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Teams & Riders Putting the fun in Fundación Euskadi: The Euskaltel and Laboral Kutxa thread

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It's been nearly a decade since the untimely death of the original Euskaltel-Euskadi team. Luckily it wasn't the end for the foundation behind it and through the financial help of the Basque community and favurite sons like Mikel Landa, the revived team received PT status back in 2020. In 2021 it received its first invite to the Vuelta a España.T he dreams of winning a Vuelta stage at home last year or getting a wild card for the upcoming Basque Grand Départ did however not come true, and it finished the 2022 season as the worst placed ProTeam in the UCI standings.

Things are looking brighter from the start of 2023 though. Due to strong performances from guys like Antonio Jesús Soto and new recruit Carlos Canal, the team is currently ahead of the other three Spanish ProTeams and also both Alpecin and Astana. Of course with quite a few Spanish races at this time of year, the team always had to hit the ground running to satisfy its sponsors and fans. And although it has beem invited to the last three Vueltas, Unipublic/ASO may also have been considering to snub them this time in favour of Caja Rural, but I don't think we have worry about that anymore. Hopefully the team will continue to deliver for the rest of the season and be able to light things up in Itzulia and the Vuelta.

The foundation doesn't only run the ProTeam, it also has a development team, that includes Yeray Sastre (Carlos' son), and a UCI women's team.
The women's team has picked up Eider Merino this year. She has already established herself as one of the better pure climbers in the peloton, but after an injury plagued 2022, her current level was unknown. But she was one of the strongest on Jebel Hafeet in the UAE Tour, so it looks like we can be hopeful on her behalf. New on the team is also the German Aileen Schweikart, who finished 18th in her first Giro Donne last year and might still be able to improve.
 
We're a bit furthe rinto the season now. The men's team has still not taken a victory in 2023, but Marta Romeu managed to keep the favourites behind her on the third stage of the Vuelt a Andalucía last week to take her own and the women's team's first ever pro win.

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Luis Ángel Maté took a big win for himself and the team in Portugal the other day.
With three riders inside the top 10 ahead of the last four stages, it looks like they could be on their way to a great GC reuslt in the end. Juaristi should well on the final ITT.

View: https://twitter.com/euskaltelteam/status/1691487439188111364



Meanwhile the women's team is continuing its quest to become a future WWT team,
With today's announcement that they've secured a marquee signing in Ane Santesteban, they seem to be on the right track. I hope Eider Merino will be able to overcome the injuries she suffered in Itzulia and continues on the team next year.
 
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Luis Ángel Maté took a big win for himself and the team in Portugal the other day.
With three riders inside the top 10 ahead of the last four stages, it looks like they could be on their way to a great GC reuslt in the end. Juaristi should well on the final ITT.

View: https://twitter.com/euskaltelteam/status/1691487439188111364



Meanwhile the women's team is continuing its quest to become a future WWT team,
With today's announcement that they've secured a marquee signing in Ane Santesteban, they seem to be on the right track. I hope Eider Merino will be able to overcome the injuries she suffered in Itzulia and continues on the team next year.

It's surprising that Santesteban has left Jayco - She's always given leadership, even though she has her limitations.
 
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I wouldn't think she was unhappy either, but with García joining the team, she would have had less leadership, and maybe they didn't offer her a 3 year contract like LK has.

I think it must have been the three year contract - Would think that Sansesteban and Garcia would be a good combination - Anyway, Jayco needs to get better riders as Faulkner who has been injury plagued is leaving the team.
 
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So this Saturday marks the start of the European road season. A season which will be important for both Euskaltel-Euskadi and Laboral Kutxa. The men will obviously want to return to the Vuelta after missing out in 2023, while the women's team is not only targeting a TDFF invite, but also a future WWT spot (they already applied for this season, but didn't have enough points).

The men's team has seen Carlos Canal take the step up to Movistar after a solid season, the oldest Azparren sibling, Xabier, has moved to Q36.5, and Antonio Soto and Unai Iribar have both joined Equipo Kern. Juanjo Lobato, Iker Ballerin and Peio Goikoetxea have all retired, with the latter becoming a DS at Laboral Kutxa.

Iker Mintegi, Unai Zubeldia and Nicolas Alustiza have been promoted from the U23 team, while Victor De La Parte, Iker Bonillo, Xavier Cañellas and James Fouché are all new members of the organisation.

The hottest transfer is of course Jon Aberasturi, who becomes the second rider, after the aforementioned Lobato, to have ridden for both original and the current Euskaltel-Euskadi teams. He may not be as strong a puncheur as he a few years ago, but he should still be able to rack up a good amount of points on Spanish roads.
 
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The women's team has received an increased budget to help it achieve promotion. That has made it possible to sign Ane Santesteban, who will be the leader of the team in most races. Amongst the Basque riders, I'm looking forward to see how Eneritz Vadillo's and Idoia Eraso's develops this year.

The team has sadly said goodbye to Eider Merino, whose career looked to be back on track during the first races last year, but now it might be over as a result of her crash in the Itzulia in May. I hope we'll see her back on the bike.

Gari Ugarte and Eneko Ortega have joined the U23 team from the junior ranks, and I expect Ander Ganzabal will be trying his best this season to earn a pro contract. Yeray Sastre didn't have a successful first U23 season and has left the team.
 
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Ongoing full list of pro wins for the men's team since going pro in 2020:

Vuelta a Murcia 2021
Volta a Portugal 2023, stage 6
Volta a Portugal 2023, stage 10

Will they finally achieve the mythical average of one pro win per season this year? All they need to do is replicate last season...
 
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Ongoing full list of pro wins for the men's team since going pro in 2020:

Vuelta a Murcia 2021
Volta a Portugal 2023, stage 6
Volta a Portugal 2023, stage 10

Will they finally achieve the mythical average of one pro win per season this year? All they need to do is replicate last season...

I think they got quite lucky during the Volta, but then I also firmly believe they were unlucky during most other races, so let's hope they get it done.
 
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I also think Aberasturi deserves an additional shoutout for having been not just on both incarnations of Euskaltel-Euskadi, but also on Euskadi-Murias. Probably the only rider to have raced for three entirely separate pro teams who all had the same title sponsor.
I'm giving it a go to see if I can find any examples from the sponsorship merry-go-round in Portugal but can't find any just yet. I thought the most likely would have been if somebody rode for the LA-Pecol team up to 2004 (or in 2005 when it was LA Aluminios-Liberty Seguros)(this is the São João de Ver team that was the Liberty Seguros team that collapsed in 2009 after the triple positive of Guerra, Nozal and Ribeiro at the Volta), then for LA-MSS in 2007-8 (the old Maia team that was Milaneza and was dismantled following the major doping scandal in 2008), then escaped suspension and moved to the Fercase team that became LA-Antarte across 2009-10 (this team remains active to this day as Credibom-LA Aluminios), but while there are several that cover two of those bases, none that I can see traverse all three.
 
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