Friday, February 29, 2008

Gorka 5th overall with one stage to go

Gorka was once again Euskaltel's best man in the Vuelta a Valenciana today. By claiming 11th on the stage he is now 5th overall, which is a great performance from the super domestique. Amazingly, he beat Petacchi in the sprint! He was the only Euskaltel rider among that first 20-man strong lead group. Rubén, Haimar and Markel came in with the next group, 14 seconds back. Also worth mentioning was Juanjo's aggressive riding. He got into one of the early breaks and clinched some sprint points underway but, due to dangerman Contador's presence in the escape, it was reeled back in. Stage results:

  • 11th, Gorka Verdugo, 0:00
  • 32nd, Rubén Pérez, 0:14
  • 33rd, Markel Irizar, s.t.
  • 36th, Haimar Zubeldia, s.t.
  • 79th, Beñat Albizuri, 1:00
  • 88th, Juan José Oroz, 1:14
  • 115th, Alán Pérez, 2:34
  • 116th, Andoni Lafuente, 2:54

Almería and Murcia line-up

So turns out I won't be leaving today anyway. I will tomorrow though, but then just for a couple of days. So I'll be updating the blog all day.... the 7-man strong squad for the Clasica Almería and the Vuelta a Murcia has been revealed. The seven riders to line up on Sunday will also line up on Tuesday, and the team is made up of Samuel, Koldo, Iñaki (who'll all be making their season-debuts), Mikel, Josu, Jon and Iván. Looks solid on paper, and it'll be exciting to see what Samu and Koldo are able to pull off so early. I assume Mikel will be at the front in both races, so I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Got to go

I'm really sorry, but I won't be able to update the blog until Monday. I'm going out of town tomorrow, and that's a shame as Iban's future will be decided on without me being able to bring you the news. Rest assured though that I'll give you plenty of post-CAS ruling news and features once I'm back. See you then.

Heaven or hell

In two days we will all know what the future holds for Iban. The Court of Arbitration for Sport will issue their ruling on Saturday; that's the plan anyway. Though, for once in this neverending saga, I think we'll get a decision. He'll either be cleared or sanctioned. There's no room for appeals. If he's cleared, well, he's free to race; whatever that means in today's pro cycling. If he's sanctioned though, it's the end. Goodbye. I can't see him return to cycling if he's suspended. If so, cycling will have lost one of their most gifted and charismatic riders. I'm confident though that he'll be cleared; I don't want to get everyone's hopes up, but he will. CAS simply can't convict him of doping in this case. No way. It'd be a crime. I'm nervous, I admit that. It might be the end for our hero. But there's no use to keep speculating on this. What happens, happens. That's life. All we can do is wait and hope for the best. I'm not going to pray, as I'm not religious. But for those of you who are, please do.

Gorka shines, but organisers ruin race

The organizing committee of the Vuelta Ciclista a Valenciana has clearly had better days. With two riders in front and 10 clicks to go, and two chase groups in hot pursuit not far behind, something rare and, I have to admit it, something I've never seen before, happened. The chase groups, who would surely have reeled the duo of Plaza and Vázquez back in, were directed the wrong way. All of a sudden they were riding on a highway, full of cars, parallel to the two leaders, who'd been shown the right way to the finishline. The two groups, with Gorka in the first one, and Haimar and Rubén in the second, lost a lot of time and are now most likely out of the running for overall classification honours. Gorka ended up only 16 seconds in arrears in a magnificent 7th spot, but it was considerably worse for Haimar and Rubén. They both lost 2:25, and are now well back on GC. As a result Gorka dropped to 4th on GC, but he's still only 26 seconds down on the leader. Haimar though will have to go for stage-wins if he is to win anything in this year's race, as he's now 2:34 back in 26th place. Stage results:

  • 7th, Gorka Verdugo, 0:16
  • 25th, Rubén Pérez, 2:25
  • 35th, Haimar Zubeldia s.t.
  • 51st, Markel Irizar, 2:54
  • 70th, Juanjo Oroz, 16:48
  • 107th, Beñat Albizuri, 26:16
  • 114th, Andoni Lafuente, s.t.
  • 130th, Alán Pérez, s.t.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Juanjo in break; Gorka 3rd overall

