Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Team for Tirreno-Adriatico

Gazzetta has today released the official start list for the upcoming Tirreno-Adriatico. The seven-day race, set to be staged between 7-13 of March, will see the following eight riders toe the line for the opening day team time trial in San Vincenzo:

Ricardo García, Jon Izagirre, Mikel Landa, Pablo Urtasun, Egoi Martínez, Rubén Pérez, Ametz Txurruka and Juan José Oroz.

Álvaro González de Galdeano is the designated DS for the WorldTour-race.

GP Llodio off

The Gran Premio Llodio will not go ahead this season, according to Biciciclismo.com. As reported last week, the organizers were having trouble coming up with enough money to stage the one-day race, and a decision has now been taken to suspend the only professional race in the Álava region.

La Sociedad Ciclista Llodiana, who put on the race, will stage a press conference this coming Thursday explaining their reasons for calling off this year's edition. Whether the GP Llodio, won in 2009 by Samuel Sánchez, will return next year, is at the time of writing unknown, but the organizers are likely to shed some light on that particular issue in two days.

Monday, February 27, 2012

D-day looming for País Vasco

As reported here late last week, the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Clásica San Sebastián run the rick of cancellation this year due to budgetary shortcomings. A deadline has now been set on when the necessary 150 000 euros will have to found - and time is quickly running out.

According to Organizaciones Ciclistas Euskadi president Jaime Ugarte, the money will have to be in the bank account by no later than the fifth of March. That's a week from now.

"We're waiting for a solution, but at the time being we've got nothing", Ugarte is quoted as saying. "If the moment comes that we have to say 'we've enjoyed the experience, we've gotten through it and now it's over', then that's what we'll have to say."

Ugarte is in his last year as the head of the organization, and it's stating the obvious that this was not the way he wanted to finish things off. A miracle is needed if both events are to be staged this year, he says.

"I don't think this crisis will solve itself. No one has contacted us so far", he told Cobbles & Hills. "We'll get together tomorrow and make a decision. Then on Monday or Tuesday next week we'll call a press conference. We're totally defeated. Money is the sticking stone. We need a miracle to hold the races this season. If that doesn't happen, the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Clásica San Sebastián will disappear off the calendar".

Yet despite the bleak outlook, Ugarte contradicted himself somewhat when he talked to el Diario Vasco yesterday.

"If I had to put money on it, I'd say no, the race won't be cancelled this year. I don't know what we'll do with future editions, but I personally believe we'll be able to get the race going in 2012".

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Naturgas weekend round-up

Naturgas Energía got their domestic season underway this weekend with races on Saturday and Sunday. Up on Saturday was the Torneo Euskaldun-opener in Zumaia, while Sunday marked the first race in the Trofeo Lehendakari series in Soraluze.

Speedy sprinter Unai Iparragirre of Bidelan took the win on Saturday courtesy of his fast finish. New Naturgas signing Francisco Javier Martín impressed on his debut with a fine sixth place finish, while Alain González and Loic Chetout weren't far behind in 13th and 14th. Three riders in the top 15 made sure the new-look sub-23 outfit (check out the new jersey above) took out the team win. The remaining riders on the team, i.e. Estevez, Baudron, Etxeberria, Larrinaga, Comins, Iturria and García, finished inside the pack, except for the latter who came in 6:23 in arrears.

Former Naturgas prodigy Fernando Grijalba, now riding for Caja Rural, climbed to an impressive win in Soraluze earlier today at the top of the San Andrés climb after a taxing 118km race. Jon Larrinaga (pictured left) displayed his increasing prowess on the steeper ramps with a solid fourth place finish just five seconds down. Full results:
  • (1, Fernando Grijalba, Caja Rural)
  • 4, Jon Larrinaga, 0:05
  • 16, Loic Chetout, 0:54
  • 17, Victor Etxeberria, s.t.
  • 25, Mikel Iturria, 3:14
  • 27, Damien Garcia, 3:23
  • 29, Pablo Comins, 3:29
  • 33, Imanol Estevez, 3:57
  • 62, Francisco Javier Martín, 5:49
  • 115, Oier Sánchez, 13:22

Brief report: Almería and Sud Ardèche

Results from the Clásica Almería are just in, and an Euskaltel outfit bereft of a pure sprinter in its ranks failed to land a top results. Antipodean whizz-kid Michael Matthews sprinted to glory ahead of Bozic and Kluge, while Jorge Azanza was the team's top finisher in 15th, three seconds adrift. The guys in orange failed to animate the race as the day's break got away with no orange-clad riders in it. The race marked Nieve, Mínguez, Velasco and Txurruka's first day of competition in 2012. Full results:

  • (1, Michael Matthews, Rabobank)
  • 15, Jorge Azanza, 0:03
  • 18, Amets Txurruka, s.t.
  • 25, Iván Velasco, s.t.
  • 31, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 62, Mikel Nieve, 9:24
  • 73, Miguel Mínguez, 10:08
  • 96, Victor Cabedo, 19:37
  • DNF: Pablo Urtasun

Jon Izagirre showed plenty of promise with a third place in today's Les Boucled du Sud Ardèche - his top professional result. FDJ's Remi Pauriol won solo with half a minute or so, while his team-mate Arthur Vichot bested the youngest of the Izagirres to claim second.

"It turned into a race of elimination, and being up there among the best has motivated me for my next race: Tirreno-Adriatico", the 23-year-old told the team's website. "I'll go home happy, ready for new challenges. The season's just started and I'm feeling good!"

Everyone else on the team, as well as the whole of Caja Rural, failed to finish, as the high speed in the closing stages put paid to a lot of riders' hopes.

"I'm no Sastre"

Because of his exploits in the Giro and the Vuelta in recent years, Mikel Nieve has become something of a cult figure for followers of Basque and Spanish cycling. Seemingly born to ride mountains, the 27-year-old will be Euskaltel's go-to guy in the Giro d'Italia in May, and possibly a key domestique in the Vuelta later on. Yet despite stating he's keen to better his 11th place overall from last year's Italian adventure, the Leitza native is keen to downplay comparisons with some of Spain's recent Grand Tour heroes.

"Don't compare me with Sastre and Escartín", he told bike mag Revista Desde la Cuneta. "All of us have different characteristics. Sastre has won the Tour and finished on the podium in several GTs - we're talking of a rider with an exceptional palmarès here. The same goes for Escartín. I'm a climber suited to long days in the saddle. That's all. I'll go my own way".

