Iñigo Cuesta racing last days in Burgos

Iñigo Cuesta, the veteran Spanish rider on Caja Rural, is likely racing his final event in this week's Vuelta a Burgos.

Dani Navarro (left) and Inigo Cuesta chat before the start of a Vuelta a Murcia stage this spring. Andrew Hood Photo

Iñigo Cuesta, the veteran Spanish rider on Caja Rural, is likely racing his final event in this week’s Vuelta a Burgos.

A pro since 1994, Cuesta’s long career is likely winding down at this week’s Burgos tour in his home region in northern Spain.

The 42-year-old nearly retired at the end of last year, when Cervélo called it quits, but he took the offer from upstart Caja Rural, where he hoped to race the Vuelta a España for a record 18th time.

Cuesta and his team were in for a shock, however, when Vuelta officials did not invite them.

Demoralized, Cuesta admits that the Burgos tour is likely his final race.

“It hasn’t been the best year for me in terms of health, with chest colds and the flu,” Cuesta told the Diario de Burgos newspaper. “I started going well at Asturias (in May), then I took a break and then they told us we weren’t going to the Vuelta. That hasn’t helped with the motivation. I decided to race another season because I went well in last year’s Vuelta; I planned to race it one more time and retire there. It’s too bad that they didn’t invite us.”

Cuesta rode the Vuelta a record 17th time last season in Cervélo colors, when race organizers gave him the honor of the No. 1 bib.

Cuesta is being honored in this week’s Burgos tour, which saw Wednesday’s first stage finish in his hometown of Villarcayo.

He turned pro with one of the early versions of Euskaltel in 1994, before riding with ONCE from 1996-2000, when he won his biggest race, the 1998 Vuelta al País Vasco. Cuesta rode for Cofidis and Saunier Duval before switching to CSC in 2006, where he transformed himself into a domestique. Cuesta then followed Carlos Sastre to Cervélo in 2009.

“Cycling’s changed a lot since I started,” he continued. “It used to be a much more individual sport. Now it’s much more dominated by teams. And the racing is much more intense. What used to be an easy start in February is now full-on racing in January, and the season lasts a lot longer now. It’s another type of cycling now.”

Cuesta said he hopes to remain active in cycling and hinted that he would be interested in working as a sport director.

“I would like to be involved in cycling,” he said. “I’ve been a pro for 18 years and I’ve been racing a bike since I was 14. It’s what I am used to doing.”