Wednesday, March 31, 2010

GP Indurain line-up

Euskaltel will line up for Saturday's local race GP Miguel Indurain with the following riders: Igor, Beñat, Egoi, Gorka, Amets, Jorge, JJ, Iván, Alán and Rubén. The 12th edition of the race will as usual be hilly, so look out for on-form riders Beñat, Igor, JJ and Amets. And, by the way, these ten riders will also recce the first stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco tomorrow. Just so you know.

Koldo out of hospital

Koldo left the Hospital de Cruces earlier today. The sprinter was admitted after suffering from an ear infection, but will now return home. It's still unclear when he'll return to the races though, as he'll go back to the hospital in a week's time for a check-up. Only then will we know approximately when we can expect to see him back in the fold again.

No luck in De Panne

It was another bad day at the office for Euskaltel in Belgium. For the first time ever the team is taking part in the Driedaagse De Panne, and it couldn't really have gotten off to a much worse start. After just ten kilometres Sergio De Lis hits the ground hard and has to be taken to hospital. Fortunately no broken bones were discovered, but it's still an unknown whether he can take part in this weekend's big one, the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Pablo was the only Euskaltel rider to make it in with the main pack, crossing the line in 47th place, 2:15 down on winner Chainel. Good ride by Pablo, who afterwards said that he started off feeling 'really bad', but that through suffering and some more suffering he managed to stay with the main peloton. Javier was the next rider to cross the line, coming home in an okay 63rd place, 10:49 down. Romain, Gorka, Aitor and Iñaki all came in with the last group 24:45 back.

Line-up for Belgian Classics

Due to the enforced absence of Koldo, Euskaltel will only line up with seven riders for the already-started Driedaagse De Panne, Flanders and Roubaix. Those seven are: Pablo, Javier, Iñaki, Romain, Gorka, Aitor Galdós and Sergio De Lis. Koldo's absence is a major blow, but look out for Pablo and Aitor to make Euskaltel's presence felt.

Koldo out of Classics

Koldo has been forced to pull out of the upcoming Classics due to a niggling ear infection. The sprinter was scheduled to lead the team in the Driedaagse de Panne, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix and GP Pino Cerami. Instead of being out there doing what he does best, he's now in hospital trying to get this thing figured out.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Díaz defends Normandie paticipation

After returning from the Tour de Normandie without a single result to show for it, I for one was thinking: "Was this a good idea in the first place?". I think a lot of others were thinking the same thing, but, according to manager Alex Díaz, it was more than worthwhile: "We return from Normandie with the feeling that this was the perfect race to fulfil our objectiv as a team: to develop. We've experienced a different kind of racing than what we're used to. The races we normally take part in weren't held this week and therefore we went to Normandie. A lot of very strong teams took part, comprising of very strong riders with a different way of riding compared to our riders. All this meant we had to adapt to the route, which was a very hard one, if we wanted to compete. For this reason alone I think it's really good that we took part, eventhough we didn't obtain any good results. The six riders that took part learnt a lot, they learned how to compete. We were very aggressive the first few days but, as imagined, the stages eventually took their toll and made the riders exhausted. It made it a lot harder that we didn't know 'how' to race in these kind of races. That tired us. We have to continue to take part in races like this, it aids the riders' development. But we have to be conscious of our goals going into them."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Naturgas exhibition

The Naturgas Energía team put on a blistering show in the recent Laukizko Udala - BKK Saria. The sub-23 team put Cirilo Zunzarren de Estella winner Fernando Grijalba on the top spot of the podium once again, Carlos Barbero in third place, Mikel Bizakarra in the mountain's jersey, Rory Martínez in the Intermediate Sprints jersey and Alex Bilbao won the 'best local'-category. And they won the team classification of course. Not bad. All this leaves Grijalba as the leader of teh Torneo Sub-23. Awesome!

The Memorial Balenciaga, held today, didn't go to plan though with Igor Merino as the team's best man in 26th place. But, hey, shit happens sometimes.

Wevelgem disaster

Euskaltel were neither lucky nor good in today's Gent-Wevelgem. After finishing a superb 6th last year, hoped were high that Koldo could again mix it with the best. It wasn't to be though. Koldo himself suffered a mechanical mishap exactly when he was supposed not to, while Iñaki and Romain both hit the deck. The former even crashed twice. After Koldo had experienced his customary bad luck, the guys did everything to get him back up to the front group. They didn't succeed though, but they were visibly tired afterwards, Pablo and Alán throwing in the towell at the first feed stop. Eventually Rubén ended the day as best placed Euskaltel rider, coming home in 49th place, 11:46 back. The other guys, that being Koldo, Javier, Iñaki and Romain, all came in a massive 22:14 down.

Galdós 6th in Catalunya finale

Aitor Galdós was once again able to mix it up with best in today's concluding Volta a Catalunya stage. Today he claimed 6th, which, after having already placed 3rd and 5th on earlier stages, clearly demonstrates that he's in good shape these days. All the other guys came in with the pack today as well, meaning Jonathan won the Sprints Jersey. It's the first jersey he's ever won, so he'll no doubt be a happy man today. As for the final GC, it looks like this:
  • 11th, Igor Antón
  • 16th, Iván Velasco
  • 82nd, Miguel Minguez
  • 88th, Gorka Izagirre
  • 123rd, Daniel Sesma
  • 131st, Jonathan Castroviejo
  • 132nd, Aitor Galdós
  • 134th, Sergio De Lis

Alvaro González de Galdeano spoke to the press afterwards, saying: "We were very aggressive. We've been in the breaks, we've fought for the Sprint Jersey, we've had Igor and Iván up there in each stage, Galdós has been in the sprints and gotten good results... Despite taking a very young team to the race we've been in the thick of the action. We'll try to keep it up. Let's see if we can translate the good work we're doing in every race into a win."

