Monday, March 31, 2008


I know I've said this like a hundred times before but, seriously, this wait has got to stop some time. What's going on, and why isn't CAS, Iban, his representatives, or anyone for that matter, saying something? Please give us a clue to what's happening right now! Perhaps they aren't allowed to speak to the media concerning the case while it's being decided upon. I guess that makes sense. But it doesn't make it less frustrating. I've checked CAS' website a million times, but there's never anything there. I even sent them a mail, asking them what's taking so long. Kind of lame thing to do, I know. It's not like they're going to answer me, but I figured it was worth a couple of minutes of my time. It was a long-shot, and of course I haven't received an answer. Tomorrow it will be a month since they were supposed to issue a ruling. And it's been 8 monhts since he tested "positive"... What a mess, and what an unnecessary one. It's unvelievable but, hey, this is cycling. This is bad enough for us, his fans, but it must be torture for Iban. What's going to happen next is anyone's guess, but I've got a suggestion: nothing.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Euskaltel shine in Llodio

Euskaltel grabbed 3rd, 4th and 6th in today's GP Llodio. That it was an awesome performance goes without saying I guess. Just a shame that the win eluded the team... Guerra of LA Liberty won solo, a full 1:01 ahead of the chasing peloton which was led hom by Rojas, Aitor Galdos and Koldo, in that order. Dioni landed a brilliant 6th place as well, while Igor came home a good 14th. All four Euskaltel riders were among the 15-man strong chase group. Aitor and Koldo in tandem obviously worked out brilliantly; more of that please! As the list of results is only 20 riders long, there's not much more to say I'm afraid, except for "good job guys".

Critérium International round-up

Euskaltel performed well in today's two last stages of the Critérium International. On the first stage, a short, but very hilly, affair, Mikel and Egoi came in with the best, both 1:43 down in 16th and 17th respectively. Egoi was even in the first serious break of the day but, sadly, the break came to nothing. Jorge also rode well on that first stage, coming in 1:50 back. Stage 2 results:

  • 16th, Mikel Astarloza, 1:43
  • 17th, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 32nd, Jorge Azanza, 1:50
  • 37th, Iñigo Landaluze, 2:05
  • 46th, Iván Velasco, 3:01
  • 93rd, Josu Agirre, 8:01
  • 118th, Aitor Hernández, 9:00

These results meant that Egoi and Mikel were both well placed overall going into the decisive 8,3 km ITT. Mikel did well to grab 21st place, only 32 seconds down on Norwegian hotshot Boasson Hagen. Egoi disappointed with only posting the 68th best time, a full 1:05 down. Mikel thus ended up a good 11th, while Egoi dropped to 20th overall. Aitor Hernández did reasonably well to claim 41st, only 52 seconds in arrears. Stage 3 results:

  • 21st, Mikel Astarloza, 0:32
  • 41st, Aitor Hernández, 0:52
  • 68th, Egoi Martínez, 1:05
  • 70th, Jorge Azanza, 1:07
  • 76th, Josu Agirre, 1:13
  • 93rd, Iñigo Landaluze, 1:31
  • 104th, Iván Velasco, 1:43

Overall Mikel was 11th, Egoi 20th, Jorge 42nd, Iñigo 48th, Iván 53rd, Aitor 90th and Josu 104th. Not bad, not bad at all actually, but not breathtaking either. Mikel and Egoi both look to be in solid form these days, while Jorge also seems to be coming along nicely. Josu is obviously still finding his feet in these races, but that's only natural. He'll come good; trust me. The team ended up a good 5th as a team. Of course that doesn't mean anything at all, but I've always valued team-work, so it's always a positive I reckon.

Jon out of Llodio line-up; Amets in

Jon has, for one reason or another, decided to not take part in tomorrow's GP Llodio. Amets will step in and take his place. I'm curious to know why Jon won't be there, but the team's website didn't say anything about it. He's had a tough racing-program so far this season, so maybe it's just fatigue. Or maybe not; maybe it's something completely different. I have no idea, but rest assured I'll bring you the reason for it as soon as I find out.

Egoi opens Critérium with 8th place

The two-day, three-stage Critérium International got off to a good start for Euskaltel's two GC hopes. Egoi and Mikel both managed to stay with the first group when the pack split into several pieces due to the wind. Egoi sprinted well to claim 8th on the stage, while Mikel came in 28th. Only 34 riders made up that first group, and it's highly likely that the overall win will go to one of those 34. Tomorrow will see the riders take on two stages; a short, but hilly affair early in the day, followed by a 8,3 km ITT. Looks tailor-made for both of them... Aitor, Jorge, Iñigo and Iván came in with group number 2, 6:51 down, while Josu came home with the last group, 12:40 back. Sadly, Antton does not figure on the list of results. I assume he took to the start, so I'm afraid he abandoned. Hopefully his "personal problems" haven't come back to haunt him, whatever these "problems" may be. I'm just hoping he's okay.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Line-ups galore

So I've got something like 6 line-ups for different races for you today. In cronological order:

  • Critérium International (29/3-30/3): Mikel, Egoi, Iñigo, Jorge, Iván, Josu, Antton and Aitor Hernández. Great to see Antton back in action. Hopefully his "personal problems" are behind him by now. As the time trial in this race usually decides the outcome, I'm optimistic, as Mikel and Egoi are both good against the clock. More on the first stage later today.
  • GP Llodio (30/3): Samu, Igor, Koldo, Iñaki, Rubén, Aitor Galdos, Juanjo, Markel, Dioni and Jon. Surely the team to beat at the race. Samu, Igor, Koldo, Aitor and Rubén will all start out as favourites, but there's no hiding Koldo will be the main man to beat tomorrow. Hopefully he can capitalize on his great form and give the team it's third season win. Igor, Rubén and Iñaki are also supposed to be approaching peak form at the moment, so watch out for those as well.
  • GP Miguel Indurain (5/4): Amets, Dioni, Jorge, Antton, Egoi, Mikel, Igor, Jon, Iñaki and Iván. This one-day race in Navarra is one of the team's biggest goals of the season according to Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, so expect one hell of a race from the team. It's a rather hilly affair, so Amets, Egoi, Mikel and Igor should be the protected riders in the team.
  • Ronde van Vlaanderen (6/4): Josu, Lander, Javier, Koldo, Juanjo, Alán, Andoni and Markel. Koldo will no doubt be the team's captain, but I expect the likes of Markel and Alán to put on a strong showing as well, perhaps getting into an early break or something. But don't expect too much; these kind of races really aren't Euskaltel's cup of tea.
  • Vuelta al País Vasco (7/4-12/4): Igor, Mikel, Iñigo, Rubén, Iñaki, Amets, Jorge and Egoi. As usual a very important race for the team. Igor and Mikel are expected to lead the chase for overall glory but, with the form some of the others are showing at the moment, Euskaltel can win any stage to be honest. I'd love to see Iñigo have a go at the GC as well; he looked good in Tirreno and San Remo recently. Looks like an awesome team; can't wait for the start. Euskaltel will be at their very best in this race, trust me.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Koldo: "I'm maturing"

Koldo was all smiles when speaking to the media after his win today. Here's what the fast-man had to say to the team's website: "The team has worked a lot in this race. We've done all we can to win, and today we succeeded. Samu was phenomenal on the first three stages, but he didn't manage to actually grab a win. He was fifth in the time trial, attacked on the climb to Ávila, and he came second in the sprint on stage three. He's preparing himself for the Tour de France at this time, but with the class he possesses he can do anything. We've been fighting every day and, although you can be pleased with the yield without a win to show for it, a win brings tranquility and it highlights the great work of the team. We find it hard to win in this team, but we're getting there." Speaking about his own development, he said: "I'm calmer than I used to be when approaching a sprint. I'm still not as calm as I should be, but I'm maturing. I'm more confident and I've got more belief in myself, and as a result I do a lot fewer mistakes than I used to. In the end the experience helps you to time the sprint better and to trust yourself more. The closing kilometres were quite dangerous today. I had the support of Isasi and Txurruka in the final part, and they were both vital in keeping the race under control. The last two turns to the left were dangerous; someone even fell... I was lucky to avoid it, and in the last metres I got infront without getting out of the saddle at all." Speaking of the near future and the upcoming races, he said: "The primary target is to arrive in top form for the Giro, and I'm getting there. My form is getting better all the time. Today a group of the 25 strongest formed, and I was in it. Therefore I'm not dicarding anything facing the GP Llodio on Sunday. I'll try to stay with the best ones and fight for the win. I worked hard this winter, and now I'm able reap the benefits of that work. It's very rewarding, and I must take full advantage of these moments." And my word he does...

Koldo continues hot streak

Koldo sprinted to victory on today's fifth and last stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León. He beat Thomas Dekker and Francisco Ventoso with ease to take home his, and the team's, second win of the year. It was a convincing and deserved win for the whole team, and it will do Koldo's confidence the world of good.

The day started in the best possible way for Euskaltel, with Samu breaking clear early on with 5 others and creating a 4-minute gap pack to the Rabobank and Barloworld-led peloton. Samu looked awesome, and on the last climb of the day, the tough cat. 2 Puerto de las Señales, he attacked with force. Only Basque Caisse d'Epargne rider Xabier Zandion managed to keep up, but the two were sadly(?) reeled back in with some 12 clicks to go. The final 10 kilometres were a hectic affair, with riders going off the front continuosly. But it all got back together for the anticipated bunch-sprint, were the high speed proved too much for some riders. Pfannberger and Pinto both hit the deck hard inside the last 200, setting it up for a caotic finish. Koldo easily out-sprinted the rest to claim his third career win. Iñaki and Amets came in with the same group, while Markel and Dioni ended up 2:55 back on the day. Jon came in a further 4 minutes down, while Samu for the first, and hopefully last time, ended up dead last, 7:06 in arrears. Iñaki thus finished highest placed overall in a discreet 31st place. Amets was right behind in 35th, Koldo ended up 61st, Markel 66th, Dioni 73rd, Samu 76th and Jon finished 86th. Euskaltel ended up 11th in the team classification. Stay tuned for post-stage interviews.