It was another great day out for Euskaltel today. The Vuelta Ciclista a Valenciana saw Juanjo strong in the break of the day, climbing well, while Gorka grabbed 9th on the stage and propelled himself from 5th to 3rd overall. It was a strong all-round performance from the team, as Rubén was 11th, while Haimar was also in the first group to cross the line. Due to his 9th place today, Gorka is also leading the combined classification, and is third in the mountains ranking. Gorka is on fire! Great to see him finally step out of the shadow as a domestique and get some results for himself for a change. Tomorrow will be a hilly affair so, despite his recent flue, I'll tell you this: watch out for Haimar. Today's results:

  • 9th, Gorka Verdugo, 0:00
  • 11th, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 41st, Haimar Zubeldia, s.t.
  • 49th, Markel Irizar, 0:08
  • 89th, Alán Pérez, 0:13
  • 118th, Juanjo Oroz, 5:06
  • 126th, Andoni Lafuente, 6:22
  • 131st, Beñat Albizuri, 9:39

Overall classification:

  • 3rd, Gorka Verdugo, 0:06
  • 18th, Haimar Zubeldia, 0:10
  • 29th, Rubén Pérez, 1:43
  • 43rd, Markel Irizar, 1:51
  • 61st, Alán Pérez, 1:56
  • 68th, Juanjo Oroz, 6:46
  • 128th, Andoni Lafuente, 18:57
  • 132, Beñat Albizuri, 22:14

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gorka active and 5th overall in Valenciana

Gorka today showed what he's made of in the Volta a Valenciana's first stage. Gorka escaped with two other riders only 35 kilometres in on today's stage, and was only reeled back in with some 8 clicks to go. Underway he won one hill-climb and came second on another, so he's a good second in that competition. He's also second in the Intermediate Sprints classifications. Perhaps most impressive though was that he, after being in the front all day, sprinted to a great 10th on the stage out of a 22-man strong leadgroup who crossed the line together. In that group was also, as predicted, Haimar, who rolled in to 18th place on the stage. A good performance from him as well; I can't wait to see what he comes up with on the hillier stages. Rubén, in his first race of the season, was 40th, 1:33 down, the same as Alán and Juanjo. Andoni and Beñat both came in with the unusually big grupetto 12:25 in arrears. The bonus seconds collected underway means Gorka is a brilliant 5th overall, while Haimar is 20th overall. Though, the fight for overall honours seems already limited to 24 riders, as there's a big gap from number 24th, Fedrigo, to 25th, Zabel. Most of the best climbers and stage-race specialists are among those 24, so, by the look of it, we're in for quite a race.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Poll results: Should Euskaltel try to bring back Herrero?

Indeed they should. 86 % think that Euskaltel should do what they can to get him back, as he's a young, quality rider. He's got it all this rider; why the h*** did they not give him the money he wanted back in 2006?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Haimar heads Valenciana line-up

Haimar will lead the team's charge at the upcoming Vuelta Ciclista a la Comunidad Valenciana. The race is one of Haimar's early-season goals, along with Paris-Nice, so I expect him to be right up there fighting for general classification honours. Lining up with him in the five-stage race, starting on Tuesday, is Rubén, who'll make his season-debut, Gorka, Andoni, Markel, Juanjo, Alán and Beñat. Looks a solid squad to me. Aupa!

The Etxebarrias get honoured

Former Euskaltel riders and namebrothers Unai and David Etxebarria will be honoured today by a hundred friends and fans in the Kafe Antzokia de Durango. The riders both spent large portions of their careers with Euskaltel and gave the team tremendous success through the years. David's most notable results are his two stage-wins in the Tour in 1999, while Unai prides himself most on his 2003 Vuelta stage-win.

