The golden age of Spanish cycling
Spain is one of the great cycling nations and Spanish teams and riders have been a huge factor at the top level of racing for a long time. In the wake of the successes of Miguel Indurain a huge wave of Spanish sponsors, teams and riders took part at the highest level of cycling. This enthusiasm brought about one of the greatest national generation of cyclists with Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde at the forefront. In 2000 there were 4 Spanish professional cycling teams and there was a total of 89 Spanish riders under contract at the highest level.
This gave plenty of roster spots for young Spanish cyclists to have teams in which they could develop into strong top-class riders without having to burn themselves up just to get onto a team. This generation of Contador, Rodriguez and Valverde comes from this golden age of Spanish cycling and these riders all debuted with Spanish teams. O.N.C.E, Kelme, Liberty Seguros, Banesto (later Ibanesto) or Euskaltel-Euskadi let cycling enthusiasts light up.
In those years there was a broad competition for the biggest talents of Spain and young riders had an abundance of teams where they could join as domestiques and develop into better riders with the experience that the highest level of racing brought to them. Spanish cycling fans got accustomed to this situation and nobody expected this all to go away so suddenly.