SportsThe champion Roglic starts the Vuelta in red

The champion Roglic starts the Vuelta in red

The Slovenian Primoz Roglic, winner of the 2019 and 2020 Vuelta, on stage during the official presentation of the 2021 Vuelta a España.Manu Bruque / EFE

Behind the stunned cyclists in the neoclassical portico of the Gothic cathedral, two saints on a canvas. One offers the keys to heaven; the other, that is the Church, wields a sword. Either triumph or death. Either fight or goodbye. In that atmosphere, there is no doubt, Primoz Roglic is a champion, the warrior who wins heaven. For him, the keys and the sword. For the Olympic champion who never fails in Spain, the red jersey and the fight in a prologue to the Vuelta that he sees again, and it has been almost a decade since they appeared for the race, the orange jerseys of the Euskaltel Euskadi brand. Mikel Landa sees them, and his soul leaps for joy, his heart, which, he says, has been and always will be orange.

The billboards, so many, dirty the stones; the screeching and thunderous music silences, always silenced, the music of Antonio José, the memory of the musician of 27 murdered in 36, like all culture, so young, 32 years old, and thrown into a common grave in Estépar, he is left alone on a plaque in the narrow house where he lived, on Sombrerería street, around the corner from the cathedral invaded by cyclists who, like Egan Bernal or Enric Mas, suffer in the field of lenticular wheels, goats, watts a Go-go on the way up to the castle and adrenaline on the way down, and they dream of mountains. More skates going up (8m 50s), Egan cautiously descends (8m 59s). No one can get close to Alex Aranburu (8m 38s), the Gipuzkoan who goes down like no other and for mid-afternoon he has to sit in the hot seat of the best, and there he holds on until the last one out, the Roglic campeador (8m 32s). ), at 50 per hour, which evicts him and starts the Tour of Spain on the 21st as the one on the 20th ended, in red.

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Landa, face sharper than ever, no cheeks already, aquiline profile, perhaps because he was so comfortable warming up in the shade with an inflatable vest plugged into a cold air generator, he is so cool, and everyone feels like dying in Burgos devastated Due to an African heat wave, 37 degrees on the plateau, he arrives in a hurry at the cathedral, stands on the ramp only 3s before his appointed time, 6:24 p.m., and a dog crosses him, defiantly. He drives wisely (9m 11s, 39s behind Roglic in 7.1 kilometers). His day will be another.

The Bishop of Burgos, who is Gabica’s nephew, gives them his blessing and smiles beatifically.

The cyclist from Murgia runs for Bahrain, but his team is the one with orange jerseys, because for something he resurrected in 2018 the foundation that supports him, and he presided over it until a few months ago, until the International Cycling Union (UCI) He warned him that it was not right to run for a team and, at the same time, organize another with which he could coincide in a race. As they do now in the Vuelta of the return of the team in which Landa began to be a cyclist, first in the subsidiary, the Orbea, from the age of 19, and then with the greats, with the jersey that they made great in the first decade of the century Laiseka, Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia, Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón, Amets Txurruka, and the Pyrenees were dyed orange when the Tour went to Tourmalet or Luz Ardiden.

Landa joined the first team in 2011, with the last great batch produced by the Basque Country, that of his friend Pello Bilbao, the Izagirre brothers and Jonathan Castroviejo. In 2013, when the Landa generation was already beginning to flourish strongly, the team president, Miguel Madariaga, was forced to close down. There was not enough income for the professional team to continue working, explained Madariaga, the head of the Euskadi Foundation, the organization that had been created in 1993 with the contribution of more than 5,000 members, and aid from different public bodies, and from which the team was born.

The oranges disappeared from the peloton in 2014. The cyclists triumphed in the teams that hired them, Sky, Movistar, Astana, Bahrain, but Landa, an emigrant in spite of himself, always felt a pinch in the spirit, an orange flame that rekindled, and made tremendous fire, a call from Madariaga in autumn 2017: Mikel, the old president told him, come and save the Foundation. Landa rolled up his sleeves, got the support of Orbea and Etxeondo, put in money from his pocket, and the Foundation went ahead. And a cycling team for the professional peloton. In 2018 and 2019, in the continental category, the third division. In 2020, the great leap forward. Euskaltel, the Basque telephone company, returns. In the management and in the direction, together with Jesús Ezkurdia, the manager of Landa, former runners of the former Euskaltel work: Aitor Galdos, Jorge Azanza and Iñaki Isasi. Everything has a sense of continuity. The team is promoted to second. Above, only the ProTour. You already have the level to be invited to the big ones. The Vuelta del 21 is the first step. The 23rd Tour, which will leave Bilbao, the next objective. And a requirement posed by the old runners of the golden age, that there be more runners from the Basque quarry, so prolific. Because, they say, in the eight of the Vuelta there are only four Basques, a Murcian, a Valencian and two Andalusian veterans, Juan José Lobato, from Trebujena, who, anyway, left the old Euskaltel, and Luis Ángel Maté, from Marbella , who, after all, is the brand image of Orbea, the bicycle brand.

Murcian Soto is the best of the team in Burgos, 29s behind Roglic.

Even not being able to be president, Landa continues to be behind, giving back, feeling, what the team gave him, and always repeating that in case of need he will always be there to balance the accounts.

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