Mikel and Villa second in Seis Horas

Mikel and Marco Villa finished a great 2nd in yesterday's Seis Horas de Euskadi track event held in San Sebastián. The pair finished runner-ups to the unbeatable duo of Risi-Marvulli. If I'm not mistaken Mikel finished 2nd in this event back in 2004 as well.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mikel aims for win on track

Mikel will, just like he did last year, compete in the Seis Horas de Euskadi track event tomorrow in San Sebastián. Mikel will team up with the decorated Italian Marco Villa, and will hope to go one or two better than last year, when he ended on the third step on the podium. Considering his current form, that shouldn't be impossible...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Aitor 7th in last Ruta stage

Aitor once again sprinted well to grab 7th on the last stage of the Ruta del Sol - Vuelta Ciclista Andalucía. His form is most certainly good, but the win still eludes him. The stage didn't produce any changes to the overall standings, so Mikel will probably feel a little disappointed to finish 4th overall. But still though, great riding again from him. All Euskaltel rider came in with the main pack today except for Josu and Igor. Josu ended up 13 seconds down, while Igor was 30. Jon tried to catch up with the break all day long, but in the end gave up as the duo at the front showed no signs of letting up. He too seems to be in a rather good shape. Anyway, that leaves us with the following final overall standings:

  • 4th, Mikel Astarloza
  • 23rd, Igor Antón
  • 33rd, Jorge Azanza
  • 42nd, Aitor Galdos
  • 45th, Dioni Galparsoro
  • 47th, Jon Bru
  • 69th, Josu Agirre

Euskaltel ended up 6th in the team ranks, while Igor was 2nd in the Metas Volantes competition. Aitor, due to his consistently good sprinting, was 4th in the clasificacion regularidad. Mikel was of course also second in the Best Spaniard competition. All in all a good performance from the team, some riders seem to have their form spot on for the early-season. A win though would have been great, just to get underway for real...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Odriozola happy with Andalucía performance

Jon Odriozola, Euskaltel's sports director at the Ruta del Sol in Andalucía, spoke to the team's website after the 4th stage came to a close. Here's what the ex-pro had to say: "We've been very active in this race. Mikel, Igor and Dioni are all in good form, and have possibilities of winning stages with the help of Azanza and Bru. If it comes down to a sprint, we have Aitor. We've performed well overall. We came close to winning with Astarloza, and Dioni was close today, but it would be great to finish this race with a win."

Dioni close to win; Aitor 6th

Euskaltel put on a good show in today's penultimate stage of the Ruta del Sol. Dioni showed his form is good by infiltrating in the break of the day with four other riders. The break looked doomed as Caisse took controll in the pack, put incredibly the quintet almost pulled it off. They were reeled back in with only 1500 metres to go... Annoying, but still a great effort from Dioni and his compatriots Benítez, Mondelo, Dominguez and Rosendo. It came down to a sprint as predicted, and Aitor grabbed a good 6th spot there. He's constantly in there Aitor, mixing it with the best, but still seems to lack that little extra burst at the end to grab a win. He'll probably have another chance tomorrow though, as the last stage only offers two climbs, and that's two third category climbs. There were no changes overall, so Mikel is still 4th overall, 1:36 down. He's only 4 seconds down on number 3 Evans, but he'll have a hard job clawing those seconds back. Anyway, here's today's results:

  • 6th, Aitor Galdos, 0:00
  • 20, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 32nd, Dioni Galparsoro, s.t.
  • 34th, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 36th, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 46th, Jon Bru, 0:15
  • 59th, Josu Agirre, 0:23

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mikel 9th and Aitor 10th in Ruta del Sol

Another hilly stage was on the menu for the participating riders in today's 3rd stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía. Euskaltel didn't put anyone in the break, but had three riders in the 25-man strong group that sprinted for the win. Mikel sprinted to a great 9th place, while Aitor disappointed a little, coming in 10th. Dioni was 23rd, while Jon was only 15 seconds back in 28th place. Half a minute behind him again was Igor, crossing the line as number 33. Jorge ended up 1:56 down, while Josu had another tough day in the saddle, coming home more than 7 minutes in arrears. This leaves us with the following GC with two stages to go:

