Euskaltel-Euskadi doubly motivated to race on ‘home roads’ at Vuelta a España

Basque-backed team racing with pride and ambition on 'home roads' in quest in return to glory.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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BILBAO, Spain (VN) — The Vuelta a España landed back in Spain’s Basque Country, and “home team” Euskaltel-Euskadi is doubly motivated to race in front of their fans.

The orange-clad team returned to the peloton a few years ago and enters this Vuelta intent on trying to win a stage.

The first task is to race aggressively across three stages this week in Spain’s Basque Country.

“Everyone inside the bus knows how important these stages are for the team, our sponsors, and our fans,” Luis Ángel Maté told VeloNews. “We want to win a stage, and in order to do that, we need to be in the breakaways.

“The goal here in these days in the Basque Country is to ride into every breakaway, and try to make it to the line.”

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It was mission accomplished in the first two stages back in Spain’s Basque Country.

Ibai Azurmendi rode into Wednesday’s big move on stage 5, and Joan Bou snuck into Tuesday’s major move and scooped up the day’s King of the Mountains prize.

That put him on the winner’s podium after the stage, and he vowed to try to defend it.

“The idea was to go for the climber’s jersey, both for me and the other teammates,” Bou said. “I rode into the breakaway, and I could finish it off on the climb. I had seen the main climb the day before and I could manage my efforts and gain the mountain points.

“The objective will be to try to hang on for as long as I can, and it would be nice to wear the jersey for a few more stages. That’s the objective of the team, to try to win this jersey or to win a stage. We’ll be fighting to get into as many breaks as possible.”

Euskaltel-Euskadi racing with pride on ‘home roads’

Euskaltel-Euskadi is racing on ‘home roads’ these next few days at the Vuelta. (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The fight for a successful breakaway is only half the battle.

With so many teams desperate to chase points for the UCI rankings, and the GC situation still wide open in the early days, Mate admitted it won’t be easy.

“The terrain favors us because we know the roads and we have our fans here to support us,” Maté said. “It’s also hard when the classification is not yet settled. The breaks usually have more success when the fight for the podium is more defined.”

Euskaltel-Euskadi will keep swinging for the fences.

The team’s trademark orange jersey returned in 2018. The previous incarnation of the team lit up the Tour de France a generation ago, with rowdy Basque fans lining the roads of the Pyrénées each July at the Tour.

Riders such as Roberto Laiseka and Haimar Zubeldia carried team colors across the team’s heyday. Title sponsors returned in 2018 to revive the team that went dormant for a few years.

The team is now supporting a men’s development squad as well as plans for a Women’s WorldTour team within the few seasons.

For Maté and his teammates, racing these next few days will be something special.

“The Basque fans are the best in the world,” Maté said. “It would be great if the team could deliver a stage victory these next few days. We’re going to give everything to try.”

The Vuelta continues in the Basque Country on Thursday, with the start in the region before pushing east into nearby Cantabria.

Time is running out, at least for a “home roads” win for Euskaltel-Euskadi.

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