Illes Balears reflect on a good first season in the sport, where success off the road seems to have
PICTURE BY LAVUELTA.COM Anyone wondering exactly what sponsors get out of big money investment in cycling teams will be interested to hear some of the details that came out of the Illes Balears’ team end-of-season press conference that was held in Palma, Majorca, yesterday. As well as team managers Jos Miguel Echavarri and Eusebio Unzue, the president of the regional council of the Balearic Islands, Rosa Puig, and its director general of sport, Jos Luis Ballester, gave their verdicts on the Illes Balears’ first full season in the sport. All were pleased with the team’s 17 victories, 25 second places and the third place that Paco Mancebo took at the Tour of Spain, as well as Mancebo’s sixth place finish at the Tour, where the team’s Vladimir Karpets was also best young rider. More pleasing, however, for the team’s title sponsor was the value of the coverage they have received over the season. After investing approximately six million euros in the team, the Illes Balears regional government has calculated that it has received media coverage to a value of 19.2 million euros: 4.4 million in the press, 3.9 million on radio, 10.5 million on television, and 0.4 million on the internet. While Unzue was particularly pleased with his team’s performance on the road, Ballester was delighted to play up the exposure the Mediterranean islands have got as a result of its move into cycling. “The team is starting to be known as Illes Balears rather than as Banesto,” said Ballester. News such as this is also likely to help in the search for a sub-sponsor to replace the outgoing Banesto brand. Spanish budget airline Air Europa is one company that is reported to be considering some investment. Meanwhile, on the racing side, the team is looking ahead with huge expectation to the debut of new signing Alejandro Valverde, who, very appropriately, will make his first appearance in Illes Balears colours at February’s Majorca Challenge. The team’s roster for the Pro Tour is almost complete, with 23 riders signed up and just another couple needed to fulfil roster requirements. Costa de Almeria’s Jonathan Gonzalez and Milaneza’s Francisco Perez have been in talks with the team. – Gorka Beloki has followed his elder brother Joseba to the Saunier Duval team after seeing out just a year of his contract with the French Brioches La Boulangre squad. Beloki was keen to move back to a Spanish team after he was prevented from using anti-asthmatic products by the French team.