  • 4th, Mikel Astarloza, 1:36
  • 22nd, Igor Antón, 6:26
  • 36th, Jorge Azanza, 9:24
  • 42nd, Aitor Galdos, 20:12
  • 45th, Dioni Galparsoro, 20:19
  • 47th, Jon Bru, 20:34
  • 71st, Josu Agirre, 32:24

Euskaltel confirmed for San Remo and Tirreno

RCS Sport, organizer of the Milano-San Remo, Giro d'Italia and Giro di Lombardia, among other events, today confirmed that Euskaltel will be at the start line in both the Tirreno-Adriatico stage-race and the one-day Milan-San Remo in March. It doesn't come as a surprise at all, but in today's climate of professional cycling a confirmation is always good. Rubén will likely lead the team in Tirreno, while I expect Aitor Galdos and Koldo to lead the way in San Remo.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mikel disappointed, but happy with form

After coming 2nd on the second stage of the Ruta del Sol, Mikel talked to the team's website after the conclusion of today's stage, and gave his view on Cadel Evans, his own form and the final kilometres. Here you go:"It's been a hard day, both when it comes to the rain and the cold as to the intensity of the racing. A group of about 20 got away really early and, since the leader (López Gil) was not in it, it became a question of just holding off the chasing pack. We all had to give it our maximum to stay in front. The goalline was at the end of a two-kilometre long climb. I felt really good, but Evans was still better than me. We left the others with 500 metres to go, and with a 100 to go I still felt I could win it. I thought I would have the advantage as Evans was the one who worked the hardest in the break. But he showed he was the strongest and, fair play to him, the strongest man won. I'm a little down right now, but it helps to know that I was beaten by the second best rider in last year's Tour and the favourite for this year's race. But I'm still annoyed. I really want to win a race, but it's just not happening for me. But I'm feeling strong at the moment, so maybe that day will come." Talking of the GC, he said: "4th is good, but I want to improve. I have strong riders ahead of me, like Lastras and Evans, but it'll be necessary to try to surpass them both. Tomorrow's stage is a hard one, but it ends with 20 kilometres of downhill, so I don't think the stage is going to change the overall standings a lot. But we'll try". One rider who'll be looking forward to tomorrow will be Aitor I think. If the pack stays together, and he's in it, there's a good possibility that he might pull off something special, especially considering that Graeme Brown, Sebastian Langeveld and Gert Steegmans pulled out today.

Mikel second in Andalucía

Mikel came oh so close to grabbing his first win in an Euskaltel shirt, and the team's first for the season, in today's second stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía. Mikel was part of a 19-man break that got clear on the first climb of the day. Evans took the win out of that first group, with Mikel notching a brilliant 2nd only 4 seconds back. The rest of the guys didn't perform particularly well, except for Igor, who at first was a part of the break, and Jorge who came in with the first chase group. Igor was 26th, 4:05 back, while Jorge ended up 5:56 down in 35th place. Dioni, Aitor and Jon came in with a big group 18:27 in arrears, while Josu ended up 18:54 down on the winner. That leaves Mikel in a great 4th place overall, only 2:27 down on overall leader Clément Lhotellerie with three hilly stages left to go.

Koldo to lead team in Classics

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano has spoken to French cycling-site Velo-club about Euskalel's plans for the season. Most of it wee already know, but there were some things worth to mention:

  • Koldo, Javier, Markel, Juanjo, Alán and Andoni are certain starters for Euskaltel in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the other early-spring Classics.
  • Rubén and Amets were supposed to lead in Tirreno but, due to the absence of the latter, Rubén will probably be given sole leadership.
  • Igor has got THREE big goals for the season he said, not just the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Vuelta a España. The Tour de Romandie, where he won the queen-stage last year and finished seventh overall, is the third objective.
  • Mikel and Igor will be the team's captains for the Vuelta.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Aitor 5th in Andalucía

Aitor Galdos got off to a good start in the Vuelta a Andalucía today. He sprinted to 5th place, and as three riders came in ahead of the pack, that's really good. A break got away early and stayed away, so there wasn't a sprint for the win. Still Aitor sprinted, and he was only beaten by Giovanni Visconti. Seeing the list of sprinters taking part in this race, and considering Aitor's form, I reckon there's a big possibility Aitor might win a stage in this race. Time will tell... As for the other riders, all of them, except for Josu who came in 8:24 down, came in with the peloton 3:38 back. Dioni was 16th, Jorge 28th, Igor 29th, Jon 32nd and Mikel was 35th. As a result Euskaltel is 5th in the team ranks going into the second stage.