Unsurprisingly given Spain's rich heritage in three-week racing, Nieve rates fellow Navarran Miguel Induráin as his biggest hero. Yet he also reveals he's fond of 'Big Mig's successor.

"I really admired Induráin - like pretty much everyone else. But also the likes of Armstrong and Ullrich. There are so many great names in this sport..."

Nieve's season will be very much centred on the Giro, but taking part in the Tour in July is still not ruled out. If he does indeed go, it won't be to chase personal glory though.

"If I'm selected for the Tour, I'll help out our leader, Samuel Sánchez. But it's not decided yet (whether he'll take part or not). Samu has finished fourth and sixth, won on the Luz Ardiden, won the polkadot jersey... If I end up in France, my job description will be to be by his side in the mountains and learn".

"As I haven't done that race before, it would be risky to set specific aims for myself. But I might aim for the climber's jersey sometime in the future..."

GP Llodio also at risk

The Gran Premio Llodio - Clásica de Álava has today joined an ever-expanding list of Basque races whose futures are threatened. ABC.es reports that the 1.1-ranked UCI race, originally slated for the 21st of April, might not go ahead this season.

The only professional bike race to be staged in the region of Álava is struggling to come up with the 70 000 euros required to hold the race. Both private and public sponsors are reportedly cutting back on their funding amid the tough economic climate currently plaguing Spain, leaving the GP Llodio on the brink of extinction. The organizing committee is likely to rule on the race's future in mid to late next week.

If the race does indeed disappear, it'll join a growing list of casualties in Basque cycling. The Bira, Subida a Urkiola and Euskal Bizikleta have all gone off the map in recent years, and might be followed by the GP Induráin and the two cornerstones in the region: the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Clásica San Sebastián. Coupled with Igorre being removed as a stop on the UCI's cyclo-cross world cup calendar and Euskaltel's future still being the subject of conjecture, the word 'crisis' might just be, for once, a warranted description of the state Basque cycling finds itself in at the moment.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The death of Basque cycling?

The Vuelta al País Vasco and the Clásica San Sebastián may disappear from the cycling calendar this year - and stay off it for good. So say reports in the Spanish media.

The Basque Government will cut back on their support this year, reducing their sponsorship from 360 000 euros to approximately 200 000. Race organizers have so far failed to cover the loss of 150 000 euros, and now may face up to the prospect of having to cancel both set of events.

The Basque Government signed an agreement with the organizers of the two biggest Basque races back in 2009, committing them to come up with 360 000 euros annually. The deal originally ran through 2011, but did include an option to extend the agreement into 2012 and beyond. The Government informed the Organizaciones Deportivas Euskadi - the organization created back in 2009 to keep the races afloat - in May of last year that the support would be reduced, but also committed to help find a commercial sponsor to fill the gap in the budget. Such a sponsor could not be found, though, and the organizers themselves have also failed to find a suitable backer to date. According to El Diario Vasco, a decision on whether to stage the races will be taken towards the end of next week at the latest.

Having already lost prestigious races like the Euskal Bizikleta, the Subida a Urkiola and the Bira in recent years, and with the organizers of the GP Induráin struggling to make ends meet, the disappearance of the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Clásica may just put Basque cycling into terminal decline.

Stay tuned the following days for more news on this story.

Click here for a more detailed overview.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Antón: "I felt good"

Igor Antón placed 15th overall and twice finished top ten on stages in the recently conluded Vuelta a Andalucía - results stronger than what's been the norm at this time of the season from the 29-year-old in the past. 'Fuji' looked to be climbing well throughout the race, and naturally expressed his contentment when speaking to Gara post-stage.

"It was the first real test of the season. The goal was to work as a team, and if we got a result on board, all the better. Looking at the race now, I felt we were always up there despite not grabbing a win or a top GC placing. The form is coming along bit by bit".

"The third stage was more suited to me (he placed sixth). Yesterday's climb wasn't that steep and I was further back, but I still felt pretty good. Gorka Izagirre and Jorge Azanza were in the break, me and Samu were up there at the end, so overall it was a good performance. Looking ahead, we're optimistic".

Listen to Antón's evaluation of the race on video here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Briefs: line-ups/cyclo-cross/Naturgas

  • Euskaltel for Sunday's Clásica Almería: Azanza, Cabedo, Minguez, Nieve, Txurruka, Velasco, Verdugo and Urtasun. DS: Josu Larrazabal. Source: www.fundacioneuskadi.com
  • Euskaltel for Sunday's French one-day race Les Boucles du Sud Ardèche: Bilbao, Cazaux, García, J Izagirre, Landa, R Pérez, Sáez and Sicard. DS: Álvaro González de Galdeano. It'll be the team's first ever appearance at the French cup race. Source: www.ardeche-cyclisme.fr/
  • The UCI's final cyclo-cross rankings were released earlier today. Spain's number one rider, Egoitz Murgoitio, finished a creditable 35th, while Javier Ruíz de Larriñaga placed 73rd and Aitor Hernández 106th. Check out the full list here.
  • Naturgas Energía will take part in their first races on Spanish soil this weekend. The red sub-23 outfit till take part in a Torneo Euskaldun-race in Zumaia on Saturday, before they'll open their Lehendakari campaign a day later in Soraluze. The team is likely to reveal their rosters tomorrow.

Just in: Samu third in Andalucía final

Samuel Sánchez grabbed a noteworthy third place in today's final stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía. Diminutive Katusha climber Dani Moreno beat Valverde and Samu to the win atop a small climb in La Guardia, meaning Valverde secured the first overall while Samu was left to rue yesterday's ill-timed puncture that cost him a shot at the general classification. To complete a good day for the team, Igor Antón looked the part and secured ninth place. The Galdakao native thus rose to 15th on GC, while Astarloza dropped out of the top 10.

Stage results:
  • (1, Daniel Moreno, Katusha)
  • 3, Samuel Sánchez, 0:02
  • 9, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 21, Mikel Astarloza, 0:10
  • 55, Juan José Oroz, 2:08
  • 64, Egoi Martínez, 2:22
  • 75, Jorge Azanza, 3:37
  • 76, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
Final general classification:
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde, Movistar)
  • 15, Igor Antón, 0:35
  • 16, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 26, Samuel Sánchez, 1:12
  • 49, Egoi Martínez, 4:52
  • 70, Juan José Oroz, 7:53
  • 78, Gorka Izagirre, 8:57
  • 86, Jorge Azanza, 10:51

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vuelta a Andalucía stage 3

Bad luck struck Euskaltel and Samuel Sánchez on today's third stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía. The Olympic champion flatted on the last climb some five kilometres from the line, ceding 51 seconds and any hope of a top overall result with it.

