“From our first season as ProTeam I would keep the sacrifice, commitment and effort of everyone”

The month of November faces its final stretch and in the offices of the EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team these hectic days of preparations, meetings and other commitments are lived with intensity.

The 2022 season is just around the corner. The structure prepares his second project in the ProTeam category with the good taste of mouth that has left a first year, always difficult, in terms of image and results. We spoke with Fran Contador, General Manager of the EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team, to know his impressions on the past, the present and the future.

A first question almost obligatory. What is your assessment of the first season of the EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team?

It has been a very good first year, from my point of view. A new category, with all its difficulties, needs an adaptation, a time. And the start was not easy in terms of the calendar due to the COVID-19. I think the image projected by the team has been serious, professional, and it has also been accompanied by results on the road. I’m not thinking only of Lorenzo’s victory on the Zoncolan; throughout the Giro d’Italia the performance has been very good. And in general during the whole season. I think it has been a very good campaign to the point that this 2022 all that performance is going to put extra pressure on us in the sense of the responsibility to continue in the same line.

The team has made a name for itself, it is recognisable and the fans have embraced it with affection. From the point of view of that support, you can also talk about additional pressure…

There is no doubt that this is something that will come, or at least I have no doubts about it, but I think that the pressure is something that we put on ourselves. All the staff have a mission, a task, a responsibility, doing things well and not relaxing. Then circumstances will determine whether the results are better or worse. But hard work, without relaxing, always gives results.

Apart from the Monte Zoncolan stage, because of its inherent impact, what other moment of the season would you highlight?

More than a moment, I would say the whole Giro d’Italia. From the beginning to the end, everyone’s commitment was total, it was absolute. During the whole race, each and every member of the team, riders and staff, gave 200% every day. We were all aware of the importance of the moment, we were all eager to honour this invitation, which at the beginning was possibly questioned, because we didn’t know how the team would perform… I would take the sacrifice, commitment and effort of everyone.

Have you missed any goal, any victory, any event?

Above all, I would have liked to have been able to spend more time with the sponsors, which is something that goes back a long way because of the pandemic and all the restrictions it imposed on a global level. It is true that with the title sponsors, with EOLO and KOMETA, we have been able to carry out some actions, as much as possible and within the limitations of the moment; and also with the AURUM bikes. But I hope and wish that in 2022 we can count on a better sponsorship activation. In the end there are more technical firms like Gobik, Kask, Koo, DMT, ENVE… that have a higher visibility thanks to the competition and their belonging to cycling as a sport. Other sponsors such as Retelit, Elmec or AVM, due to their own activity, do not have it and it is very important that we can organise events around the team and count on their presence in the race. We are very happy because they have all expressed their satisfaction with our work this season.

You talk about sponsors… What about the sporting side of things?

I haven’t missed any results, I don’t have that feeling of lack. I haven’t really missed anything on a sporting level. I can honestly say that. It has been a year that we have lived in a very natural way, with a complicated start due to the cancellations of races and a certain delay in our start, which probably made it difficult for us to get into the rhythm. But then we arrived at the Giro d’Italia and there, as I said before, we rode a very serious race and Lorenzo won a stage. But then there was his subsequent victory in the Adriatica Ionica Race; a victory that shows that after the Giro the team did not relax at any time, although to a certain extent it is inevitable that this could happen. But it didn’t. And in the summer and the final part of the season came some very nice results.

Has the evolution of the season and the good sensations it has left had its correspondence in the interest of new races to count on the EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team?

The team has created a very clear identity of seriousness and professionalism and this makes everything easier when it comes to requesting some invitations. We have also received others and I have to say that we do notice that EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team generates interest. In 2022 we will be in the Vuelta a San Juan, in Argentina, and it will also be a novelty for us the Vuelta a Andalucía, because in 2021 with its postponement we could not be in the new dates and so far the structure has not debuted in the race. And we are looking forward to it because in the team we count, and we have counted, with several Andalusians. Now Alejandro Ropero, Sergio García and David Martín. Before Juan Pedro López, José Antonio García…

Have you considered the option of racing another three-week race in 2022?