Iban at Bikide

Iban was yesterday present at Bikide's opening, a new health clinic in Rentería, Gipuzkoa. Bikide will be run by Iban's former masseur at Euskaltel, Óscar Kintana, and his Saunier Duval physiotherapist Iban Ruiperez.

Poll results: Pleased with Down Under performance?

Well I certainly was, and a whopping 90 % share my opinion. Not really a surpising result to be honest, but I guess we can all agree that the start to the season, Mallorca included, has been a success.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Euskaltel's team for Andalucía

Euskaltel will send a strong 7-man team for the Vuelta a Andalucía - Ruta del Sol which commences tomorrow. Jon, Aitor Galdos, Josu, Mikel, Jorge, Dioni and Igor will be the ones lining up for the five stages. Jon and Aitor will be the team's main hopes for stage-wins, while Mikel will play the team's GC card. Josu will try to get into breaks throughout the race. The three others, Igor, Dioni and Jorge, are all making their season-debuts tomorrow, so a whole lot won't be expected of them.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Haimar finishes 3rd overall on Mallorca

Haimar successfully defended his place on the podium on today's last stage of the Volta a Mallorca. He sprinted to a really good 10th on the stage, just ahead of Rubén in 11th, and therefore maintained his 3rd place overall. Jon came home 18th, and therefore ended up 5th, which is a great result and a great start to the season for him. Beñat didn't ride today, for one reason or another, so he of course lost his 6th place overall. Gorka, though, rode today as well, coming in 28th, 7 seconds back, and as a result grabbed a good 12th place on GC. Those three were the only Euskaltel riders who did all five stages, but 3 riders in the top 12 is quite something! Javier took part today, and he crossed the line as number 39, 15 seconds in arrears, something Iñigo and Iván also did. The last Euskaltel rider to come in was Lander, who ended up 58th, 20 seconds down. All in all some great performances from the riders, especially Haimar, Beñat, Jon and Aitor. The team as a unit also performed well, eventhough they didn't hold on to their first place. They ended up 4th in the end, but I guess no one really cares about that. A good start to the season for sure!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Brilliant team performance puts Haimar 3rd overall

Euskaltel enjoyed a brilliant stage 4 of the Volta a Mallorca today, placing 4 riders in the top 14. Aitor Galdos sprinted well to claim 5th, with Haimar an impressive 9th, Jon 12th and Beñat once again at the front with a 14th place. Gorka, Andoni and Iñigo also came in with the first pack, while Josu didn't have the best of legs today, coming home 12:18 back. This great overall team performance means Haimar is now 3rd overall going into tomorrow's 5th and last stage, while Jon is a brilliant 5th, and Beñat a great 6th. Gorka has also showed his form is good, and he's currently 15th. Tomorrow's last stage is another hilly affair, so look out for the boys in orange again. Aupa!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Euskaltel strong on Mallorca

Euskaltel had another great day on Mallorca today. Beñat sprinted to a great 7th place, while Haimar, Jon and Beñat, in that order, are now placed 4th, 5th and 6th on GC.