The 157km stage from Montamayor to Las Gabias saw 56 riders, among them Antón and Astarloza, approach the line together. Óscar Freire showed he still possesses a lethal kick despite his advancing age to claim the win ahead of younger challengers Schorn and Matthews, while Astarloza moved into the top ten on GC as Samu slipped to 36th because of his ill-timed puncture.

Stage results:
  • (1, Óscar Freire, Rabobank)
  • 34, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 39, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 58, Egoi Martínez, 0:51
  • 63, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 98, Jorge Azanza, 4:18
  • 99, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
  • 103, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
General classification:
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde, Movistar)
  • 10, Mikel Astarloza, 0:27
  • 18, Igor Antón, 0:35
  • 36, Samuel Sánchez, 1:12
  • 53, Egoi Martínez, 2:32
  • 79, Gorka Izagirre, 5:22
  • 82, Juan José Oroz, 5:47
  • 87, Jorge Azanza, 7:16
The Ruta del Sol concludes tomorrow with 135,7 lumpy kilometres from Jaén to La Guardia de Jaén including four cat.3 climbs.

Giro longlist & Paris-Nice line-up

Euskaltel have released a long-team consisting of 11 names for May's Giro d'Italia. Velo-club.net says the following riders are in contention for a start: Azanza, Cabedo, Cazaux, García, J Izagirre, Mínguez, Nieve, Oroz, Sáez, Txurruka, Velasco. While this list includes no surprises, it's worth mentioning that four of them - Cabedo, García, J Izagirre and Sáez - have never taken part in a GT before. Nieve is set to lead the team's charge for stages and a high overall placing, while quartet Velasco, Txurruka, Oroz and Mínguez are likely to play key supporting roles.

In other race related news, the team will send both its Frenchmen to the Paris-Nice next Sunday. Sicard and Cazaux are set to line up alongside Igor Antón, Mikel Astarloza, Peio Bilbao, G Izagirre, Adrián Sáez and Gorka Verdugo.

Check out the 'Race to the Sun's parcours here.

Landa set for GT bow

Talented climber Mikel Landa will make his debut Grand Tour appearance this year, Cobbles & Hills reports. The 22-year-old is set to line up in Pamplona in August for the start of the Vuelta a España.

"After a first block of racing concluding with the Vuelta a Madrid, I'll put my feet up and prepare for the Vuelta a España", the Vitoria native said. "That first block will include a race in France later this month (Les Boucles du Sud Ardèche), before I'll go on to the Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo, GP Induráin, Vuelta al País Vasco, Llodio, Rioja, Asturias, Castilla y León and then Madrid".

The youngster made quite an impression in his first year with the team - what with taking out the queen-stage in the Vuelta a Burgos ahead of Cobo, Purito, Samu et al. Despite Euskaltel's future beyond the current season being up in the air, Landa is pretty sure his second season with the orange outfit won't be his last.

"Miguel (Madariaga), Igor (González de Galdeano) and Guerri (Gerrikagoitia) have all told us the team will still exist in 2013, whether or not it's with another name, with or without Miguel... We're all pretty relaxed about it. Sure, there's some degree of uncertainty, but all in all we're tranquilo."

Not only Landa's sporting achievements caught the eye last year. The former Orbea rider turned heads by breaking his collarbone not once, not twice, but an impressive three times in his maiden season in the WorldTour - one of them as a result of a run-in with a cow in the Dauphiné. He isn't getting too downbeat about his bad luck though, saying he's finding better ways to cope with the adversity with each passing fracture.

"The last time I broke it (in late November) was the least annoying. I lost a month of preparation, but by then I had at least figured out the best sleeping positions and the best ways to eat!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vuelta a Andalucía stage 2

Star triumvirate Igor Antón, Samuel Sánchez and Mikel Astarloza all showed they've done their work in the off-season by placing sixth, ninth and 15th respectively on today's queen-stage in the Ruta del Sol.

Unsurprisingly, Alejandro Valverde proved to be the strongest on the unforgiving ramps of the cat.1 Santuario de la Virgen de Araceli de Lucia climb that that marked the finish of the hilly 150km stage two. Say what you like about that guy, but there's no denying he's class through and through. The Movistar rider easily broke clear of a select group of top stage-racers near the end of the climb after a late-race move by former Euskaltel rider Intxausti and Galdós along with Lelay and Spilak was reeled back in. Menchov showed he's going well by taking second, ten seconds in arrears, while Taaramae, Schleck and Lagutin followed in the next three places. Antón grinded his way to sixth at no more than 15 seconds, while Sánchez also looks to be in a good place by taking ninth at 23. Astarloza, who's demonstrated decent form so far this season, grabbed 15th.

All three moved up in the overall rankings after today's strong showing. Samu's now seventh, Astarloza 11th and Antón 19th.

Click this link to hear what Antón had to say post-stage.
And click here to hear Samu's evaluation of his start to 2012.
(Videos courtesy of fundacioneuskadi.com)

Full results:
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde, Movistar)
  • 6, Igor Antón, 0:15
  • 9, Samuel Sánchez, 0:23
  • 15, Mikel Astarloza, 0:32
  • 43, Gorka Izagirre, 1:00
  • 48, Egoi Martínez, 1:20
  • 49, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 71, Jorge Azanza, 2:36
General classification:
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde, Movistar)
  • 7, Samuel Sánchez, 0:21
  • 11, Mikel Astarloza, 0:27
  • 19, Igor Antón, 0:35
  • 37, Gorka Izagirre, 1:04
  • 47, Juan José Oroz, 1:29
  • 51, Egoi Martínez, 1:41
  • 69, Jorge Azanza, 2:58

Up tomorrow is a 157km ride from Montemayor to Las Gabias.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"We might change our philosophy"

Euskaltel's general manager Miguel Madariaga has once again opened up to the possibility of a change of philosophy at the team - but says it all depends on the eventual new sponsor. Current main sponsor Euskaltel - the telephone company that is - have a deal with the team running through this year and are yet to pen an extension to their engagement. As it stands now, it seems the team will open up to foreigners if that's the way Euskaltel, or any other sponsor for that matter, wants it.

