Luis Ángel Maté of Euskaltel-Euskadi has vowed to go on the attack at the Vuelta a España, promising to put miles spent in the breakaway to a cause even bigger than the race.
The 38-year-old rider based in Southern Spain trains and lives in an area of the country badly affected by wildfires. In 2021 the mountain range above Marbella, the Sierra Bermeja were ravaged by the fires with large areas of woodland completely burnt out in the disaster.
Maté has promised to donate a tree to the region for every kilometre that he spends in any breakaways at the Spanish Grand Tour. Previously, the Spaniard has donated 100 trees to a reforestation project, and will look to increase that number when racing gets underway later this month.
The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider told Cycling Weekly that he believes it’s everyone's responsibility to think about the planet and take action.
He said: “We need to know that the environmental crisis we are suffering is everyone’s responsibility. I always said we have the best natural stadium in the world, today my home, tomorrow your home, and after tomorrow Paris, Madrid or London.
“It is also our responsibility to care for our home, and to be able to leave a fair legacy to future generations. In this context and taking advantage of La Vuelta I decided to take the initiative to plant trees on the burned land.”
Stage 12 of this year’s Vuelta finishes atop Peñas Blancas, very near to some of the worst affected areas.
Race officials along with Euskaltel-Euskadi teammates are joining Maté’s cause, with them both agreeing to donate 200 and 300 trees respectively.
The Spaniard added that the long term ambition of the project is to create as many new forested areas as possible. Furthermore, he hopes his fundraising efforts will encourage others to use the bicycle as a mechanism for social change.
He added, “It’s of vital importance, for me and for everyone. We need to act now, and change the development model. And in this change the bikes play a major role. I always said that 'bikes will change the world.'"
Maté concluded, "It's great that the Vuelta also participated and that a lot of different people and different enterprises are taking part. It is very important and I'm very happy with the offers of help that I've been given.
"I hope eventually we can plant a lot of trees and then create a forest."
At last year's Vuelta, Gino Mader of Bahrain Victorious pledged to donate money to charity for every rider he beat at the race. In total, the Swiss rider raised €4,529 which he later donated to the environmental charity 'Just Diggit'.
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