Euskaltel got off to a good start with Iñigo getting into a big break. The break got reeled back in later on the day, but Iñigo wasn't finished. He attacked again with three others, and they looked like they might stay away for a moment. Eventually they were reeled back in with 20 km to go, and now Euskaltel set a furious pace at the head of the pack. Rubén and Javier grabbed first and second on the last Metas Volantes in the process, but they weren't able to avoid another sprint. Aitor didn't ride today, so Euskaltel had to place their faith in Beñat. He pulled off quite a good sprint, and came home 7th. Haimar, Jon, Gorka, Javier, Rubén and Iñigo were also in that first group, placing 13th, 15th, 28th, 29th, 38th and 48th respectively. Furhter down there was Iván in 56th place, 26 seconds down, while Lander and Josu both came home 11:57 in arrears. This strong overall performance means Euskaltel still leads the team rankings, while this is how the individual GC looks with two stages remaining:

  • 4th, Haimar Zubeldia, 0:03
  • 5th, Jon Bru, 0:03
  • 6th, Beñat Albizuri, 0:03
  • 16th, Gorka Verdugo, 0:03
  • 33rd, Iván Velasco, 2:40

Monday, February 11, 2008

Amets breaks collarbone in Mallorca

Amets sadly crashed and broke his collarbone in today's second stage of the Volta Ciclista a Mallorca. Amets hit the tarmac early on, but remounted his bike quickly only to pull out at the next feed-station. Amets, who was targeting a strong start to the season, now faces a possibly lengthy spell on the sidelines. Other than that though, it was a really good day for the team. Euskaltel won today's team classification, and leads it overall, Andoni was again in the break and now leads the Metas Volantes competition, and Aitor came home 8th and is now 7th overall. Though, I must say I'm not entirely happy with Aitor's sprinting. Aitor was part of an 8-man strong group left to fight it out for the win, and he came in last of those eight. Clearly something isn't right, as Aitor's got incredible end-speed. Maybe there was a crash at the end, or a mishap or something, I don't know, but still I expect him to do better in a sprint like that. Anyway, it's a sign of strength that he at all was in that group. Jon and Haimar came in 11th and 12th respectively, thus securing the team win. Rubén, Beñat and Gorka were also in that second group, 3 seconds down, while Aitor placed 92nd, 20 seconds back, Iván 122nd, 39 down, and the most active of the day, Andoni, placed 152nd, 2:26 in arrears. That leaves us with the following GC with three stages left to ride:

  • 7th, Aitor Galdos, 0:oo
  • 11th, Jon Bru, 0:03
  • 12th, Haimar Zubeldia, 0:03
  • 13th, Beñat Albizuri, 0:03
  • 27th, Gorka Verdugo, 0:03
  • 77th, Aitor Hernández, 0:38
  • 111th, Iván Velasco, 2:14
  • 115th, Andoni Lafuente, 2:46

Sunday, February 10, 2008

OK start in Mallorca

Euskaltel got off to an okay start in the Volta a Mallorca today. Javier was once again active, getting a couple of points in the sprint especial competition, while Aitor, Javier and Beñat all got inside the top 20 on the stage. They got 14th, 15th and 17th to be precise. That performance secured a fourth place in the team rankings. Though, there was one mishap today. With 3 km to go, Iván hit the deck hard. He got up pretty quickly and had no troubles crossing the line, so he looks to be OK. Full results:

  • 14th, Aitor Galdos, 0:00
  • 15th, Javier Aramendia, s.t.
  • 17th, Beñat Albizuri, s.t.
  • 33rd, Haimar Zubeldia, s.t.
  • 34th, Jon Bru, s.t.
  • 36th, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 88th, Andoni Lafuente, s.t.
  • 104th, Aitor Hernández, 0:18
  • 158th, Iván Velasco, 1:35

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Trio reveal schedules

Euskaltel's three main captains, Haimar, Igor and Samu, laid out their plans for the upcoming season to GARA yesterday. In short, here's their racing-plans for the firs half of the season:

  • Samu: Vuelta a Murcia - Vuelta a Castilla y León - Vuelta a Asturias - Volta a Catalunya - Dauphiné Libéré - Tour de France.
  • Haimar: Challenge Illes Balears/Volta a Mallorca -Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana - Paris-Nice - Tour de Romandie - Volta a Catalunya - Dauphiné Libéré - Tour de France
  • Igor: Vuelta a Andalucía - Paris-Nice - GP Llodio - GP Miguel Indurain - Vuelta al País Vasco - Klasika Primavera - Tour de Romandie - Volta a Catalunya - Euskal Bizikleta - Clasica de Ordizia - Circuito de Getxo - Vuelta a Burgos - Vuelta a España

