Movistar Team make their first outing in the Challenge de Mallorca tomorrow, in the same island where they debuted in pro cycling 32 years ago
January 28, 1980. A group of eight cyclists put on their first bib as pro riders. Acha, Azkarate, Greciano, Laguía, López del Alamo, López Izkue, Ocaña and Roldán don’t know yet, but are about to write the very first page in the most glorious history in Spanish cycling. Sheathed into the pink jerseys from the Reynolds squad, the octet make the first outing in the sport’s top tier into a structure that, preceeding the actual Movistar Team, would last for 33 seasons into the elite of international cycling.
That day, the now-named telephone squad debuted in the pro scene with the prologue of the Volta a Mallorca, the race that would turn into the Challenge starting for Movistar Team on Sunday with the Trofeo Palma (11.00 CET, 116km) in the traditional circuit across the coastal boulevard in the Balearic capital. Thirty-two years later, one of the protagonists of that date, José Luis Laguía, is still part of the team structure and works as perfect reporter to remember the event, a 2k individual time trial up to the Castell de Bellver opening the team’s legend.
“The thing that I remember the most was the nervousness that day,” reflects Laguía, by then a 20-year-old neo-pro gripped by fear towards his debut. “I saw riders like De Vlaeminck or De Wolf, the ones I had on the posters in my room. I had made myself to the idea that it was going to be terrific and I’d have to suffer brutally. But surprisingly, it was the other way round, though I still remember the sore taste of blood into my mouth after such an intense effort on a short time trial.” That day, the myth Roger De Vlaeminck, ‘The Gypsy’, took home the victory while youngster Laguía made a first sign of quality in 5th place, a position he could keep until the end of the Volta with another podium that would be his main characterizing value throughout a 14-year career: the King of the Mountains jersey. “The fifth place at the prologue took the nerves out of myself, and at the first stage I climbed first through the two climbs. That gave me a boost. We realized they wouldn’t be eating us.”
The lines of success and longevity
Since then, the goals of the Reynolds team were clear and straight: “We led out the KOM sprints as if they were the finale of the Milano-Sanremo. For us, it was a dream to be on the podium from the very first race, and it was a very to make it profitable and evade all doubts from the corporation and its chairman, García Barberena, to take the leap pros in a small village like Irtutzun and an enterprise like Inasa, not the big you would need to keep such a team alive.” In those moments, no one could imageen those pioneers would open the most successful history in Spanish cycling: “It was impossible to imagine it, but now, with the time gone by, you see that doing things well and following a strong line makes difficult not to accomplish your goals. We were modest, but we were the first ones to try and make that sport modern: the vertical sponsor on our culottes, using headbands instead of caps, the white shoes… all of that had to do with the image we sent out in behalf of the sponsor, and it was an innovation. We were young and willing to do something different. I think we were the germ of several other generations wanting to become pro cyclists.”
Laguía, now into the Movistar Team staff, reviews the similarities of that year’s Volta a Mallorca with the Challenge starting on Sunday: “The atmosphere is the same. You can smell like cycling everywhere because it was the inaugural race in the schedule too. And for us, it will always be a special place. It’s emotional to think that it’s been such a long way since 32 years ago that the squad debuted here. After so many victories, different sponsors, moments of joy and tragedy… getting back here is the result of such a strong line. Exigence, professionality, revering the brand sponsoring you… that’s the same now since then. Taking care of the team’s image to the maximum, not with the objective of winning at all coast, but having an exquisite behaviour as well in victory as in defeat. And always respecting the sponsor, because it’s the one taking you here, as the main premise.”
By a whim of desiny, a name was already emerging around the first conversations between the team’s riders. “We had a big, square truck, really similar to the ones the telephone technicals were using to fix failures on the lines. We called it ‘the Telefónica truck‘. See what it has turned into…”
Selection Movistar Team – Trofeo Palma 2012: Alejandro Valverde, José Joaquín Rojas, Giovanni Visconti, Iván Gutiérrez, Jesús Herrada, Ignatas Konovalovas, Pablo Lastras, David López, Ángel Madrazo.