Laboral Kutxa applied for 2024 Women’s WorldTour status and aims to be a top team

Marta Romeu Vuelta Andalucia 2023 Stage 3

Ion Lazkano, the sporting director of the Laboral Kutxa cycling team, has expressed optimism about the team’s upward trajectory and their aspirations to join the UCI World Tour. Speaking in a recent interview with Berria, Lazkano emphasised the team’s successful season and their ambitions to climb the professional cycling ladder. The team’s ranking leapt from 50th last year to 25th this season in the UCI rankings, a rise unmatched by any other outfit. Lazkano confirmed that the team has already applied for a World Tour license, acknowledging that while the process is challenging, it’s a gamble they are willing to take.

The team views this year as a transitional one, marked by growth and improvement. Lazkano reported that much of the strategic work, including planning and organisation, has already been put into motion. While he acknowledged there were challenges earlier in the season, he was clear that the team’s overall objectives have largely been met. The riders, many of whom were inexperienced at this level, have matured significantly. Despite the challenges posed by the UCI points system, the team’s performance has exceeded expectations.

The turning point for Laboral Kutxa came during the Vuelta Femenina. According to Lazkano, the team adopted a more aggressive racing style and achieved good results, which boosted the squad’s confidence. They’ve also been bolstered by the guidance of Joane Somarriba, whose experience has been an invaluable source of inspiration for the riders. They realised how much women’s cycling has evolved and the unique opportunity they have to make their mark.

Laboral Kutxa notched its first UCI-level victory in the Vuelta a Andalusia, led by Marta Romeu. Lazkano described the win as a massive boost for the team, instilling belief that they can compete at the highest levels.

Regarding future plans and contingencies, Lazkano revealed that even if the team fails to secure a World Tour license, they would focus on amassing as many points as possible over the next two years. They’d then aim to reapply for World Tour status in 2026. He also mentioned that invitations to top races could still be a possibility, given their impressive growth and the acquisition of high-level rider Ane Santesteban. Santesteban’s signing has attracted attention from organisers in France, Italy, and Belgium, and serves as a seal of international credibility for the team.

While the team currently has 15 riders confirmed for the next season, Lazkano did not rule out further additions. As for Eider Merino, Lazkano stated that she is currently off the list for the upcoming season, but declined to elaborate further.

Finally, Lazkano acknowledged the team’s strong connection to the Basque Country, while also admitting that finding a balance between local and international talent is necessary in their quest to compete at the World Tour level. He suggested that the team could serve as a model for fostering professional cycling talent in the region.

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