Critérium round-up

Euskaltel put on a good show in today's two concluding stages in the Critérium. On the first stage, a flat 75 kilometre ride, Egoi got into the break, but naturally the break was caught in time for the sprinters to do their thing. Samu, Jorge and JJ came in with the 52-man strong peloton to finish on the same time as winner Downing, while the otherwise excellent Beñat showed that, despite his immense promise, he's still not the finished article, losing an unnecessary and crucial 14 seconds. So too did Egoi, while Amets and Mikel lost 20 seconds.

Hopes were high for the afternoon time trial given Samu and Beñat's solid riding. Beñat did amazingly well to get 5th place, just 11 seconds down on Millar, who won the stage. Samu also looked strong by taking 9th place, while Egoi was 46 down, Jorge 52, Mikel 56, JJ 1:14 and Amets ended up 1:28 down. Unfortunately this resulted in Samu ending up just outside the podium in a typical Euskaltel fourth place. Beñat's solid riding yesterday and brilliant time trial today earned him 10th overall and 3rd in the young riders' competition. If he just hadn't lost those 14 seconds... Egoi was 31st overall, Jorge 67th, JJ 69th, Amets 70th and Mikel 95th. Overall a good showing by the team.

After the stage, Gorka Gerrikaogitia, the team's director at the race, spoke to the team's official website. "Overall the performance was good", he said. "To put two riders in the top 10 of such a high-quality race shows how well the guys did. But yes, it is annoying we didn't win yesterday. We had the opportunity but we didn't take it. Samu did a good time trial, but it wasn't good enough to get on final podium. On the other hand, Beñat did very well. He showed how good he is today as well as yesterday. Overall the attitude in the team was spot on, and we'll do our best to keep it like that".

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Samu 3rd in Critérium opener

Samu capped off great work by the team in today's Critérium International with a fine third place. The stage, which ended atop the Ospedale, saw Euskaltel and Astana assume control early on. The guys worked their buts off for their captain and he didn't disappoint. Fédrigo escaped to take the win ahead of Machado, but Samu held off Evans to take third, a result which sets him uå nicely for tomorrow's two concluding stages. Besides Samu, Beñat did well to claim 12, only 19 seconds down, while Egoi came in 27th, 1:52 back. Amets, Jorge and JJ all came in 10:46 back, while Mikel ended the day another 11 minutes in arrears. After the stage, the man himself was one happy rider. "The team was fantastic", he beamed. "The first thing I want to do is to congratulate them on their performance because they truly were amazing. We took control of the race right after we passed the first feed station, and together with Astana we set a high pace until we got to the climb. We encountered a strong head-wind on the climb, something which resulted in the group mainly staying together. Fédrigo and Machado were very aggressive and they surprised us. Beñat was phenomenal in making sure they didn't get too big an advantage. But Fédrigo got big enough a gap to be able to win the race."

Galdós 5th at Montjuic

Aitor Galdós did really well to claim 5th on today's penultimate stage of the Volta a Catalunya. The stage finished atop the famed Montjuic, a small climb that tends to be too hard for the sprinters. And so it proved, with the win being taken by Dumoulin and with top stage-racers like Joaquin Rodriguez, Rein Taaramae, Klöden, LL Sánchez and Kreuziger all making the top 10 on the stage. And in fifth place was our own Aitor. Great ride. Also in that 46-man strong lead group was Igor, Jonathan and Iván. Gorka came home 1:41 down, Daniel and Miguel 3:02, and Sergio a massive 11:30. With one stage to go, the GC looks like this:

  • 11th, Igor Antón, 1:27
  • 16th, Iván Velasco, 1:37
  • 79th, Miguel Minguez, 25:46
  • 91st, Gorka Izagirre, 30:30
  • 119th, Sergio De Lis, 44:06
  • 126th, Daniel Sesma, 47:05
  • 138th, Jonathan Castroviejo, 53:53
  • 140th, Aitor Galdós, 54:06

No prize in E3 Prijs

Euskaltel enjoyed a forgettable start to their Belgian weekend of racing. The E3 Prijs Harelbeke went by with no Euskaltel rider in any break and with only two finishers; Iñaki and Alan, who both came home a massive 9:04 back from winner Cancellara. Very poor showing. Koldo allegedly dropped out to save himself for tomorrow's Gent-Wevelgem. Tomorrow better be good.

Friday, March 26, 2010

De Lis on the attack

Sergio De Lis made sure Euskaltel didn't miss out on presence in the break of the day in today's fifth stage of the Volta a Catalunya. The San Sebastián native, or Donostia, call it what you like, went after Davide Malacarne and Javier Ramirez, the duo having already got a gap after attacking earlier on. Together with Gustavo Cesar Veloso he managed to bridge up and the quartet quickly got a sizeable gap back to the bunch. In the interests of the team Sergio won both intermediate sprints, as well as taking some points on the stage's many climbs. The break was, with the exception of Malacarne who'd go on to win the stage, reeled back in, and Sergio eventually ended up in 56th place, 2:11 down. Igor and Iván again did well to come in with the main group of favourites, both 40 seconds down. Miguel and Gorka both came in 4:22 back, while Aitor, Jonathan and Daniel all came in 16:30 in arrears. Overall Igor is now a good, if unspectacular 11th, 1:27 down, while Iván is five places further back, 10 more seconds adrift. Not bad!