Seems like they all will ride the Volta; can't wait...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Line-up details

  • Josu Agirre, Alán, Juanjo, Koldo, Iñigo, Dioni and Aitor Hernández will all go to the Giro in May if everything goes to plan
  • Egoi will likely do the Tour this year. At Euskaltel's training camp in Calpe, he trained with the third group; the group focused on the Tour. Egoi will likely do the Vuelta as well, while Haimar and Mikel will give it a thought after completing the Tour.
  • Amets will lead the team in the Tirreno-Adriatico
  • Haimar will captain Euskaltel in Paris-Nice
  • Aitor Galdos, Iván and Jon will be the three main references for Euskaltel at the start of the season.
  • Koldo will, like last year, do the Giro-Vuelta double.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gorka the Great

Cycling has evolved a lot since the days of the great Eddy Merckx, Bahamontes, Coppi et cetera. Like all sports, cycling has become more of a team sport rather than a one-man show. I'm not saying Merckx and co. didn't get help from their team-mates, 'cause, believe me, they did, but I guess it's fair to say that a strong team with strong and unselfish riders is more important than ever these days in pro cycling. The domestiques, as they're called, are the forgotten, un-sung heroes who sacrifice their own ambitions and dreams for the team and it's captain. They're the captains key to success. They rarely get the praise they deserve in the media, but they're very much appreciated among the team's fans. Charly Wegelius of Liquigas has always stood out to me as something close to the ultimate domestique. Wegelius is an amazingly talented climber/puncheur who's always been loyal and dedicated towards his team, but who's rarely stood on top of the podium all by himself. Every team would want a Wegelius in their line-up, and, luckily, Euskaltel have one; Gorka Verdugo. The 29-year-old from Navarra really rose to prominence last season through some stellar performances, especially, of course, in the Tour de France. Even though his palmarès might not indicate it, this guy's talent is not to be sniffed at. Winning the prestigious Pamplona-Bayonne amateur race in succession in 2002 and 2003 is quite something. After these remarkable performances he was snapped up by Euskaltel in 2004, and has stayed there ever since. Slowly he's become a more and more integral part of the team; his participation in the last two Tours shows that. He's guaranteed a start in the Tour again in July if he avoids injury and illness, and will look to build on the very good impression he left on the race in 2007. He did exactly what the team needed him to do, and was instrumental in making the Tour 2007 one of the best in many years for Euskaltel. He's a solid all-rounder; he's a decent climber, has good recovery, is good on the flat. I really rate Gorka. I hope there are other Euskaltel fans out there who rate him as well, as he deserves it. He's not glamorous, but in sport that's not always what it's all about. Gorka is a team player. An important player in the strong team Euskaltel have become. For Gorka, that's what really matters; el equipo.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Jorge's early-season plans

Jorge will not start in the Challenge Illes Balears-Volta a Mallorca as he previously stated. Jorge will instead start his season with the Vuelta a Andalucía - Ruta del Sol, before taking on the Vuelta a Murcia and the Criterium Internacional. "I won't start the season as early as planned. I'm hoping to reach peak form a little later", he told his own website. "I think it'll be good for me with a soft start to the season. I'm doing some quality training right now. I want to show what I'm worth as a cylist, as I'm now old enough to get some good results. Hopefully I'll avoid injuries and the allergies".

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My Giro team

I've selected the nine riders I reckon Euskaltel should send to the Giro d'Italia in May (feel free to leave comments/alternative line-ups):