With the current regulations, it’s not really feasible. In the case of the Vuelta, with four Spanish ProTeam teams better placed, it would be complicated for us. We can’t invest a lot of effort in this because that’s the scenario that exists. Obviously it goes without saying that for us, for Alberto and for me, to be able to ride the Vuelta would be wonderful. It is the race of our country, Alberto has won it three times, we believe in the work we are doing in the Foundation to contribute to the growth and development of Spanish grassroots cycling… Of course it would be very exciting and we hope that in the not too distant future it can be achieved. But I don’t think that moment has arrived yet.

Would you highlight any major difference between the 2021 team and next year’s team?

Looking ahead to this season there are several departures due to the specific circumstances of each case, but the block that has been created is one of the things that makes me happiest. I think we have formed an excellent team at all levels, with a very good connection between everyone… On the sporting side, we trust in young, talented people. We want them, as Lorenzo Fortunato or Vincenzo Albanese have done in the past, to show their potential here with us. Riders who, for various reasons, have not yet exploded or have not yet shown what they are really capable of. And on the basis of the 2021 team, this 2022 team will surely be even better.

Two talents from the Foundation’s U23 team, Álex Martín and David Martín, have also been promoted to the ProTeam, and one of them, Álex, has gone through all the structures…

It is something very important for us because it is what gives meaning to the project. There would be no point in making an investment of resources at multiple levels if the cyclists don’t have an outlet to the professional team. Personally, this is what motivates me most about the project. And I also consider that it is a differentiating point with respect to the other projects on which we are going to continue working. I have a lot of confidence in Álex Martín and David Martín and I hope they have a good debut. For them the jump also means an extra responsibility because they come from the Alberto Contador Foundation, as they have to somehow endorse the work that is being done here. They are our representatives in the elite. We give them the opportunity because we think they are really worth it. That’s what we want, that many of the signings really come from our nursery, that they grow in a way of working. In such a global cycling, and the way we are working these years, that’s why it makes a lot of sense that for 2022 our U23 project evolves and incorporates Italian riders.

There has also been an evolution in the junior structure?

Yes, this year we have not been able to hold the Selection Campus and the incorporations have been made directly according to the criteria of the technical staff. The pandemic has hit the junior category particularly hard at the same time as cycling has undergone many changes at the same time. There is a growing interest among professional teams, whether in the WorldTour or other categories, in young riders who are emerging. For us, the fact that the Campus was not held was not pleasant. Neither was last year’s telematic version, because it is not the same, it is not what we are looking for, it does not fit in with the way of working and the fundamental objective of the Campus. But just as it has not been pleasant, and we hope to take it up again, it is also making us analyse and think about the current course of cycling and the suitability of adapting to the times.

The project, as a whole, has grown a lot. And at the end of the day, being at the head of an adventure like this is complicated and it really costs a lot to maintain it…

A cycling team, especially when you start out, requires a lot of dedication. It’s not really quantifiable. In our case, what drives Ivan, my brother Alberto and me, and I say it as I feel it, is the passion for this sport. None of the three of us would have the real need to be managing a team with all that it entails. A lot, a lot of work. And its problems, of course. A cycling team is a company. But a special company: it is fed by money from sponsors with which it pays a staff and riders to go to races. It is not a company that produces a physical good or provides a service with which to make a profit. This is not the case. Here there is no profit and no profit is sought. But as a company there are always problems, unforeseen events, wonderful moments, budget and human resources issues….. This is a medium-sized company. We are 42 staff members and 53 cyclists, 21 of whom are professionals and are on the payroll. And with the added bonus that we’re all in one place, we’re not really all together.

[   PhotoGomezSport (1), Maurizio Borserini]