"We could alter our philosophy and open up to foreigners - it pretty much depends on the the wishes of the sponsor we hope to find", Madariaga told Marca. "Right now, we're undecided. First of all we need to get a sponsor onboard. If the new backer allows us to go ahead with our current philosophy then great, but if that's not the case we might have to look at things anew. I don't think it's realistic that the team disappears, though".

What might lie ahead in 2013 will continue to be subject to conjecture for quite a while yet. At the time being, Madariaga is more preoccupied with the team's financial health.

"What's worst at the moment is that we've been working with the same budget for the last half a decade. Actually, I've been forced to make some cuts due to the Basque government reducing their support. We're looking for another sponsor to make up for the money we've lost. I don't think we'll struggle this year, but we definitely have to find something for the future. We have the smallest budget in the WorldTour - it's even smaller than many Pro Conti-teams! It hasn't gotten any bigger in the last five years, and that's not to be recommended".

"Our budget amounts to approximately seven million euros. We need nine to be competitive".


  • Naturgas Energía's Loic Chetout experienced an unlucky start to the season. The talented youngster hit the deck in Saturday's Route de l'Atlantique - the team's first race of the year. His elbow took the brunt of the crash, fundacioneuskadi.com reports, and he was forced to step off the bike. It's not overly serious, though, and he's likely to be ready for the team's next race.
  • Barakaldo native track star Unai Elorriaga took out the overall world cup crown in the points race in London this weekend. The 31-year-old former Cafés Baqué rider placed third behind fellow Spaniard Albert Torres and Russia's Kirill Sveshnikov, but still did more than enough to secure the overall title.
  • While top results were once again hard to come by for Naturgas Energía over the weekend at the Essor Basque, directeur sportif Iñigo Urretxua was more than pleased with his young charges. "Considering the high level of competition, even the French national team took part, I'm very happy with the team's work", he told Euskaltel's homepage. "Looking forward to the coming weekend's race, this race did the riders' form good."
  • Click this link to check out every roster of every Spanish amateur team in 2012. Top quality work from BiciCiclismo - as usual.

Vuelta a Andalucía stage 1

The first stage proper of the Ruta del Sol, a mainly flat 198 kilometres between Zahara de los Atunes and Benalmádena, was largely uneventful for the team. A small group of riders broke clear of the peloton early on and, to their great credit, stayed away all the way to the line - by a mere three seconds. Javier Ramírez of local team Andalucía took top honours ahead of Maté and Routley, while three-time world champ Óscar Freire led home the pack in fourth. Gorka Izagirre tried to mix it up with the speedsters and finished a decent 13th. Every rider on the team finished inside the peloton and did not ceed time.

Several of the Euskaltel riders, perhaps Astarloza and Sánchez in particular, will be looking to put their mark on tomorrow's queen-stage: a 150,7km trek from Málaga to the top of the cat.1 Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Araceli. Check back tomorrow afternoon for full results.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vuelta a Andalucía prologue

Euskaltel placed two riders in the top 20 of today's Vuelta a Andalucía prologue to get the southern Spanish stage race off to a decent start.

Mikel Astarloza blasted his way to a fine 17th place just 16 seconds off the winning time set by Project 1t4i's Patrick Gretsch, while Samuel Sánchez looked sharp in his first day of racing in 2012 by claiming 20th, one second further adrift. G Izagirre grabbed an okay 35th at 23, and thus completing a good day out for the team.

Former Euskaltel man and reigning champ Markel Irizar finished an agonizing second, just two seconds in arrears.

  • (1, Patrick Gretsch, Project 1t4i)
  • 17, Mikel Astarloza, 0:16
  • 20, Samuel Sánchez, 0:17
  • 35, Gorka Izagirre, 0:23
  • 52, Juan José Oroz, 0:28
  • 83, Igor Antón, 0:39
  • 87, Egoi Martínez, 0:40
  • 93, Jorge Azanza, 0:42

Weekend Essor Basque round-up

Both Fundación Euskadi's sub-23 outfit Naturgas Energía and the Basque Cycling Federation's own 'national team' took part in the three Essor Basque races over the weekend. Here's a quick overview of how they fared:

Saturday, Route de l'Atlantique, 123 km:

  • (1, Warren Barguil, Equipe de France A)
  • 24, Jon Larriñaga, Naturgas Energía
  • 66, Karl Baudron, Naturgas Energía
  • 89, Alain González, Naturgas Energía
  • 94, Víctor Etxebarria, Naturgas Energía
  • 99, Ioritz Urdangarin, Euskadiko-Selekzioa
  • 101, Mikel Iturria, Naturgas Energía
  • 102, Aitor González, Euskadiko-Selekzioa
  • 113, Imanol Iza, Euskadiko-Selekzioa
  • 118, Damien García, Naturgas Energía
  • 140, Sergio Ruía, Euskadiko-Selekzioa
Sunday, Trophée de l'Essor stage 1, 83 km:
  • (1, Jimmy Turgis, Equipe de France B)
  • 37, Karl Baudron, Naturgas Energía
  • 40, Jon Larriñaga, Naturgas Energía
  • 50, Víctor Etxebarria, Naturgas Energía
  • 51, Pablo Comins, Naturgas Energía
  • 60, Damien García, Naturgas Energía
  • 64, Mikel Iturria, Naturgas Energía
  • 102, Alain González, Naturgas Energía
Sunday, Trophée de l'Essor stage 2:
  • (1, Plochronis Tzortzakis, Guidon Chalettois)
Full results not available at the time of writing

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Essor Basque day four

Day four of the Essor Basque, the 'Tour de Basse Navarre', was held this Thursday. The 124km trek from Larceveau to Saint-Palais featured the following riders from the Basque National Team: Mikel Aristi, Aitor González, Eneko García, Sergio Ruíz, Alexander Unzueta and Antton Ibarguren.

The latter (pictured above), who normally draws a salary from Caja Rural, placed a creditable 12th, 49 seconds down on winner Loubet (the former Ag2r pro). Results:
  • 1, Julien Loubet, GSC Blagnac
  • 2, Nicolas Morel, US Montauban
  • 3, Christophe Goutille, US Montauban
  • 12, Antton Ibarguren, Euskadiko-Selekzioa
  • 68, Aitor González, Euskadiko-Selekzioa
  • 70, Sergio Ruíz, Euskadiko-Selekzioa
Source: biciciclismo.com

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Contador's ban unjust"

Entirely as expected, Samuel Sánchez was not too happy about the two-year ban handed out to friend Alberto Contador by CAS last week - even if it landed him on the 2010 Tour podium. Talking to home newspaper La Voz de Asturias, the Olympic champion outlined why.

