Abarca Sports starts its 41st season
Telefónica-backed squad opens its fifth decade in cycling’s top tier with nearly twenty signings, key staff appointments and up to ten new sponsors for its race kit and components. Here’s a brief look at what’s to come this year.
A return to its origins – yet with a completely revamped look. Following a decade, the fourth in its history, full of brilliant results and repercussion, the Movistar Team starts a new period as excited as it was in its first year under Telefónica’s sponsorship, 2011, albeit with a really different approach.
Despite Spanish riders -21 of the 39 making the Blues’ provisional roster as of January 1st- still representing a majority of the squad led by Eusebio Unzué, figures way higher than some seasons in the past era, the 2020 Movistar Team is also the most international group in four decades of existence. 14 nationalities from all over Europe and the Americas make part of a team which evolves from being the second oldest in the 2019 WorldTour to just few months short to one of the youngest in 2020, just over 27 average. And that youth will certainly be one of the most exciting features and a fact to follow as the season progresses for the Blues.
Eight riders, from all profiles one can imagine, will start the 2020 season aged 23 or younger. There’s a classy allrounder of great intelligence and racecraft, Basque Iñigo Elosegui (21); two rouleurs and classics talents, Johan Jacobs (22) and Juri Hollmann (20); a stagerace with great potential, Matteo Jorgenson (20); two great climbers, Einer Rubio (21) and Juan Diego Alba (22); an excellent time trialist, currently-injured Mathias Norsgaard (22); and even a sprinter, Brit Gabriel Cullaigh (23). Also to be noted are up-and-coming Spanish riders like Sergio Samitier (24), Héctor Carretero (24) and two who are bound to be big protagonists of the team’s present and near future: Enric Mas (24) and Marc Soler (26).
The two Spaniards will take on leading roles at three-week stageraces, with Giro, Tour and Vuelta still to be divided up between them and the team’s other main contenders. Both dream, of course, of doing well in the future at the ‘Grande Boucle’, where fans can expect to also find the Movistar Team’s big leader, the group’s main reference during the past 15 years: Alejandro Valverde. The current Spanish road race champion hopes, though, to do well at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ road race, which could modify is condition and expectations for the other main event in July. He will still remain the kind of ultra-competitive rider he’s always proven to be, of course – ‘Bala’ doesn’t know how to just put a backnumber on at a race without notably featuring.
Alongside the 28 men will be 11 women, who will be part of the new UCI Women’s WorldTour category in 2020. An average age just under 25 -each and every one of the ladies was born in the 1990s- keeps full of fresh talent a roster with three important newcomers this season: a growing climber, Norwegian Katrine Aalerud, and two powerhouses for flat courses and one-day events, Jelena Erić and Barbara Guarischi. Together with them will be the core riders of this project: national champions Oyarbide and Gutiérrez; excellent supporting riders, such as Teruel, Rodríguez, Biannic or González; and interesting prospects for stage races, like Eider Merino and Paula Patiño.
Not all changes will happen on the riders’ side, though. There’s a crucial addition to the Movistar Team with Patxi Vila joining as Head of Performance, helping the Blues gain agility and improve its technical resources. While the staff grows to nearly fifty professionals, the list of partners increases up to 33, the highest figure ever for the Movistar Team. New sponsors include reinforcements in key areas, such as the race kit (Alé), nutrition (226ERS), bike components (SRAM, Zipp, Quarq) and equipment (100%) or general wellness (Normatec, Podoactiva, Danielo, Arabay). All of that, as Telefónica celebrates 10 years rolling together with Abarca Sports, the global comms giant to support the team at least through the end of 2021.
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport