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Spanish Continental Team Kaiku - A Profile
 
By Magpie Latham
Date: 6/2/2005
Spanish Continental Team Kaiku - A Profile
 

During the Setmana Catalana in March, I spoke with Oscar Guerrero, team manager of the newly formed Kaiku team, which is currently racing in the Continental Professional division. Whilst the team is new to the professional ranks, they are not new to cycling sponsorship, as for seventeen years Kaiku sponsored an amateur team in the Basque Country, then five years ago they stopped sponsorship until this year. The amateur team has been the starting point for many cyclists who have gone on to achieve great success in the professional ranks, and having good contacts with the professional team managers such as Manolo Saiz has helped the riders make the jump.

Riders who have started with Kaiku in the past are Juan Antonio Flecha, the Diaz Zabala brothers, Juan Carlos Dominguez, Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero, Mikel Zarrabeitia, Abraham Olano and Joseba Beloki. The Kaiku team of this year was formed from the Caja Rural team of Navarra who have been in cycling sponsorship for twenty-five years.

Kaiku is a co-operative of dairy farms in the Basque Country and Navarra, in the cycling heartland of the north of Spain, that have now expended their co-operative to the rest of Spain and Latin America. As well as supplying milk, they are involved in making milk products such as Benecol, which is a milk product that lowers cholesterol and a product to reduce blood pressure. They are an innovative company who collaborates with Swiss and Finnish companies to produce products with new concepts in health care. I can personally recommend their Aloe Vera yoghurt and Cafe Latte. The pink of their jersey is the same colour as the packaging of their skimmed milk.


Click for larger image. Photo courtesy Kaiku.

With the accent clearly on health, Kaiku have established a health foundation through which they encourage youngsters to live a healthy life style and to practise sport. Cycling sponsorship is therefore in line with their policy of promoting health and sport. The foundation arranges conferences on health given by doctors and also has the top four chefs of Spain under their umbrella to encourage a healthy diet.

The team has the benefit of good equipment as they ride Pinarello bikes; the bike ridden by the most famous cyclist from Navarra, Miguel Indurain and it was the bike that won the Tour de France for seven straight years with Indurain, Bjarne Rijs and Jan Ullrich. The team has won the team prize at the Tour of Murcia and at Luis Puig, and achieved two third places in this classification in Mallorca and Valencia and a second place at Ruta del Sol.

They can also add a stage win with Aragana on stage three of the Tour of Valencia (the only team outside of Fassa Bortolo to win a stage) plus a fourth place in GP Almeria to their palmares. Rodrigo Garcia was in the final top 20 at Castilla y Leon, Ezequiel Mosquera won stage 3 at the Vuelta a Rioja and he accompanied two of his teammates (Bru and Azanza) in the final top ten there. They also had a second place at stage 5 of the Vuelta a Aragon, with a rider finishing in the overall top ten (again) there, and Serrano was fifth at the GP Miguel Indurain.


Team manager Oscar Guerrero from last December. Photo courtesy Kaiku. Click for larger image.

Oscar told me that the team has no fixed objectives, that they are aiming for during the season and they wait and see how things develop. In every race that they participate in they will try to win a stage or a jersey, the most import thing for the team is to keep fighting and trying to get a win or a high placing. From the marketing point of view he said the objectives of Kaiku are to increase sales by making their product more high profile through cycling and the television coverage the team receives.

Having won the team prize at Murcia and their success in this category at other races, I was curious if they would try to make this an objective at some of the races. Oscar replied that this was a prize that is achieved from how you find things in the race, how it develops and how the team are riding at the time, so it is difficult to start the race with this as the objective. However, it is a prize that they like to win as it is prestigious for the team and can only help with invitations to other races. At the Tour of Murcia there were some very good ProTour teams in attendance, and Kaiku were able to finish in front of all these teams.


Kaiku at the Tour of Murcia. Click for larger image. Photo courtesy Kaiku.

The team this year is comprised of sixteen riders of which six are neo-professionals; this is the maximum number of neos that the UCI and the Spanish Federation permit a team. Oscar is pleased that the formation of the team has given these young riders the opportunity to ride at the professional level and he is working hard with them so that in two or three years these riders will have improved and will be in a position to be winning races. Riders that Oscar expects to do well are Galparsoro who is currently in very good form and he believes he will do well in the future. Also the neo professional Pablo Urtagan is showing a lot of promise and Oscar has confidence that he will be performing well in the future. Other names to look out for in their ranks are Richi Garcia and Ezequiel Mosquera.

At the moment the ProTour is not an objective for the team, because with the investment that they currently have and the fact that the team is young and relatively inexperienced it is not an option. Oscar added that it takes a lot of money to support and maintain a team at the ProTour level. However, if the team goes well and gets results, maybe in three or four years they would be in a position both financially and professionally to make the jump.

I asked Oscar if he thought the ProTour would be a good thing for cycling. In his opinion he doesn’t think it will be good in its current form, he thinks that there should be some changes. He felt that the number of teams in the ProTour at twenty was too high as at many of the races it leaves only two places available to non-ProTour teams. Adding that he thinks the ideal number of ProTour teams would be fifteen, which would leave the organisers more opportunity to invite other teams that are doing well.

Whilst Oscar is not against the concept of the ProTour, he feels it needs to be modified to take into account all the interests in the cycling world, meaning cycling sponsorship, riders' needs, and the spectators. Like many, he feels that the system of licensing a ProTour team for four years blocks the way for up and coming teams and could kill cycling sponsorship interest outside of the ProTour. A fairer system would be one with a league that offers promotion and relegation as in the past and give teams a reason to fight.

The team have excellent back up and support and their team website is one of the best, giving full reports of all the races they take part in plus giving full classifications and news of other riders in the race - only drawback is that it is in Spanish. Kaiku is a young team with young management and young supporting staff, but they are aiming to grow into a mature team that will be something to reckon with.


Click for much larger image. Photo courtesy Kaiku.

 


Click for much larger image. Photo courtesy Kaiku.

 
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