Normandie no-show

Orbea continued their dismal Tour de Normandie yesterday. Given their strong early-season form I'm surprised at this sub-standard performance. All of the riders ended the day 14 or more minutes in arrears, so I don't really see the point in listing their placings. They're also way back in the overall standings naturally. But I'm looking forward to tomorrow's stage; it can only get better.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jonathan secures jersey

Another day in Catalunya, another day for Jonathan to go on the attack. The precocious youngster today secured his Special Sprints Jersey, taking maximum points on the first sprint, ahead of Gorka and Aitor, and getting second on the next one. Good one. The fact that he spent another day ahead of the pack in the break is even more impressive. Voigt won from that same break, but by then Jonathan had been reeled back in by the pack. Igor and Iván did well to come home with the main group of favourites, while Miguel Minguez also rode well to come home in the next group, just a minute and a half behind Igor and Iván's group. The rest of the guys ended up way back, but it doesn't really matter. The most important thing was that Jonathan secured his jersey! Afterwards, he had the following to say: "This stage was really hard. The pace to begin with was unbelievable, and as a result a break didn't stick until kilometre 50. The profile of the stage was deceptive. It looked like a quite flat day with a few ups and downs, but it turned out too be really hard with a few testing climbs. Thanks to the work of my team-mates I was able to win the first sprint, and as a result I ended up in the break. That's why I went for the second sprint as well. I was quite sure the break wouldn't last. The head-wind really tired us, but it was important to win the jersey, so I had to go on the attack. After that I went back and saved myself a bit. Besides winning the jersey, I'm pleased with the fact that I've been in two breaks with strong riders. That boosts the morale".

Week-end line-ups

Euskaltel will take part in three races the coming week-end: The Criterium Internacional, E3 Prijs-Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem. For the first time, if I'm not mistaken, Samu will take part in the Criterium. I've been long longing for him to take part as this two-day, three-stage race should shuit him to perfection. And, hey, there's no Jens Voigt lining up, so maybe he can pull it off! Egoi, Gorka, Mikel, Beñat, JJ and Jorge will join him on Corsica.

Euskaltel will send the same team to both Harelbeke and Wevelgem. Interestingly, Romain will ride. Can't really see those kind of races suit him, but he probably knows what he's doing. And, he is strong on the flats, so who knows? Koldo will of course be there as well, as will perennial underachiever Javier Aramendía. It's high time the wonderkid steps up and shows us what he's made of I reckon. Rubén, AlAn, Iñaki and Pablo will also be there. Look out for Pablo do to well!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jonathan hangs onto jersey

Jonathan manages to hang onto his Special Sprints Jersey on today's third stage of the Volta a Catalunya. The team took control of the early parts of the stage, and Jonathan successfully grabbed all three points in the first sprint. Good work. After that, Daniel Sesma did well to get into the break of the day, but of course it didn't last. Xavier Tondo and 'Purito' were a level above the rest today and came in 1:20 ahead of a 19-man strong group, containing most of the favourites, including Igor and Iván. The rest of the guys were all more than 15 minutes in arrears. Even so, Alvaro expressed his contentment after the stage: "It was a hard day. The first objective of the day was to defend Castroviejo's jersey. He did very well yesterday, and we had to help him. We took responsibility and contolled the first kilometres, and we grabbed the three points in the first sprint. This made sure we'll be on the podium for another day. Later on, we got Sesma into the break. Many teams went for the win today, and for the GC, so the road turned to a battlefield. 'Purito' Rodríguez showed his strength and intentions. Other teams tried to do the same, something which resulted in a very demanding race. I'm very pleased with my riders' performances though. Everyone is learning, and we managed to put Iván and Igor in the front group. On such a hard day, the youngsters felt it, but they're impressive. Castroviejo yesterday, today Sesma. It's necessary to value our performance in the right circumstances, and the fact is that we've done well on these three stages."

Normandie stage 3&4

I said I would be back to report on today's two stages of the Tour de Normandie. Well, I won't report much at all, as Orbea were totally invisible for both stages. The best it got was Beñat Urain's 21st place on the first of today's stages. That's not really awesome, but hopefully they'll put their mark on the race on the remaining stages.

Orbea in Normandy

Sorry guys, I'm a little late with this news. Orbea are presently competing in the Tour de Normandie, in the north of France. The team sent a roster comprising of Beñat Urain, Mikel Ilundain, Ricardo Garcia, Andoni Blázquez, Noel Martín and Adrián Sáez de Arregi. The first two stages have been raced, but none of the guys have been up there at all so far. Though, Ricardo Garcia was in the break of the day yesterday. Good on him. Check back later for a review of stage 3!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Galdós sprints to 3rd in Catalunya

Euskaltel finally put on a good show today. Aitor Galdós showed great form to sprint to 3rd on the second stage of Catalunya, only beaten by Cavendish and Saxo Bank's JJ Haedo. Jonathan also showed what a talent he is by spending most of the day up front with another talented young guy by the name of Peter Stetina. The two escaped early on and were only reeled back in with 12 clicks to go. In the process, Jonathan secured the Sprint Jersey, which he'll get to wear tomorrow. Great stuff! Except for Jonathan, who came in a minute and 2 seconds back, everyone came in safe and sound with the main pack. Good day.

