It has been a season of discovery for Equipo Kern Pharma. After a one-year stint in the UCI Continental category, the Spanish team stepped up a notch this winter to become the world’s youngest UCI ProTeam, with an average age of their roster just 22,5 years old.
Juanjo Oroz, former World Tour rider with Euskaltel-Euskadi, is Equipo Kern Pharma’s Team Manager – the architect behind its sporting project alongside the team’s president, Manuel Azcona, who first founded the Asociación Deportiva Galibier in 1992. A.D. Galibier is the entity at the core of the project. It still runs the Equipo Lizarte development squad from which the likes of Richard Carapaz, Andrey Amador, Marc Soler or Joseba Beloki arose back in the day. Equipo Lizarte currently acts as Equipo Kern Pharma’s feeder team.
“We are the youngest team in the top-two tiers of the sport, both in terms of riders and staff,” asserts Juanjo Oroz. “We needed racing in order to develop and evolve, and therefore we have looked for the widest possible racing schedule, with different kinds of races in order to offer different opportunities to our cyclists.”
As of June 17th, Equipo Kern Pharma has completed 77 racing days, collecting 27 top-10 placings with 13 different riders. Still, it is not the amount of the results but the quality of the racing which stands out in terms of development, as 27 out of the aforementioned racing days were from UCI ProSeries events, and 10 from UCI World Tour races.
“We have lived through our fair share of highs and lows,” recounts Juanjo Oroz. “The Covid cases that forced us to withdraw from the Volta a Catalunya, for instance, was a tough situation to handle but, in the long run, it has helped us grow.”
“On the plus side, the level of our riders is always increasing. We are seeding now to crop in the coming weeks, months and years. Both the team and its main sponsor Kern Pharma are growing together, sharing valuable experiences that make us proud.”
“Settling into the ProTeam status has been a challenge, but we think we have handled the transition well. We are on the way to become what we want to be. This is the ideal moment to flourish as a sporting project.”
“From today on, our aim is to fight for victory in every race we contend until the end of the season. We don’t count on a specific rider for that, but on the team as a whole. We know it is a long shot to beat World Tour riders, but we are confident we can be up there.”
Equipo Kern Pharma’s roster features young talents like aggressive all-rounder Roger Adrià, climbing prospect José Félix Parra or the canny powerhouse Urko Berrade. Yet Oroz contends the team’s biggest quality is strength in depth, as proven by the team’s runner-up position at the team classification of the Route d’Occitanie last week.
“We trust our young riders,” Juanjo Oroz says. “They’ve brought us here, and they will be with us for the rest of the journey until reaching the summit of this sport. Above the individuals, there is a team. Even the most inexperienced rider in our roster can come seemingly out of the blue and deliver a top-5 on a race, like Jordi López did in Mallorca.”
“Back in the day, with Equipo Lizarte, we lived through a similar situation. The team was getting increasingly closer to victory with many riders at the same time. The one day we raised our arms for our first time, the team bloomed and we began to win left right and centre . And it was not just a single rider, nor a small group of riders, to net the wins – it was the team as a whole.”
“We believe we are on that pathway now in the pro ranks. To walk the whole walk, we need time. At this point, Kern Pharma’s trust in our sporting project is essential. Without their continuous, long-term support, this quest would be unfeasible.”