"The ban imposed on Alberto was unjust and excessive - especially so considering CAS recognized he hadn't doped", he said. "It's totally out of the blue, so I'm not able to savour it (being promoted to third). Finishing on the podium in this manner doesn't make me happy at all as I've got no memories or emotions of the moment."

As the world's undisputed number one stage-racer now won't be able to line up in France in July, a host of riders are eyeing an opportunity to finish on the podium - or perhaps even land the big price. Samu though, for one, hasn't decided what to aim for in the race. Overall, stage, climber's jersey... all three?

"Once I start racing I'll make my mind up on what to aim for. First and foremost, though, I need to reach the same level of form as I did last year. We've started this season with the goal of bettering what we achieved last year, but that will be hard. But the least we can do is give it a shot!"

The newly-turned 34-year-old will kick off his 2012 campaign in Andalucía on Sunday, and the native of Oviedo is as eager as always to get started.

"I can't wait. Due to the bad weather, this winter seems to have been extra long. I've been travelling a lot to the south of Spain in order to train. Now it's time to see if I'm on track".

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Irizar set to defend Andalucía title

Markel Irizar will line up at the Vuelta a Andalucía's prologue in San Fernándo on Sunday with number one on his back. The erstwhile Euskaltel rider took out last year's race to secure his first stage-race win of a career that's blossomed since signing for Bruyneel's outfit, and he'll have the backing of a strong-looking RadioShack team at the five-day race.

By Irizar's side will be Euskaltel legened Haimar Zubeldia, Jens Voigt, Fränk Schleck, Maxime Monfort, Linus Gerdemann and Daniele Bennati.

This year's edition will start out with a 6km-prologue perfectly tailored to the Oñati native's strengths and might just set him on the way to another tilt at the overall in the Ruta del Sol.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Revised Vuelta a Andalucía roster

Euskaltel have changed their preliminary start-list for the Vuelta a Andalucía somewhat. The five-day stage-race, set to start this coming Sunday, was, according to www.esciclismo.com, set to include an Euskaltel team comprised by the following seven riders: Samu, Antón, Oroz, Martínez, Verdugo, Landa, and Urtasun. According to the team's own website, only the four first will actually take the start, and will be accompanied by Astarloza, Azanza and Gorka Izagirre.

The 2.1-ranked stage-race will mark Samu's and Oroz's debut appearance of 2012.

Source: www.fundacioneuskadi.com

Salas close in Essor Basque day three

Ibai Salas of the Basque National Team sprinted to a creditable 11th in today's round of the Essor Basque, the 115km Ronde du Pays Basque starting and finishing in St. Jean Pied de Port, Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

23-year-old Frenchman Dimitri Le Boulch proved too quick to handle for his competitors on the finishing straight to take top honours in the race won last year by a certain Omar Fraile. Caja Rural rider Salas, last year's sub-23 Basque road race champ, had to settle for a place just outside the top ten, while new Bidelan signing Joseba del Barrio led home a big group 1:12 down to grab 29th. In that same group was Antton Ibarguren in 35th, Unai Iparragirre in 39th and Urtzi Murgia in 43rd. Júlen Mitxelena failed to complete the race, and is not on the team sheet for the remaining two races for the team on Thurday and Saturday.

Full results can be found here.

Naturgas Energía will join in on the action on Saturday.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Essor Basque opens Basque season

The traditional season opener to the Basque amateur season got underway this past Saturday with the Essor Basque. The French race, consisting of six races held over nine days, will run 'till the end of this week with both Naturgas and a Basque national team taking part.

La Fundación Euskadi's Naturgas Energía will field a strong-looking octet for the last two races on the schedule on Saturday and Sunday. Víctor Etxebarria, Mikel Iturria and Pablo Comins will make their bows in the red jersey alongside Karl Baudron, Alain González, Jon Larriñaga, Damién García and Loïc Chetout, writes the Fundación's homepage. To warm up for the notoriously testing race, the team conducted a collective training session two days ago in Igorre. DS Iñigo Urretxua was naturally enthusiastic about getting the racing started after the work-out: "We're motivated and ready to go for this season opener". The team's top result last year was the now-departed Fernando Grijalba's 12th on the opening day.

Six riders, two elites and four sub-23s, competed for an assembled Basque team on Saturday. Bidelan-Kirolgi team-mates Unai Iparragirre and Markel Antón along with Peio Goikoetxea, Aitor Rey, Asier Unanue and Paul Usabel took part in the 100km-long Boucles de l'Essor starting and finishing in Bidache just north of the border. Iparragirre was the team's top finisher in 18th in the race won by France's Christophe Goutille. The team will further take part tomorrow, on Thursday and on Saturday. They'll change the team around somewhat though with almost exclusively sub-23s set to line up. Iparragirre will once again spearhead the team though tomorrow alongside fellow Bidelan riders Urtzi Murgia, Julen Mitxelena, Joseba del Barrio, Unai Intziarte and Antton Ibarguren (who raced the GiroBio in 2011) and the big-hitting 20-year-old Ibai Salas. On Thursday and Saturday they'll field the following riders according to the Basque Cycling Federation:

Thursday, Tour de Basse Navarre (126km): Mikel Aristi, Antton Ibarguren, Eneko García, Aitor González, Sergio Ruíz, Alexander Unzueta.

Saturday, Route de l'Atlantique (123km): Aitor González, David Hidalgo, Sebastián Irizar, Imanol Iza, Kepa Otxoa, Sergio Ruíz, Ioritz Urdangarin.

Remaining Essor Basque schedule:
  • Tuesday 14.feb: Ronde du Pays Basque - 115 km
  • Thursday 16.feb: Tour de Basse Navarre - 126 km
  • Saturday, 18.feb: Route de l'Atlantique - 123 km
  • Sunday, 19.feb: Trophée de l'Essor - 83 km/105 km

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Orbea debutants content with Mallorca experience

Orbea newbies Omar Fraile, Illart Zuazubiskar, Igor Merino and Carlos Barbero pinned on their very first bib numbers for their new team at the recently-concluded Mallorca Challenge earlier this week. While the quartet, along with the rest of the team, found it hard to mix it up with their WorldTour counterparts in terms of results over the three days, they were nonetheless reasonably pleased with their first outing in the traditional blue jersey.