After the race, Aitor had this to say: "This is my first Pro Tour race of the year, and this third place is good. I felt good, and we have to try to take advantage of the opportunities that come along. There was a small climb with 3 km to go, and this allowed me to begin the sprint in a good position. It was a hard finish with such good riders and a twisty run-in. I started to win, not to come third. I had a small mechanical problem, the chain jumped from the 11-tooth chainring to the one with 12, resulting in me having to sit down, change the gear, and then restart. I lost the second place there. I don't know if I would have been able to beat Cavendish, but even so this result boosts my morale. The stage that ends on the Montjuíc is the one I like the most, I think it suits my characteristics, but we'll take it day by day. I'm still not at my peak, but come Saturday I'll be closer. I felt well already in the prologue yesterday, though I lost a place in the top 10 due to a badly timed curve. The team is fighting, today Castroviejo made it into the break of the day. We have to continue this way, some days it'll work and some days it won't, but we'll try".

Jonathan had this to say: "Alvaro requested before the race that we'd be aggressive, and I managed to get away with Peter Stetina. We gave it our all all day, and in the end that took it's toll. With 65 to go we held an eigth-minute advantage, and, yes, at that stage I thought we could make it. But the teams got organized behind us and that made it impossible. In addition, towards the end we got a head-wind, and after more than 160 kilometres up front... The best thing though is that I'm feeling well after coming down with gastroenteritis the past week. And that we secured the lead in the Special Sprints competition. It's always good to be on the podium, and let's see if we can keep the jersey. Tomorrow will be a hard day with an Hors Category climb halfway through. Let's see how we recover from today's efforts."

Grijalba takes it!

Naturgas Energía got their first win of the year when Fernando Grijalba won the Memorial Zunzarren in Lizarra. The race, part of the Torneo Lehendakari, was totally dominated by the guys in red, with the team placing six riders in the top 10. Besides Grijalba's win, Alberto Guinea took an excellent third, Igor Merino was 5th, Carlos Barbero 7th, Pello Bilbao 8th and Jon Larrinaga ended up 10th. The level of competiton is usually very high in these races, so this is quite sensational. "Finally our bad luck is over and we've won our first race this year", sports director Aritz Arberas said, who also outlined praised his riders' "character and ambition".

Monday, March 22, 2010

Good prologue in Catalunya

Everything's relative though, with 'good' in Euskaltel's case meaning, not a win, or even a rider in the top 10, but two in the top 20, or three in the top 21 if you like. In a prologue that's not too shabby from the guys. Jonathan was no doubt most impressive, coming home 18th, 8 small seconds back on the 3,6 kilometre-long course in Lloret del Mar. Aitor Galdós finally showed something close to form, placing 20th, at eight seconds as well, while Gorka continued his strong start to the season with a 21st place, as well just 8 seconds down. Igor, the team leader for the race, placed an OK 42nd, 13 down, while Iván was 23 down in 106th place, Daniel 24 down in 113th, Sergio 29 in 142nd, and Miguel in 157th place 35 back. Not too bad at all.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

No-show in La Classicissima

Euskaltel failed spectacularly to light up yesterday's Milano-San Remo. Koldo and Amets crashed (as usual I'm tempted to say), and the rest of the guys couldn't keep up when the going got tough. Both of them abandoned, while Alán led home the second big group, 1:40 down, in 36th place, while JJ was 43rd, Rubén 45th and Iñaki 72nd in the same group. Pablo adn Jorge came home a big 10:07 back. Not a lot more to say I'm afraid, not a good day.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cataluña line-up

Euskaltel will send the following eight riders to the Volta a Catalunya, to be held from the 22nd to the 28th of March: Igor, Aitor Galdós, Daniel, Jonathan, Miguel, Sergio, Iván and Gorka. Time to get that first win!

Bilbao goes close in Gorla

Pello Bilbao so nearly grabbed Naturgas' first win of the year yesterday in the Subida a Gorla. The Subida a Gorla is a prestigious one-day race being held in and around the Basque town, or village if you like, of Gorla. As the name suggests it concludes with a climb to the top of Gorla. Naturgas were the main protagonists all day long, and a win would be their just reward for their excellent showing. They placed two riders, Mikel Bizkarra and Aitor Ocampos, in the main break of the day. Bizkarra wasn't happy with the pace, though, and went on a bold solo attack towards the end of the race. The trio of Pello Bilbao, eventual winner Jesús Herrada and Victor Cabedo eventually caught up with him on the steep ramps. Cabedo was dropped fairly quickly, and Herrada and Bilbao were left to fight it out for the win, the former taking it by a few inches in a very, very tight finish. Tough luck, but still a great ride by the youngster. Herrada, though, was the victor, and got to join such illustrious names as Contador, Cabestany, Garate, Intxausti, Gorospe and Joaquín Rodriguez, to name but a few, on the winner's list.

Friday, March 19, 2010

País Vasco long-list

The Vuelta al País Vasco is rapidly approaching, and is once again one of the team's most important races. The race, which will run from 5-10 of April, will see eight of these ten riders take part: Samu, Beñat, Gorka, Egoi, Alan, Rubén, Iván, JJ, Mikel and Amets. Samu is, of course, the leader and will no doubt take part. I reckon so too will Egoi, Gorka and Rubén and Alán as well. That leaves JJ, Mikel, Amets, Beñat and Iván to fight it out for the three remaining spots. Judging by their form and the parcours, I'd take Beñat, JJ and Mikel, but that's just me.

