Thumbs up and down for ProTour

The ProTour is both blamed and absolved of responsibility for the probable demise of two of Spain's

The ProTour is both blamed and absolved of responsibility for the probable demise of two of Spain's
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE The managers of two Spanish teams that may well not be seen again riding at the top level in 2005 have offered differing perspectives on the introduction of the ProTour. One has blamed the new circuit for preventing him from finding new backers for his team, while the other has welcomed the introduction of a formula that establishes order at the sport's elite level. In the former camp is Cafs Baqu team manager Jon Cengotitabengoa, whose squad are set to make up to 32 team staff redundant in the new year because no new sponsor has been found to support the investment made by the Basque coffee company. Speaking to AS, Cengotitabengoa said that the ProTour "bears a lot of the blame for this situation because it prevents us from offering the Vuelta as an option to interested companies. They are trying to make cycling a sport for millionaires and no one else really matters. I understand that they want to create a structure and order within cycling, but let the rest of us survive as well." Next season Baqu will return to their long-standing position as one of the stalwarts of Spanish amateur cycling, despite winning two stages and two King of the Mountains titles at the last two Vueltas. Unable to offer companies interested in backing Baqu the guarantee of a ride in the Vuelta, they have simply been unable to attract the half a million euros or so needed to keep competing at the top level. The situation is similar but slightly more hopeful at Costa de Almeria-Paternina. Team manager Miguel Moreno has 28 staff on his roster and he is still hoping to offer them some good news about next season despite the loss of the Almeria tourist board as a backer. Moreno is also more positive about the ProTour, telling AS that it "doesn't affect a modest team like mine. Well, only when it comes to the Vuelta, but that's another question entirely. I believe this competition is necessary and I've spent the last eight or 10 years saying that the current calendar is a bit of a dog's breakfast, where everything is mixed together and there is no order." Moreno is hoping that he can persuade Marcos Eguizabal, the boss of wine-producing giant Paternina, to stick with the team. He told AS that he has another backer who is interested in coming into the equation and is hoping that a deal can be concluded before registration for continental team status is finalised on January 17.

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