Beyond the great exceptionality of the whole campaign as a consequence of the COVID-19, with many postponements and suspensions, the seventh project of the Contador Foundation U23 took a very relevant course from the first to the last race in which it took part, without the confinement and its uncertainties affecting the performance in the return of the races. The Italian Alessio Acco made his debut for the team in its first commitment, the Memorial Chineta, at Burguillos de Toledo in February, and the Seville-born David Martín extended such a sweet start with a double stage victory and victory in the overall final of the prestigious Memorial Sanroma in Almagro. David Martín was one of the names of the course, four victories in his bag out of nine, with his great success in the Spanish Cup in Valladolid and his promotion to a leadership position that would last until the final race. In the overall final of the Spanish Cup, Vicente Hernaiz from Valladolid, finished in the third place on the podium. Hernaiz was another of the great riders of the season, signing a great victory in the Zamoran Trofeo San José. In 2020, Arturo Grávalos from La Rioja and Edu Pérez-Landaluce from Asturias promoted the continental Kometa-Xstra Cycling Team as a stagiaires. Two youngsters like Fernando Tercero from La Mancha or the Catalan Álex Martín continued to take firm steps in their progression, with outstanding performances in several competitions. In the case of the Barcelona native, special mention should be made of his stage victory in the Volta a Valencia, with a solo exhibition. Also of the Valencian appointment, in his last day, an emotional victory signed by the ‘captain’ Joan Martí Bennassar, always working for his companions and that scored a great success after a lesson of persistence and delivery.
The sixth campaign of the U23 structure of the Alberto Contador Foundation has once again offered a great image from the first to the last race of the calendar. The team has been the protagonist in the fight for the Spanish Cup, a competition in which a couple of triumphs were caressed and where Alejandro Ropero finally finished second, and has curdled outstanding performances in the season of stage races. The presence in the Giro de Italia U23 or the great performances in the Spanish Championships were the icing on the cake in a year that has also had complicated moments, such as Jorge Pastor’s withdrawal from the competition, as well as Arturo Grávalos’s traffic accident that forced him to finish his year in advance with the departure of Sergio Hernández’s team at his own request. Ropero, with three victories (stage in the Vuelta al Bidasoa, stage in the Vuelta a Zamora, victory in the Trofeo Fira d’Agost de Xátiva), and the Italian Alessandro Fancellu (with his triumph in the Vuelta a León and its queen stage) signed the five successes of a team that showed a great regularity throughout the year. The Granadino Ropero was perhaps the spearhead of this constancy, because to these three successes must be added five second places and six third positions, both in the context of almost thirty top-ten positions kneaded during the course. Ropero, Fancellu and Sergio García have been the three riders who promote the continental team for the year 2020.
Few squads can say that they are a reference in just five years of life and in an environment as broad and competitive as the amateur cycling universe, but the truth is that the year 2018 left that mark, reinforced that impression with respect to the sub23 structure of the Fundación Alberto Contador led by Rafa Díaz Justo from Toledo. In the ointment from February to September, in the fight for one-day races and stage laps. In the Spanish Cup, Polartec-Kometa fought for the options of Juan Pedro López and José Antonio García, both riders of the continental team for 2019. The Sevillian López won the Trofeo Guerrita and finished third in Aiztondo, while García finished second in the demanding Memorial Momparler, fourth in the Macario and fifth in the Circuito del Guadiana. The prestigious Vuelta al Bidasoa was a turning point for the Madrid formation with the portentous performance of Juan Pedro López and his subsequent jump to the continental team. In the frenetic season of laps by stages, a lot of regularity for Alejandro Ropero, Jorge Pastor and Carlos García Pierna, some of the signatories of the not few top ten positions kneaded by the squad in the second part of the season. Positions specified in rounds by stages as the Vuelta a Navarra, the Volta a la Provincia de A Coruña, the Volta a Castellón, the Vuelta a Ávila, the Vuelta a Vetusta, the Vuelta a Salamanca, the Vuelta a la Provincia de Valencia and the Vuelta a Galicia. In that journey, the Polartec-Kometa U23 won the general squad in Castellón and Ropero finished third in Salamanca. And in between, many outstanding performances and much more teamwork. José Antonio García, with two stage victories in the Vuelta a Zamora, another in Salamanca and the final general of the Challenge Vuelta a Sevilla with success in the Clásica Velá de Triana, contributed the identity to some successes in which the weight of the collective was crucial.