"I'm pleased and already looking forward to the next race", Barbero, who came over from affiliate team Naturgas in the off-season, told El Pedal de Frodo. "The race was fine, but it's a shame the last day got called off. The season isn't exactly filled with races for Continental teams like us, so it's a shame. But otherwise I'm pleased. I'm happy with this year's edition and having been able to take part, as well as seeing my idols up close and experience the speed they're racing at. What surprised me the most was the tension in the bunch when it came to finding your position in the peloton".

Igor Merino echoed Barbero's sentimens, saying "it was a good start to the year", but lamented the bad weather.

"It was a tough race because of the weather. We'd been hoping for better, but at least I felt good on the bike. Obviously it's faster than in the sub-23 category, (...) but I think everything went well and I'm motivated to race at this level. Contador was there, Valverde was there, the Schleck brothers were there... it was quite special to ride alongside the guys I've been watching on TV all these years."

Former Seguros Bilbao prodigy Illart Zuazubiskar took a tumble on day two in the Trofeo Migjorn, but still deemed himself happy with his overall performance.

"I started off the season quite sore because of my fall, but still it went better than I had expected. I'm happy with how my body responded to the racing."

Fraile, who'll make the step up to Euskaltel and the WorldTour next year, expressed his contentment like the rest of his team-mates - but was left to rue a costly mistake in the Trofeo Deiá.

"Everything turned out well and I'm honestly very happy. I though it would be really tough, and it was tough, but I still felt pretty good and we were able to stay with the gruppetto every day. But in the Trofeo Deiá, the race which suited me the best, I failed to eat enough. I was going pretty well and was close to the front on the climbs to begin with, but in the first 50 kilometres I didn't eat sufficiently. Eventually I was forced to pay for that and ended up in the gruppetto on the ramps of the Soller".

Next up for Orbea is the Clásica de Almería (1.HC) in two weeks' time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bidelan anno 2012

Basque amateur team Bidelan-Kirolgi are done shopping for the winter and will face the 2012 season with a 21-man strong roster. The outfit from Gipuzkoa will count on 14 sub-23 riders and seven elites for the season commencing next Sunday.

Among the stand-out names are track stars Asier Maeztu and Unai Iparragirre, as well as promising newcomers Markel Antón and Jon Ander Insausti from Seguros Bilbao. In all, the team has secured the signatures of 12 new riders. Former Euskaltel directeur sportif Jon Odriozola and erstwhile Quick.Step pro José Antonio Garrido will be two of the team's five DSs.

Full roster:
  • Antón, Markel (new)
  • Artola, Unai (new)
  • Cobo, Alejandro
  • Daboz, Ibai (new)
  • Del Barrio, Joseba
  • Eizagirre, Jon (new)
  • Elorza, Mikel
  • Insausti, Jon Ander (new)
  • Intziarte, Unai (new)
  • Iparragirre, Unai
  • Iraolagoitia, Oier (new)
  • Iriarte, Ion (new)
  • Iscar, Carlos
  • Iza, Imanol (new)
  • Maeztu, Asier
  • Mitxelena, Julen
  • Murgia, Urtzi
  • Odriozola, Ion (new)
  • Txoperena, Beñat (new)
  • Urdangarin, Ioritz (new)
  • Urtizberea, Jon

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Koldo Gil wins Tour de Suisse - six years late

Due to Jan Ullrich's two-year ban and forfeiture of results obtained post-May 1, 2005, retired Basque climbing ace Koldo Gil has been awarded the overall victory in the 2006 edition of the Tour de Suisse. Six years ago the then-Saunier Duval rider lost out to the big German in the final time trial after having won stage six, but the inimitable escalador is now set to be awarded the win - three years after having retired.

The Burlata, Navarra, native is yet to comment on winning the biggest race of his career, a career that was cruelly cut short in 2009 after being left without a team. The 34-year-old also lists a stage-win in the Giro and the overall in the Euskal Bizikleta, Vuelta a Murcia, Vuelta a Castilla y León and Vuelta a Asturias among his top achievements.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Antón welcomes Contador Vuelta challenge

Igor Antón has welcomed the news that Alberto Contador might line up in this year's Vuelta a España.

As Contador's suspension comes to an end in early August, he's free to race the last Grand Tour of the race. The 2008 Vuelta champ is already being tipped to win the race at a canter by Spanish media, but perennial contender Antón is not concerned by his presence.

"For me it's a good thing if he races", he told Alain Laiseka in Basque daily DEIA. "It'll take the pressure off. He'll be the centre of attention. In addition, if I win, it'll mean all that much more".

The Vuelta will be the Euskaltel climber's one and (almost) only goal in 2012 - but finally taking the red jersey all the way to Madrid is not an obsession for the Galdakao native.

"I'm not saying I have to win it, but I want to do well from the start. If I succeed, I'll be more tranquilo and might start looking for other races".

Isasi reflects on Mallorca experience

By all accounts, the 2012 Challenge Mallorca wasn't all that great for Euskaltel. The team failed to register a result or animate the racing the first three days, the fourth day was called off and, to make matters worse, Gorka Verdugo injured himself while out training earlier today. DS at the race, Iñaki Isasi, admitted things could have gone better for his charges.

"This year's race wasn't too kind on us", the former sprinter told the team's website. "And Gorka's fall today was very unlucky. We knew the first couple of days weren't really suited to us. Pablo (Urtasun) wasn't at his best and, to be honest, wasn't very lucky either. Astarloza, Sicard and Gorka (Izagirre) all attacked full-on, but it really wasn't our terrain. The Trofeo Deiá was more like it terrain-wise for us to be near the front and to fight for top results. But we didn't really pay attention and got off to a bad start. We managed to turn the situation around, but in the decisive monents there were riders stronger than us and there wasn't much we could do."

Isasi further explained how today's race would be a nice occasion for the team's climbers to impose themselves, but sadly the race was cancelled due to heavy snowfall.

"Today's stage would have been good for us. And after what happened yesterday, we were aware we had to pay more attention. The course would have shown where riders like Antón, Bilbao and Landa are at form-wise, but it wasn't to be."

Verdugo injured in training

Euskaltel's website reports Gorka Verdugo was taken down by a dog on a training ride earlier today, injuring his knee in the process.