Landa and Izagirre chosen for Spain

Two of the most promising Orbea riders, Jon Izagirre and Mikel Landa, have both been chosen to represent Spain's under-23 team in the first race of the Cup of Nations under-23 category this year, to be held in Portugal towards the end of this month. The two youngsters have impressed mightily with their performances so far, and they both caugh they eye of Spain coach José Luis dos Santos. They'll line up alongside Higinio Fernández of Caja Rural, and Lluis Mas, Pascual Orengo and José Carlos Lara of the Burgos 2016 formation.

Samu: "The route's always hard"

After inspecting stage 1 and 3 of the up-coming Vuelta al País Vasco yesterday with his team-mates, The Man offered his view on it to Basque daily DEIA: "It's important to know the most testing parts of the race inside out, that way you're fully prepared for what's to come. It's always good to have tried it out, that way it's fresh in your memory when raceday comes. It's 'our' race, and therefore it's important that we're on top of our game. And to be on top of your game you need to get all the details right. The parcours in this race is always hard. You can change the route all you like each year, but no matter what it's always going to be hard. The stage to Arrate (the fourth stage) and the last-stage time trial in Orio will, quite possibly, be the hardest ones"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Samu and co. on inspection

Samu, along with the line-up for the up-coming Volta a Catalunya, will inspect the parcours for the first and the third stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco today. The two stages, that will end in Zierbena and Amurrio, are likely to be important stages for the overall classification riders, so no doubt a good idea to check them out. Joining Samu will be Igor, Aitor, Daniel, Jonathan, Gorka, Sergio, Iván and Miguel.

Naturgas ready for weekend racing

Naturgas Energía will once again participate in two races the coming weekend. On Saturday they'll take on the first race in the Torneo Sub23 category, the Subida a Gorla. Mikel Landa, now with Orbea, won this race last year, so the guys will no doubt be out to defend their win. Lining up will be Fernando Grijalba, Carlos Barbero, Alberto Guinea, Jon Larriñaga, David Hidalgo, Mikel Bizkarra, Pello and Alex Bilbao, Igor Merino, Aitor Ocampos, Urtzi Legarra and Andoni Sánchez.

The next day the following riders will line up in the Estella, the third race of the year in the Lehendakari category: Alex and Pello Bilbao, Jon Larriñaga, Igor Merino, Rory Martinez, David Hidalgo, Fernando Grijalba, Unai Martínez, Carlos Barbero, Alberto Guinea and Mikel Martioda.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Orbea goes aero

Obrea have, like Euskaltel the last few years, understood that time trialling is an important part of cycling. Just recently, three of their most gifted youngsters, Jon Izagirre, Mikel Landa and Aritz Etxebarria, spent a day on their aero machines to hone their skills against the clock. The trio rode their road bikes from Derio to Mungia, but once there, switched to their Orbea Ordus to get more familiar with the bike, the position and all that. They spent several hours on their TT bikes, something which will no doubt hold them in good stead when the stage-races come down to that one, last race against the clock.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

JJ 11th as Tirreno concludes

The last stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico was held today without Euskaltel leaving their stamp on it. For the first time so far in the race (I think), there was no rider present in the break of the day. Instead Euskaltel opted to put all their faith in Iñaki's sprinting ability, something which didn't really pay off with a 12th place. All the guys, including JJ, came in with the main pack, meaning Juanjo ended the race ranked 11th overall. Very good. Final GC:

  • 11th, Juan José Oroz
  • 28th, Amets Txurruka
  • 39th, Iñaki Isasi
  • 48th, Alan Pérez
  • 58th, Rubén Pérez
  • 69th, Jorge Azanza
  • 121st, Pablo Urtasun

After the conclusion of the race, sports director Gorka Gerrikagoitia had this to say: "The evaluation of our participation is very good. We came to the race without a marked leader and with the idea to go after stage-wins through breaks. This way, the eight riders all started free of responsibilities and with a chance to shine. We ere possibly the mist aggressive team overall, and that makes me content. Now we have to recover for Milan-San Remo, a race in which we'll be reinforced with Koldo Fernández de Larrea".

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rubén on the attack (again)

Every day's the same for Euskaltel in Tirreno: one gets away in a break, gets reeled in, and we're left with nothing. Today it was Rubén's turn again to give it a go. He got into a dangerous-looking break early on but, as anticipated, got caught near the finish. Amets saw this as an incentive to attack and duly did so. His attack five clicks from the line didn't stick though, but it was an honourable try nonetheless. The stage ended with a small climb, so again JJ was the team's best man, this time grabbing 19th, just 22 seconds down. Amets came home 25th, at 31, Iñaki 30th at 36, Rubén 50th at 1:52, Jorge 56th at 12:52, Alan 96th at the same time, while Pablo ended the day placed 130th, 17:25 back. These results mean JJ climbed to 11th overall, so well done to him.

