From their Orange jerseys, to their ability to light up any race when the going got steep, from their dislike of the Northern Classics, to their passionate fans, the Euskaltel-Euskadi cycling team had a major impact on the cycling world.
Euskaltel in full flight, known to some as the carrots for obvious reasons
Throughout their existence they garnered plaudits and respect, as they won races here, there and everywhere. The backing they received from their fans, both Basque and non-Basque, was matched, from a financial perspective, by the Basque regional government, who co-funded along with a regional phone company.
The team had a unique recruitment policy whereby only riders from the Basque region, or those whose formative years were in the Pais Vasco could don the orange jersey. Unfortunatley this rule had to be relaxed in the last couple of years of the team’s existence, as the need for UCI rider points forced them to look beyond the Basque border. In 2013, after near-on 20 years of racing, the state withdrew funding, citing the Spanish economic malaise as the main reason. Despite several attempts to keep the team alive, the dream died and the orange jersey was put into retirement.
But from Orange comes green
The Basque government seems once again willing and able to fund a Basque cycling team to a level that will allow it to compete at the world’s top races. Murias, a regional construction firm, has joined the government as a named sponsored. The first goal of this new team is to race in the 2016 Tour of the Basque Country. Further down the line they aim to race in the Vuelta a Espana and the Tour de France.
I look forward to reading and seeing how this team perform over the next few years. As they attempt to capture the hearts and minds of Basques and non-Basques alike. One thing is for sure, they were visible in their bright orange jerseys and they will be just as visible in their bright green jerseys!