As the fourth and final day of the Challenge Mallorca, the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, was called off due to adverse weather, members of the team headed out for a training ride on the Balearic Island. Having competed the last three days, Astarloza and Verdugo decided to take a shortcut towards the end to arrive at the hotel a little earlier than their team-mates. A dog allegedly jumped out of nowhere and took Verdugo down, and his right knee took the brunt of the crash. The 33-year-old's tumble resulted in a knee hematoma, and he'll therefore sit out the next few days of training as a measure of precaution.

Pello Bilbao

  • Full name: Pello Bilbao López de Armentia
  • Date of birth: 25.02.1990
  • Place of birth: Gernika, Bizcaya
  • Turned professional: 2011
  • Joined Euskaltel: 2011 (March)
  • Previous teams: Orbea (2011, January-March)
  • Palmarès: 2nd: Tour de Vendée 2011.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Trofeo Deiá

It was a day of all work and no reward for Euskaltel in today's Trofeo Deiá. The third day of the Challenge Mallorca was, on paper at least, perfectly suited to the team what with its six categorized climbs. But any aspirations of a top result took a big hit when the team failed to place a single rider in the day's huge 16-man break.

Having missed out, Euskaltel were forced to do the pace-making at the head of the peloton. They managed to claw back a huge deficit and reel the dangerous-looking break back in, only for a new six-man break, including eventual winner Nordhaug of Sky, to go clear and stay clear on the last climb of the day. The peloton was forced to sprint for sixth place, a sprint in which no Euskaltel or Orbea riders got involved - logically. Gorka Izagirre, second here last year, cruised home in 50th place, while younger brother Jon grabbed a decent 19th.

Cabedo, Azanza and Bilbao were back in the fold after spending yesterday training, replacing García, Landa, Antón, Urtasun and Sicard in the line-up.

Stage results:
  • 19, J Izagirre, 1:06
  • 37, Astarloza, 1:24
  • 50, G Izagirre, 2:45
  • 78, Verdugo, 8:39
  • 96, Bilbao, 13:19
  • 106, R Pérez, 15:55
  • 121, Azanza, 19:52
Orbea put out the exact same eight-man team as yesterday, but struggled to impose themselves. Bagües was the team's top finisher in 68th, 5:41 down, Merino was 107th at 15:55, while Fraile and Barbero came home 20:13 adrift in 123rd and 125th respectively. Bizkarra and Zuazubiskar ended up 142nd and 143rd, 26:21 in arrears. Aberasturi and Etxebarria failed to complete the race.

What Contador's suspension means for Euskaltel

Perhaps ironically, Samuel Sánchez will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Alberto Contador's suspension. The two are known to get along well and have on numerous occasions cooperated during races - most recently to good effect at the 2011 Tour de France. It now transpires Samu will move up to third in the Tour prior to that, the 2010 edition, in the wake of Contador being stripped off the title. Not that he'll rejoice, though.

The math is simple: Samu finished fourth behind Contador, Schleck and Menchov in 2010. Scratch el Pistolero off that list and Samu is on the podium. Whether that'll affect Euskaltel's WorldTour standing or not is an unknown at the time of writing. In theory the team should, retrospectively, be awarded additional points for a podium placing. But, as mentioned, only time will tell if that'll materialize.

In addition, and of lesser importance, Koldo Fernández will move up from third to second in the 2011 Spanish road race championships, seeing as Contador was the runner-up to JJ Rojas in that race. Mikel Nieve will also move up to third in the 2011 Giro's mountains classification.

Talking to Marca earlier today, Samu voiced his dismay at CAS' decision.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Trofeo Migjorn

Euskaltel and Orbea both put their mark on today's second Challenge Mallorca race, the Trofeo Migjorn. The former through aggressive, late-race moves; the latter through Jon Aberasturi's solid sprinting.

The orange team lined up with this nine-man selection: Antón, Astarloza, R Pérez, Verdugo, García, Landa, G Izagirre, Sicard and Urtasun. The course was a tad hillier than yesterday's - and therefore more to the team's liking. Astarloza and Gorka Izagirre both made bold moves inside the last 20 kilometres after the day's three-man break had been caught, but the sprinters' teams weren't about to let them escape with the glory and duly pulled them back without too much trouble. While the team was left with no tangible result to show for their efforts in terms of top placings, Izagirre at least finished second in the mountain competition. Everyone bar Landa and Izagirre, who came in 37 seconds and 1:19 adrift respectively, finished up safe and sound inside the peloton.

Orbea put out Aberasturi, Bagües, Barbero, Bizkarra, Etxebarria, Fraile, Merino and Zuazubiskar, and young Aberasturi, who enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, grabbed a fine eighth place at the end, besting riders like Rojas and Bennati in the process. Results:

  • 8, Aberasturi, 0:00
  • 87, Bagües, s.t.
  • 107, Merino, s.t.
  • 132, Fraile, 0:37
  • 134, Etxebarria, s.t.
  • 160, Barbero, 4:37
  • 164, Zuazubiskar, 6:56
  • 173, Bizkarra, 9:21
Up tomorrow is the taxing 151km Trofeo Deía - including six categorized climbs.

Ricardo García

  • Full name: Ricardo García Ambroa
  • Date of birth: 26.02.1988
  • Place of birth: Vitoria, Álava
  • Turned professional: 2009
  • Joined Euskaltel: 2012
  • Previous teams: Orbea (2009-2011)
  • Palmarès: 1st: stage 2 Cinturó de l'Empordá 2011. 2nd: stage 2 Volta ao Alentejo em Bicicleta 2011.

Adrián Sáez

  • Full name: Adrián Sáez de Arregi
  • Date of birth: 17.03.1986
  • Place of birth: Araia, Álava
  • Turned professional: 2010
  • Joined Euskaltel: 2012
  • Previous teams: Orbea (2010-2011)
  • Palmarès: 3rd: stage 3 Cinturó de l'Empordá 2011, overall Cinturó de l'Empordá 2011.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Trofeo Palma

Euskaltel avoided the crashes and mishaps a flat, short, criterium-style season-opener like the Trofeo Palma normally brings with it earlier today, but failed to animate the race in any way.