Samu finishes 5th in Paris-Nice

There were no major changes to the overall classification on yesterday's concluding Paris-Nice stage. That means that Samu will have to make do with a 5th place overall, a results which, for him, is neither good nor bad. On the stage he was the only Euskaltel rider to come home with the leading bunch, but Romain did well to come home alongside Leipheimer, Gerrans, Schleck and Millar just 59 seconds down. Iván was 2:48 back in 49th place, while Egoi ended up a whopping 10:46 in arrears, while Beñat was even less impressive, coming home 18:45 down. Not good.
As for the overall, it looks like this:
  • 5th, Samuel Sánchez
  • 58th, Romain Sicard
  • 60th, Iván Velasco
  • 72nd, Beñat Intxausti
  • 77th, Egoi Martínez

After the stage, Samu had this to say: "Overall I'm pleased with the race. Overall we were five guys within 30 seconds of each other and I was one of them, so we have to see it that way. It was a very high level of competition this year and it was very hard to fight for the win. The one annoying thing though is that I missed out on the podium by 5 seconds. I was fourth yesterday (Saturday), and I was fourth in an amputated sprint today (Sunday). We fought for stage-wins, and we were close, but we didn't make it. Now I have to recover and train well so that I can go to the Vuelta al País Vasco in top form".

JJ impressive in Tirreno

Juan José Oroz was at his aggressive best in yesterday's fifth stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. After an earlier break of 11 had been caught, including Alan, JJ went it alone, attacking some 30 kilometres out. Eventual winner Gasparotto managed to bridge across, but the final climb with 1 click to go proved too hard for JJ, and he fell back. He eventually came in 12th, and occupies the same place overall. Amets came in 57 seconds back in 28th place, Alan was 44th at 1:57, Jorge 71st at 9:47, Iñaki 75ht at 10:31, Pablo 78th at 10:31 as well, while Rubén was 83th, a full 24:05 down. Overall standings:

  • 12th, Juan José Oroz, 1:05
  • 32nd, Amets Txurruka, 3:04
  • 39th, Alan Pérez, 6:24
  • 48th, Iñaki Isasi, 12:07
  • 63rd, Rubén Pérez, 25:21
  • 77th, Jorge Azanza, 32:33
  • 115th, Pablo Urtasun, 56:10

After the stage, JJ had this to say to the media: "The first 60 kilometres went by the coast and we were practically flying. There were 1000 attack, and in every single one an Euskaltel rider was present. The team worked to the maximum all day. Finally a break of 11 got away, but the presence of Pinotti made it difficult. The Italian was close to Scarponi overall, and thus the break weren't given much leeway. But we got Alan into that break. We went really fast up the last climb of the day with 55 clicks to go. The pack split, Pinotti went it alone, and Scarponi crashed... It was crazy. With 30 clicks to go a group got away, and I was in it. I attacked and I went solo. When someone attacked again with 15 to go Gasparotto bridged up to me. We worked well together and arrived at the last incline with an advantage of 20 seconds. Perhaps on another type of terrain I would have had a better shot at it, but it was too step and I blew up. My legs were okay, but the unevenness made it hard. Gaparotto did better, and managed to stay with the favourites and win. As a team we're doing a remarkable race. Our performance should be valued. It's a very hard race, the stages are demanding and there's always some sort of surprise from the Italians. But despite all this we're in the break each day. I don't want to mention one of us in particular 'cause we're all doing well here. The other teams in the peloton recognise the work we're doing, and that says a lot about our attitude. There's two days to go, let's see if we can keep this up".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Naturgas ready for weekend races

Naturgas Energía have revealed their rosters for this weekend's two races; a race in Lizarte on Saturday and in Villatuerta on Sunday. For the former race, Fernando Grijalba, Carlos Barbero, Alberto Guines, Jon Larrinaga, David Hidalgo, Unai Martinez, Rory Martínez, Pello and Alex Bilbao and Igor Merino will line up. A day later, Carlos Barbero, David Hidalgo, Alfonso Saiz, Jon Larrinaga, Rory Martínez, Andoni Sánchez, Pello and Alex Bilbao, Mikel Bizkarra, Igor Merino, Urtzi Legarra and Aitor Ocampos will be in action.

Rubén attack in Tirreno stage 4

Rubén was at his aggressive best in today's 4th stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. He managed to break away from the pack early on with six other rider, among them big-name riders like Pozzato and Efimkin. They looked to be in with a chance of staying clear, but were finally reeled back in 4 kilometres from the line. JJ eventually turned out to be the strongest Euskaltel rider on the uphill finish, placing a good 16th, only 43 seconds down on winner Scarponi. Rubén did well to come home 33rd, 1:15 down, while Iñaki was 1:34 down, Amets a further 2 seconds down, Alan a massive 4:32, Jorge a big 11:58 and Pablo more than half an hour in arrears. These results leave JJ in 19th place overall with three stages to go. At the time being he's 53 seconds down on overall leader Scarponi. After the stage, Rubén spoke to the press. "I'm satisfied with my performance, though it's always annoying to be caught so close to the line", he said. "I thought we had a chance to stay away, but it wasn't to be. Some of the riders in my group crashed on one of the descents and we opted to wait for them. That proved to be our downfall, as those seconds turned out to be important. The team is performing well every day. JJ is here for the overall, and the rest of us are here to get into breaks. Gorka Gerrikagoitia (sports director) is doing well, and he gives every rider a chance to shine. There's still three days to go though, so we'll do our best".

