A few months ago I posted about the rise of Continental squad Euskadi Basque Country Murias, a Basque team, looking to fill the void created by the collapse of Euskaltel Euskadi a year or so ago. Bright orange has been replaced by lime green, but the remit remains the same: promote young Basque cycling, promote the Basque Country and promote the sponsor Murias (a construction materials merchant). I thought it would be worth checking in to see how the team has been performing.
The first observation is how they use social media to connect with fans, media and the wider world. There are regular updates on the team facebook and twitter accounts in Basque, Spanish and English about racing and training, while the wesbite is also maintained with plenty of info on upcoming races and results, plus rider profiles, interviews etc. Luckily for me, the website is also available in English (plus the native languages) .
In a similar fashion to Euskatel, you can also sign up to be a colaborador or ‘member’ of the team. For €50 you can pledge your support and get a tshirt and rider postcards. You also get entered into prize draws to win bikes, meet and greets, ride alongs and the like. You don’t even have to be Basque to join!
So far, so good, but ‘what about the cycling?’, I hear you ask…
A quick check on the UCI Europe Tour ranking has the team sitting at 30/118. This puts them ahead of some more recognizable names as Team Wiggins, Drapac and Dimension Data for Qubeka. Procycling Stats has the team listed as 3/4 Spanish teams, behind World Tour team Movistar and Pro Conti outfit caja Rural, but ahead of Burgos-BH. On the other hand Procycling Stats has the team sitting near the bottom of a winners list this season, with one win and a further four podium places in 2016.
The only win this year to date came in March, when Imanol Estevez took the first stage of the Volta ao Alenejo. Estevez was riding well during this period, when he also picked up second place on a stage of GP Liberty Seguros, plus 5th on GC and 1st in youth classification. He capped this off with a strong showing in the GP Miguel Indurain, finishing 14th in a field littered with World Tour talent.
The Volta ao Alenejo was a happy hunting ground for the team, as it delivered a further two podium spots, with a second and third place on stages for Gari Bravo. Where Estevez has gone off the boil, Bravo has kicked on to post 8/4/4 on GC on some of the regional Spanish vueltas, including the Vuelta Castilla a Leon, plus the final podium place on one of stage 1 of Vuelta Asturias . And more often than not with stiff competition from the likes of Movistar and Caja Rural. During these recent races, Mikel Bizkarra has delivered some strong results in the mountains competitions including a 2nd at the Rhones-Isere tour. They are a Basque team after all- we expect to see them do well in the mountains!
So far it looks like a solid performance from the team, but I hope to see them do well in the coming months as they race in some of the higher level HC class races. Look out for them at the Vuelta a Burgos, the Arctic Race of Norway and Paris-Tours later this year.
(image at the top from team website)