The pancake flat first race of the Challenge Mallorca saw young Briton Andre Fenn come out tops with an impressive burst of speed at the end, while Urtasun - the team's designated fast-man - could only manage a distant 34th. R Pérez was 51st, while Astarloza and Azanza came home eight seconds down in 70th and 84th respectively. The rest of the team, Verdugo, Cabedo (who had a couple of punctures underway) and the Izagirres all crossed the line 15 seconds down, unscathed and, judging by their Twitter accounts, happy with their day's work.

Like their Fundación Euskadi companions, the Orbea riders racing didn't succeed in putting colour to the event. New-boys Barbero and Zuazubiskar were the only ones able to live with the peloton's frantic pace in the run-in to finish 45th and 46th at the same time as the victor, while Bagües and Fraile came home with Astarloza and Azanza's group at eight seconds. Aberasturi, who's fast-twitch muscle fibres were perfectly suited to today's course, backed off in the closing kilometres and ended up 15 seconds in arrears along with team-mated Etxebarria and Bizkarra. Merino finished up 1:12 adrift in 169th place.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Orbea ready for season debut

Orbea will go all out to make an impression at the XXI Iberostar Challenge Ciclista Mallorca starting tomorrow by sending their entire team to the four one-day races that mark the Spanish season opener.

According to the race's own homepage, Aberasturi, Bagües, Barbero, Bizkarra, Etxebarria, Fraile, Merino, Orbe and Zuazubiskar will all line up. 24-year-old Andoni Blázquez is also slated for the race, but the Astigarraga native, who got almost all of last year wiped out by injury, told Iban Mayo Blog yesterday that he's suffered a small setback and therefore postponed his return to the Clásica Almería in three weeks' time.

New signings Illart Zuazubiskar, Omar Fraile, Haritz Orbe, Carlos Barbero and Igor Merino will don the blue jersey for the very first time, while crash victim Xabier Zabalo is still recuperating and is some time off returning to competition.

Irizar out of Mallorca with fever

RadioShack-Nissan-Trek rider Markel Irizar has been forced to alter his start to the season due to an untimely bout of fever. The erstwhile Euskaltel man was supposed to line up for his "new" team at the Challenge Mallorca on Monday, but will instead toe the line at the Tour of Qatar tomorrow.

"I was supposed to travel with Haimar (Zubeldia) to Mallorca on Monday, but I woke up with a fever of 39. I got in touch with the team, and we decided I should spend a few more days at home until I felt better. I soon realized it wouldn't do me any good to race on Mallorca, so when I found out (team-mate Hayden) Roulston wasn't heading for Qatar after all, I told the team I'd rather take part in that race. In Qatar I'll compete with the 'Classics-squad'", he wrote on his own website.

Last year's overall winner of the Vuelta a Andalucía further revealed he'll head back home to Spain after Qatar to get ready for the Clásica Almería, opting out of the hillier Tour of Oman.

This year's off-season hasn't been kind to the likeable Oñati native. Irizar, who'll turn 32 tomorrow, also crashed badly on a training ride in early December.

Friday, February 03, 2012

"He's like Gorospe - talented and stylish"

Though Beñat Intxausti has failed somewhat to live up to the lofty expectations placed on his shoulders since he turned professional half a decade ago, there are few doubting his potential. Team-mate Pablo Lastras, one of the most dependable domestiques in the business, told Deia what he thinks of his young companion at Movistar's team presentation two days ago - and likened him to one of the Basque Country's all-time greats.

"He's got that special gift, that class on the bike", the 36-year-old Lastras said of the former Saunier Duval and Euskaltel rider. "What he lacks, though, is the ability to concentrate in the critical moments. He's gone from being a rider progressing little by little to now needing to be more ambitious. He only needs to believe in himself. In that respect, Beñat reminds me of (Julián) Gorospe - talented and stylish on the bike. They pedal with the same delicious ease. But not believing in himself is holding him back. Beñat is somewhat a victim of his own carefulness. He doesn't want to disappoint or run the risk of raising his voice above the voices of others".

Alejandro Valverde's return to Unzúe's outfit has naturally caused a stir in certain sections of the peloton, but Lastras thinks Valverde's presence will do Intxausti the world of good.

"Intxausti lacks the predator instinct seen in so many other riders. Therefore I think he'll benefit from Valverde's presence. He'll take responsibility, and take some pressure of Beñat. That'll make him more comfortable."

Inxtausti will start off his season this weekend at the Challenge Mallorca. Visit his homepage for more info.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Mallorca team set

Euskaltel will field a youthful 15-man strong squad for the Spanish season opener at the Challenge Mallorca this Sunday. The slimmed-down race's website reports the following 15 riders will line up in one or more of the four separate stages that make up the XXI Iberostar Challenge Ciclista Mallorca:

112 - Antón, 113 - Astarloza, 114 - R Pérez, 115 - Verdugo, 116 - Cabedo, 117 - García, 118 - Sáez, 119 - Bilbao, 120 - J Izagirre, 121 - Landa, 122 - G Izagirre, 123 - Sicard, 124 - Azanza, 125 - Urtasun.

True to form, the race consists a series of separate one-day races: Trofeo Palma, Trofeo Migjorn, Trofeo Deía and Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana. Due to budgetary shortfalls though, the organizers have been forced to make do with four - not five as has been the norm the last few years - this season. Every team is free to change their team around from day to day.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Samu coy on Classics parcitipation

Despite seemingly being built for the hilly one-day classics, Euskaltel captain Samuel Sánchez reveals he might forego them again this year. Three times a podium finisher at the Giro di Lombardia and twice at Fleche Wallonne, Sánchez has time and again missed out on that elusive big win. He skipped them two years ago to channel his energy on the Tour de France, and he reveals he might do so again this spring.

"It's too early to tell (whether I'll take part or not)", the Asturian told Cobbles & Hills. "We'll wait and see how the season develops. But if it's necessary, sure I'll be there. I guess it's only logical that people question why I'm not always taking part in them though. And I accept that some fans question that. But the Classics don't always fit in with my plans for the season. Some times, as was the case in 2010, it was better to rest and recharge for the Tour in July. Back then I skipped them and had a good Tour de France."

The London Olympics will be staged just after the Tour's conclusion this summer, and Samu admits the timing of the race represent a challenge.

"This year we'll see how the season unfolds. As the Olympics quickly follow the Tour, there's not much time for relaxation and preparation this season. All riders are different though: some are able to perform well in both the Classics and the Tour. Albeit, as the years go by, selecting your goals and planning your season becomes more important. For a veteran like myself it's vital."


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