basque cycling team Euskaltel will be back in 2013. One of the perennial underdogs, Euskaltel-Euskadi will do what they do best: show up, shake up the peloton, climb and maybe win. Sammy Sanchez managed to pull that off in 2012 with his win of the – you guessed it – Tour of the Basque Country. Or the 52nd edition of the Vuelta al pais Vasco…for those who speak the language.
They don’t win very often, [actually, not much at all], but you have to love the national zeal of this all Basque cycling team: a region known for shepherds and the occasional anarchist. Their name is actually derrived from the Basque word for their dialect: euskaldunak. They’re not strictly French…neither are they strictly Spanish – but they’re at the heart of a national cult of bicycle racing. A few years ago finances and sponsorship were so lean that the fans passed the hat to raise money to support them. Their annual budget continues to be about one-third the average UCI Pro team, so one thing you can say: they have absolutely nothing in common with the Yankees.
For 2013 they’ve signed some ‘foreign’ riders who hail from places other than the Basque country. In spite [or because] of this break with tradition, they’re just competitive enough to make the cut to be named among the 15 UCI world pro teams. [Oddly enough, Alberto Contador’s Team Saxo did not]
And, man, can these boys climb. Training in the mountainous border lands between France and Spain produces riders whose climbing ability rivals anyone from anywhere. You’ll see them chasing break-aways and descending mountain passes with reckless abandon. We’ve seen them consistently finish just off the podiuum or in the top ten. But also, more importantly, we see a team with heart: with mucho gusto. They race clean and strong, and they have my vote for one of the most dedicated and ethical teams out there.