  • Dioni Galparsoro: Already assured of a spot according to Galdeano. Will probably be the main rider for the GC, as he's a quality climber Dioni. Could be a real protagonist if he avoids accidents, injuries and all that.
  • Koldo Fernández: After several near-misses in the last GTs he's contested, maybe this will be the year Koldo grabs his first REAL big win. Will also probably ride it.
  • Beñat Albizuri: Has ridden the Giro before, and knows what it's all about. He'd be vital to get Koldo into a good position for the sprints, as he's fast and clever, and is also strong in the breaks. The experience would also do him good.
  • Iván Velasco: Will be targeting the Giro. Showed good form Down Under, and is a good all-rounder. There are too many mountains on the menu for him to do a good GC, but could be a handy man in the breaks.
  • Iñigo Landaluze: Will likely take to the start, and perhaps the Giro would be the venu for him to get his first, and richly-deserved, GT stage-win. Could serve as ideal praperation for the Tour.
  • Antton Luengo: Has done the Giro before, and will hopefully give it another crack. He's a man for the climbs, so the Giro should really suit him if he finds the right form.
  • Aitor Galdos: Will be eager to ride, as he's spent much of his career in Italy. Aitor and Koldo in tandem could be a lethal combination.
  • Markel Irizar: Performed amazingly in the TTs last year, and hopefully he can take another step this year. He's shown he can tackle a three-week race, so I'd give him a ticket to Italy no doubt.
  • Aitor Hernández: Was the leader last time round, but fell victim to a pile-up. He's a decent climber, so I'd love to see him give it another go. Could lead the team together with Dioni.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Strong team for Ruta del Sol

Euskaltel will field the following 7 riders in the Vuelta a Andalucía - Ruta del Sol, running from the 17th of February 'till the 21st: Jorge Azanza, Josu Agirre, Dioni Galparsoro, Mikel Astarloza, Igor Antón and Aitor Galdos. Aitor will of course be the man for the flat stages, while Mikel will hope to challenge for the top GC places. Igor will be there purely for training I reckon, as his goals are still some months away.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Time to shine, Jon

When Jon Bru signed on for Euskaltel prior to last season, I had big expectations for him. I had followed his career with L.A.-Pecol and Kaiku, and was impressed, so I was glad he finally joined his native team. Strong on hilly terrain and a quite fast finisher, I was hoping he would add some much-needed wins to the team in 2007. It would be fair to say he didn't live up to expectations; mine at least. Jon went missing for much of the season, but secured a prolongation to his contract after showing glimpses of form in the late-season. A strong ride in Poland, where he finished 15th overall, if I'm not mistaken, convinced the Euskaltel heads that Jon still had it in him. He's still only 30, even though he's been in the business for ages it seems. Though, he was far from the form of old all year long. Jon will be hoping to put his qualities on show this year, mainly in the early-season and in the hilly Classics. The Classics have always been Jon's playground, and he'll look to perform considerably better this time around. Jon has got what it takes to win races at the very highest level; he's fast, he can climb, he's got flair, he's good in the breaks. And, most of all, he's blessed with talent. He's a natural, as people say. If he can rediscover his form, Jon will be a valuable part of the Euskaltel team in years to come. I really hope, and think, that this might be the year Jon takes that step. Aupa Jon!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Euskaltel news

  • According to the Noticias de Álava, Euskaltel are assured of it's participation in this year's Tour. ASO representatives have held talks with Galdeano and Madariaga allegedly, and have told them they're very much welcome. It's not official yet, but rest assured they'll be there in July. ASO have also invited Euskaltel to their other races, namely the Fleche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Paris-Tours, Critérium International, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice and the Classique des Alpes.
  • The newspaper also revealed that Dioni, Iñigo and Koldo will be Euskaltel's protected riders in the Giro in May. They'll all take part, unless they get injured or something of course. Aitor Galdos stated earlier this year that he too would love to ride it, so perhaps we'll see Euskaltel's two best sprinters in tandem in Italy.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Euskaltel invited to Giro

Euskaltel have gladly been granted an invitation to this year's Giro d'Italia. I'm not sure that the invitation means that they have to take part, I guess it doesn't, but I sure hope they'll accept it. Big teams like Astana, High Road, Bouygues, Agricole and Acqua & Sapone were not invited, to my delight, so clearly Euskaltel must be doing something right, at least when it comes to fighting doping.

Training camp for Euskaltel

Euskaltel will hold a training camp from this Sunday, the 3rd, 'till the 9th of February. The camp will be staged in Calpe, wherever that is. The team will mainly train, but will also seek to finalize the riders' calendars.


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