One of cycling’s longest running teams will have wings in the future thanks to the backing of one of Spain’s biggest companies.

Caisse d'Epargne works to put Valverde into position. | Graham Watson photo
The team now known as Caisse d'Epargne will carry on under a new name. | Graham Watson photo

Telefónica, the giant Spanish telecommunications business with operations worldwide, will take over the sponsorship of Caisse d’Epargne in a major development that will keep alive a cycling tradition dating back to the glory days of Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain.

Abarca Sports, the holding company run by manage Eusebio Unzué, announced Thursday that Telefónica will back the team starting in 2011 as Team Movistar.

Unzué had asked his star riders to give him time to finalize a sponsorship deal to move forward and he delivered. Telefónica, with operations in 26 countries and with more than 260 million clients, is the major sponsor that Spanish cycling has been looking for during the past five years.

More details will be released in the coming days, but the news will keep alive the cycling tradition that dates back to the 1980s with the Reynolds team and Delgado. The team morphed into Banesto and enjoyed its golden years with Indurain winning five consecutive Tours de France.

The team stayed afloat as iBanesto.com and Illes Balears before the French savings bank Caisse d’Epargne came on as co-sponsor and then title sponsor in 2005. The bank told Unzué that it would be leaving the sport at the end of 2010.

The news comes just days after Geox, an Italian shoe-maker, announced it would be backing the Spanish-based Footon-Servetto team in 2011.

It also comes just a week after Spanish star Alberto Contador confirmed his move from Astana to Saxo Bank for next season. Unzué desperately wanted to sign Contador, the best Spanish Tour rider since Indurain, but the Telefónica deal was too slow in coming together.

Several current riders, including Luís León Sánchez, Juan José Rojas, Juan Mauricio Soler and Rigoberto Uran, will likely stay. With such strong backing, more top riders can be expected to sign on.
Movistar

From Delgado to today

Here are the different brandings of the Spanish team over the years:
Reynolds – 1980-89
Banesto – 1990-2000
iBanesto.com – 2001-03
Illes Balears-Banesto – 2004
Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne – 2005-06
Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears – 2006
Caisse d’Epargne – 2007-10
Team Movistar – 2011