Samu 4th as three abandon

It was not a particularly good day for the team in today's penultimate stage of the Paris-Nice. It started off on the worst possible note when Gorka and Mikel both decided against starting the stage. Gorka is suffering from tendinitis, while Mikel had to pull out due to gastroenteritis. Not good. Romain got into the break of the day though, a big group containing 20 riders or something. He was surprisingly passive though, staying at the back the whole day and, when the pace was upped, went right out the back. Not good either. After that, Koldo decided to call it quits as well, leaving the team with only five riders. Two of them, Samu and Beñat, made it into the select group of riders after the last climb. Eventhough the stage was tailor-made for Samu, with a short, steep climb followed by a long descent into the finish, he decided against having a go. I found that very weird. A fifth place overall is not bad, but if you want to win you have to give it a go and risk something. A missed opportunity for sure. Eventually Samu came 4th, missing out on the bonus seconds as well and thus remains in 5th place overall ahead of tomorrow's last stage. But with his unwillingness to attack, I'm afraid we can't expect him to climb up a few places tomorrow. Anyway, both Samu and Beñat ended up in the front group, while Romain ended up 3:59 down in 51st place. Iván was 75th, 9:11 back, while Egoi was a lowly 116th, a full 18:32 back.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Koldo close as crash hinders Romain

It was a frustrating day for the team in Paris-Nice yesterday. On the first climb of the day, the Col du Murs, Romain was caught up in one of the numerous crashes and had to give chase along with a lot of other riders, including guys like Tony Martin. They weren't successful though, and Romain lost a massive 16:50 today, thus ruining his overall race which had started quite well. It was quite a hilly stage, and only two Euskaltel riders were in the select group coming in to the finish in Aix en Provence; Samu, of course, and a very impressive Koldo. While most of the sprinters came in way back, Koldo was right up there at the very end showing he's become a much better climber over the winter. Awesome! He didn't quite have the legs to pull it off though, coming home 7th. As mentioned, Samu was in that same group, placing 19th and keeping hold of his 5th place on GC. Iván came in 46 seconds back, Egoi 1:08, Beñat and Gorka 2:36 and Mikel and Romain 16:50. Tough luck, but that's bike racing for you.

Alan drops to 7th in Tirreno

It was a rather uneventful day for the team in yesterday's third stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. Despite being aggressive in the early parts of the stage they failed to get a rider into the main break of the day. Amets gave it a good go with 20 kilometres left, but was rather quickly reeled back in a few clicks later. Rubén, Alan, JJ and Iñaki came in with the main pack, but Alan dropped to 7th overall. Amets, smarting from his earlier effort, came in 19 seconds adrift, while Pablo and Jorge came in with a group 11:45 in arrears. Aitor Hernández sadly had to drop out due to severe pain in his left knee. I suspected something wasn't quite right with him given his bad ride yesterday, and this has now gotten an explanation. Gorka Gerrikagoitia, the sports director, was quite happy afterwards though: "The team showed great attitude at the start of the stage. We felt good earlier today, but we didn't manage to get one of our guys into the break. When only one was left up front Amets gave it a go, but Liquigas set a high pace and caught up with him. They won the stage and lead the overall, so they did very well. Now we have to recover and give it another go timorrow. The bad note of the day was Aitor's abandonment. He started the stage, but he was obviously in a lot of pain and we chose to take him out so as to not risk it getting worse."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alan 5th overall in Tirreno

Alan Pérez enjoyed a great day out in the Tirreno-Adriatico today. The 27-year-old got into the break of the day, snatched both intermediate sprints and, despite being reeled in with 3,5 kilometres to go, is now classified 5th overall in the race, mainly thanks to his accumulated bonus seconds. Elsewhere, all the other guys, except for Pablo and Aitor Hernández, came in with the main pack. Pablo ended up 2:25 down, while Aitor came in a massive 9:34 back. The race is probably way too hilly for Alan to keep his high overall placing, but still it's a big plus for him as well as the team. "We're satisfied with what we did today", he said after the stage. "We've been active and been protagonists, and that's important in a race of this calibre. The director told us before the race started to be on the attack and get into breaks, and so we did. We all tried to get away, but none of us were successful until I got away with Ignatiev and two others. We worked well together and built up a decent lead, though they never let us get too far ahead. I'm pretty well placed in the overall standings now, but I know there's a lot of hard stages to come. Our team car will be fifth in line tomorrow. That's a good thing, as that way we'll be closer and it'll be easier for our guys in the car to read the race."

Samu praises team

Speaking after today's fourth stage of the Paris-Nice, Samu spoke of his appreciation of his team-mates' work: "It was a very fast stage. The cold was unbearable at times. The team was phenomenal! Mikel was in the break, and the rest of the guys looked out for me all the way to the bottom of the last climb. I did my best to win, but it was impossible. Contador was the strongest and all we can do is congratulate him. It's a bit annoying though that I'm just five seconds off being in the top 3. It'll be hard to finish on the podium. There are a lot of good riders here, and there's not room for them all on the podium. It looks difficult, but as long as there's life there's hope".

Samu climbs to third; fifth on GC

Samu did well today on the fourth stage of Paris-Nice, starting in Maurs and ending atop the Montée Laurent Jalabert in Mende. Contador won solo, of course, but just ten seconds back was Samu, crossing the line in 3rd place right behing Valverde. His strong showing means he's now 5th overall, only 29 seconds down on the unbeatable El Pistolero.

Earlier in the day Mikel showed himself, getting away with six others to form the main break of the day. Mikel and his companions were reeled back in though, getting caught with something like 10 kilometres to go. After that Egoi and Romain went to the front of the pack to set the pace for Samu. Both of them looked strong, and Samu will no doubt be grateful for their help. Romain came in a very respectable 24th himself, just a minute back, while Beñat did okay to claim 28th, a further five seconds down. Iván ended up 3:15 down, Egoi and Gorka 4:18, and Koldo and Mikel 8:33. This lead to Euskaltel placing 2nd in the team rankings of the day. Not bad.