The Polartec U23 team this year celebrates its fourth season with the vocation to reach its sporting maturity. The team, directed by former professionals Rafa Díaz Justo and Gorka Beloki, has grown to have a roster of 16 riders, which includes an elite rider for the first time. Although there is still a very strong bet for young people who come up from the Polartec Junior Team, we also bet for a more veteran squad to be able to face the difficult commitments of the international calendar.
With this team, the Alberto Contador Foundation also shows its vocation to face new challenges in the near future, thanks also to the commitment of our sponsors, especially Polartec, who has assumed the responsibility of being the main sponsor for the next two seasons. Together with Polartec have joined our project ŠKODA and Kometa as main suppliers, while continue one more season both Rotor and Etixx, completing the first line suppliers. It is also worth mentioning the arrival of partners such as TM Real Estate Group, KASK, KOO, HP Sports Science and Gaerne.
The Polartec teams of the Alberto Contador Foundation face a season in which they intend to go even deeper into the internationalization of the project, both with new incorporations of different nationalities and with a calendar that aims to lead our cyclists to compete for a growing number of races of the European calendar with the aim to facilitate to the maximum its ascent to the maximum category. The Polartec Under-23 team has sixteen riders this year, including the first Italian, British and Portuguese riders to wear the Alberto Contador Foundation jersey.
The arrival of RH+ and Polartec as title sponsors of the Alberto Contador Foundation has marked a milestone in the evolution of this project, also guaranteeing its continuity in the medium term. In the same way, the arrival of a new bicycle brand, Look, has been a great contribution for next seasons, guaranteeing a first quality material to all riders.
The third season of RH+/Polartec U23 was the consolidation of the team in an always difficult category. With riders still very young, they obtained a meritorious victory in the Spanish Cup by teams, which gives an idea of the high level average of this roster, also open to riders of other nationalities, an international vocation that the Alberto Contador Foundation intends to deepen in the future. The calendar also confirmed the international vocation, with participation in some of the best Italian, French and Belgian amateur races.
Following in the footsteps of Álvaro Cuadros, who passed to professionals directly from the Junior team, three riders graduated in the ranks of the U23 team: Enric Mas, Kenny Molly and Peio Olaberria.
The team takes hold in the category, good results are achieved and, more importantly, the team gives an image of fighter, competing for victory in each of the races where takes the start.
Proof of this are the podiums achieved in Vuelta a la Provincia de A Coruña, Vuelta a Navarra and Vuelta a Castellón, in the latter with victory in the queen stage. In all of them, the protagonist is Fernando Barceló. Enric Mas get a stage win in Vuelta al Bidasoa and goes up to the podium, as in the Tour of Palencia, where the roster was rewarded with the team’s victory.
A bright Miguel Ángel Ballesteros also has successfully broken into the podium of Summer Criterium. The team confirms its international commitment to participate in Circuit des Ardennes, Tour de Bretagne or the impressive Giro d’Aosta.
It is the first season in the U23 category, with a very young team in which most riders are from first and second year. It is a year of learning and adaptation, but where the first glimmerings of quality of the roster were seen.
Team’s victory in the Vuelta al Bidasoa is achieved, which portends the great future of many of these young riders. Is the debut in international competitions such as the Tour de Bretagne (France) and the Course de la Paix (Czech Republic), next to professional teams, against which riders fought very well. The podium achieved by Enric Mas at Vuelta a Palencia was another important fact to note in this first year.