Orange in the red.
It appears that anachronistic little band of Basque cyclists called Euskatel-Euskadi is in deep trouble.
Team funding has been a serious issue for years; the terrible Spanish economy forcing cutbacks. The team barely has two tapas to rub together. Team manager Miguel Madariaga has been pleading poverty and begging for euros in the media for what seem like ages.
Director Sportif Igor Gonzales de Galdeano got so stressed over running the team that he resigned last year only to be lured back with promises that things would get better.
Then came the unthinkable, the Act of Dilution. To keep the team competitive on the big WorldTour stage, they brought in foreign riders. That’s to say anyone who wasn’t Basque with a strangely spelled Basque name who grew up wearing orange.
This de-Basque-ification led to the signing of Russian Alexander Serebryakov off the Team Type 1 roster. This week Serebryakov tested positive for EPO and maybe pathological stupidity. For a team barely hanging on, that bad press is almost a dagger to the heart. EPO abuse inevitably leads to IFS issues — Impossible to find sponsors.
As De Galdeano says, the team has reached a “critical moment.”
Serebryakov embarrassed the team but so have the recent performances of riders like Igor Anton who hasn’t done much since he crashed out of the Vuelta a Espana a few seasons ago while wearing the red jersey.
That’s a double whammy and now all the pressure — as usual — shifts to savior Samuel Sanchez to deliver another attention-getting ride in the Tour de France. Maybe a second polka dot jersey or a stage win or two. Sammy must be getting weary of always having the weight of the empire on his skinny shoulders.
In a way, it’s not unlike the way things used to be at the French Bbox team three years back when Thomas Voeckler was the only show. Now with Europcar, he has Pierre Rolland to spread the expectations around.
Are we witnessing the inevitable decline and disappearance of one of the most iconic and entertaining pro cycling teams in the world? It sure feels that way and given the post-USADA climate, finding anyone to fund a team in flux is a stretch of the imagination and bank account.