Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Euskaltel-Euskadi, 1994-2013: You Suck, Cycling Sponsors!

Yes, after years of horrid rumors and monstrous suggestions o' imminent doom, it's finally come true: dear Euskaltel-Euskadi can't come up with the dough (despite my offer to hold a bakesale, I might add), and is officially shutting down, with the fabulous Vuelta a Espana as its brave last stand. A mild and wholly inadequate plus: they'll be bringing one of their strongest teams ever, with loyal leader/Olympic gold medalist/HOW THE !@#$ COULD YOU LET THIS TEAM DIE YOU LOATHESOME BASTARDS/Tour de France KOM so stuff it we love Samuel Sanchez aiming for--and no doubt landing on--the podium, Tour 2013 revelation Mikel Nieve, the erratic but oh-so-close-to-recent-Vuelta-victory Igor Anton, Egoi, Gorka, Juanjo, Pablo, and 'nother Mikel Landa to leave all the other mountain wannabes piteously crawling in their wake and liven up every breakaway with an often-futile-if-ever-glorious show of bravado.

I gotta say, my heart's breaking. I mean !@#$, this is like the day Shea Stadium closed. Euskaltel is a key reason I fell in love with pro cycling in the first place, its wee featherweight climbers scaling unimaginable steeps with shocking tranquillity, the heaving hulking sprinters gacking helplessly two passes back in the autobus, their screaming orange fans always the best and most entertaining in the biz. Flawed, fragile Iban Mayo--shut up! bite me!--still remains one of my favorite climbers of all time, and it's been nice to see he's regained his happiness after an awful if self-inflicted tumultuous time, and it's been lovely to see the riders I began with graduate into DS and other roles in the team. And despite the disgusting cannibalism of the other teams often grasping the best of Euskaltel's talent with their fat gaudy checkbooks and vulgar Euskaltel-crushing budgets--and most notably in my opinion, dragging Haimar Zubeldia from a GC contender to a superdomestique, but what the hell, he picked RadioSkank--seeing the exes bloom at squads like Movistar was an acceptable, if still disappointing, alternative. The team's forced last-season flirtation with ditching its essential Basqueness in favor of WorldTour points from seemingly lesser riders is, to me, already forgotten, a bad hangover from a brilliant night out. Euskaltel could never time trial, either individually or as a charmingly wind-blown team but then, it never cared. And the first time it really took sprinting seriously--with Lobato, this season--the kid took a freakin' 4th in the Tour de France. But its fundamental characteristics--its unique regional focus, its astonishingly consistent and seemingly carefree ability to climb, its almost incestuous relationship with its fan base, the perpetual love of the riders, past and present, for the team--never once changed in a fickle, political sport. I guess nothing rhymes with orange after all, and I suppose nothing ever will. In sum there was something very sweet about the squad in a field of desperately lost or annoyingly swaggering counterparts, and for that I'll always be grateful. Aupa and thank you Euskaltel-Euskadi--now, let's take this show out with a bang!

1 comment:

Trudgin said...

Thank you for saying what I'm feeling... They were my first cycling love.. The only team whose merchandise I've bought.

I pray to GOD they win or at least podium in the Vuelta.... Vamos Samu