GC results as of the fourth stage:
  • 5th, Samuel Sánchez, 0:29
  • 24th Romain Sicard, 1:45
  • 66th, Gorka Verdugo, 6:18
  • 69th, Egoi Martínez, 6:51
  • 92nd, Beñat Intxausti, 10:44
  • 97th, Koldo Fernández, 11:58
  • 133rd, Mikel Nieve, 17:16

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Paris-Nice stage 3

Euskaltel kept a (too) low profile in today's 3rd stage of Paris-Nice. None of the riders went on the attack, and Samu ended up losing another few precious seconds to Voigt and Contador. When the attacks went towards the end of the stage, Euskaltel were nowhere to be seen, something that must be considered disappointing considering the strength of the team in this race. Samu and Romain did quite well though, coming home with the main pack some 6 seconds down. Iván and Mikel ended up a disappointing 27 seconds down, while Egoi, Gorka and Beñat all look out of shape, the trio coming in 1:17 back, quite a big margin given the not-too-hilly profile of the stage. Koldo came in 2:26 back.

Pablo on the attack in Tirreno

The Tirreno-Adriatico got underway today, and, unlike in Paris-Nice, the Euskaltel boys were on the attack. After Grabovskyy, the lone breakaway rider, had been reeled in, Pablo let fly with an attack 12 kilometres out. Strong-man Niki Terpstra from Milram bridged up but, despite the pair working well together, they were reeled in 5 clicks later. Rubén tried his best in the sprint and came home 15th. All the other riders came in with the main pack as well.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Koldo 11th in 2nd stage

Koldo failed to mix it with the big boys in today's sprint finish to the second stage of the Paris-Nice. Koldo struggled (as usual) to find the right spot in the bunch leading up to the sprint, ending up too far behind with 500 metres to go. He rolled in to a disappointing 11th place, but will hope to better that tomorrow. Other than that it was a quiet day for the team. Everyone but Beñat came in with the main pack, the diminutive climber coming home 57 seconds back.

"I felt good"

Speaking after today's first real stage of the Paris-Nice, Samu surprisingly said he felt good, despite missing out on the decisive split. "It's been a very hard day", he said. "It was a hard parcours, and the cold and the wind, and all the crashes the wind leads to, has made it even harder. It was a very difficult stage... You couldn't relax for a second. The pack split towards the end and it was impossible to bridge the gap. Well done to Caisse. Though, there's still a lot of racing to be done and there's not much in it. The most important thing today was to not crash. With 40 clicks to go a rider ran into me from behind and I had to change my rear wheel. I felt good all day though, and that's the most important thing."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Euskaltel blown away

On a windy and crash-marred day in the Paris-Nice, Samu lost 17 seconds to Valverde, Sánchez and a number of other overall candidates. The infamous strong winds in the Loir Valley were out in full force today and, in a customary showing of a lack of smartness and knowhow, Euskaltel lost out big time. Caisse d'Epargne and Columbia set a furious pace at the head of the pack a number of times in the last 30 kilometres of the stage, and every time all Euskaltel riders got caught behind. Like they've done all the time the last few years. I don't know who to point the finger at, the directors or the riders? But what I do know is that it's high time Euskaltel, and by Euskaltel I mean all the riders and all the staff, sit down and talk tactics. It's not good enough, not nearly good enough, to always get caught out when the pack splits in the wind. It's not rocket science, it's pretty easy: stay at the front. That way you're less likely to end up at the back when stuff like this happens. But for them to stay at the front someone on the team has to learn how to read a race, and I'm afraid almost every Euskaltel rider and director has got some home-work to do. This might seem harsh, but it's time we got serious.

Just to make matters worse, Koldo and Iván both hit the deck today. But they got up and finished the stage though, so they should be ready to go by tomorrow. As for results, Koldo, Samu, Romain, Egoi and Gorka ended up 17 seconds back on the group containing Valverde, Sánchez, Joaquín Rodriguez, Boom, Voigt, Kolobnev, Roche, Tony Martin, Kreuziger, Miller and Ivanov. Iván, Mikel and Beñat ended up even further back, coming in a massive 7:12 down. Not good.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Samu 10th in Paris-Nice prologue

Samu did well to claim 10th in a tight prologue in Paris-Nice today. He only conceded 15 seconds to winner Lars Boom, and even fewer to overall candidates Luis León Sanchez, Contador and Leipheimer. Beñat also did very well to come home 25th, only 27 seconds back. That's better than Valverde, Coppel, Larsson and Vande Velde to name a few, so hats off to him. Romain did okay to claim 55th place, 36 seconds back, while Gorke ended up 69th, 41 seconds down. Koldo was 118th, at 57 seconds, Egoi a disappointing 154th, 1:17 back, Mikel was 160th at 1:19, and finally Iván ended up a distant 166th, 1:29 down. Not good overall, but with Samu, Beñat and Romain doing well, it was an okay start to the race for the team.

Romain a go for Paris-Nice

The Paris-Nice stage-race, or the Race to the Sun as it's affectionately known, will start today WITH Romain on the start-line. He's fully recovered from his calf problems, and will start the prologoue in Montfort-l'Amaury at 16:00 sharp.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Romain may miss Paris-Nice

Romain may not race the Paris-Nice stage-race after all due to injury. Initial reports suggested the Frenchman was suffering from tendinitis, but it turns out he's suffering from a spasm to his left calf. "It's nothing serious, but he has to be careful" was the words coming out of the Euskaltel camp. He's still hoping he can make it to the start on Sunday though, so all hope is not gone.


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