best to focus on the racing and of course results matter, they generate sponsorship and bring in the cash - its a Catch 22, money brings results but it's results that generate the money. A stage win and a second on the podium overall in Catalunya is indeed a timely and welcome result and Miguel Madariaga will have his fingers crossed for more of the same.  

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