Dismal day in Castilla y León

Euskaltel did not enjoy the best of days in the Vuelta a Castilla y León's 4th stage today. Euskaltel where not even close to fight for the win on the queen-stage, with Amets the best rider in 27th place. Samu was nowhere to be seen, but I assume he's just taking this as training. There was one positive to take from the day though; Dioni got into the break. He looked okey, and scored a couple of mountains points on the way, but was as expected reeled back in. Not a lot more to say I'm afraid. Full results:
  • 27th, Amets Txurruka, 1:56
  • 40th, Iñaki Isasi, 2:33
  • 55th, Jon Bru, 4:01
  • 68th, Markel Irizar, 4:37
  • 69th, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 85th, Dioni Galparsoro, 7:21
  • 86th, Koldo Fernández, s.t.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Poll results: Is Iban your all-time favourite rider?

This poll took me by surprise I have to say. Of course, it's called Iban Mayo Blog, so some of my readers have to be Iban-fans, but I had no idea 57 % of you rate Iban as your all-time favourite. I guess this just goes to prove that Iban is, truly, appreciated all over the world.

Samu 2nd on third stage

Samu is showing surprisingly good form at the Vuelta a Ciclista Castilla y León. Today he got 2nd on the tough uphill sprint into Villa del Libro de Urueña. He looked to have won it for a second, before Ventoso came right out of the blue to win comfortably. Samu perhaps mistimed his dash for the line a little, so he'll no doubt be a bit disapointed today. But on the bright side he's showing excellent condition, and he advanced to 4th overall with two stages left. Koldo also performed remarkably well, claiming 6th on the uphill sprint. Jon was also impressive, coming home 8th, and as a result giving Euskaltel a clear win in today's team competition. The other Euskaltel riders also came in with the pack, so it was a good day overall. Tomorrow will see the riders tackle the queen-stage of the race, and Samu will be one of the favourites to take the win alongside Contador, Dekker, Mollema and Soler, just to name a few.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Samu goes close in Ávila

Samu went oh so close to winning the first real stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León today. He put in a last-ditch attack up the steep, cobbled climbs leading up to Ávila, but was reeled in with some 400 metres to go. At one stage he looked to have won it, going solo up the climb, but the last hundred metres of flat proved to be Samu's undoing today. He looked superb though, so he should no doubt take encouragement from his display. The peloton split into several pieces up the last climb, as expected, and three other Euskaltel riders made it in with the first group. Koldo got 20th, two places behind Samu, Dioni was 27th and Iñaki was 39th. Markel and Amets lead home a small group 29 seconds in arrears, also including Jon, placing 78th, 79th and 83rd respectively. Andoni is nowhere to be seen on the list of results, so I assume he must have abandoned underway. Tomorrow's stage will be one for the fast-men, so expect Koldo to fight for the win alongside JJ Haedo in particular.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Samu 5th in Castilla y León prologue

Samu got off to a great start in the five-day Vuelta a Castilla y León today. He blasted through the 9.7-km long prologue to take 5th place, just 19 seconds down on winner Contador. Given that Samu is a long way off reaching top form, this is impressive stuff. Can't wait to see him in top form in July for the Tour de France. Samu might well end up on the final podium there, due to his constant progression in the time trials and in the mountains. But enough about the Tour... Iñaki also did well today to claim the 28th best time, 43 seconds down, while Dioni came in another two places back, 44 seconds down. Markel disappointed a bit by ending up a distant 60th, 1 minute 1 second down. Koldo was 70th, 1:06 in arrears, Amets was 87th, 1:12 back, Andoni was 99th, 1:22 backm while Jon ended 106th, a full 1:26 behind. The real racing will get underway tomorrow with a hilly 141,7-long affair from Segovia to Ávila, so I expect some of the riders, Dioni, Markel, Jon and Andoni in particular, to be in search of the right break.

Complete Castilla y León roster

Euskaltel will field the following eight riders in the Vuelta a Castilla y León, starting tomorrow: Jon, Amets, Koldo, Andoni, Iñaki, Samu, Dioni and Markel. The race kicks off with tough-looking 9-km prologue, so watch out for, especially, Markel and Samu. Koldo and Iñaki will likely get their chance to sprint on stage 3, while stages 2 and 5 might also end up in bunch-sprints. Stage 4, though, will definetely be one for the climbers, so Dioni will likely be the team's man for that stage, given that Samu is still some way off top form and Amets hasn't competed since early February. I'm looking foward to see Jon in action again, as he's looked strong so far this year. Tune in to Iban Mayo Blog every day for results and analysis as the race gets underway.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Amets back in action

Amets will make his return to the professional peloton in the Vuelta a Castilla y León tomorrow. The young prodigy was forced to an extended stay on the sidelines after he broke his collarbone in February's Spanish season-opener Vuelta a Mallorca - Challenge Illes Balears. Amets will of course not be at his best after a month and a half without competing but, as Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano said as well, he's the type of rider who doesn't need a lot of racing to reach top form. The five-stage race starts tomorrow, but there's still no news on what riders Euskaltel will field. The only thing we know is that Samu and Koldo will take part, along with Amets of course.

Iñigo 14th in San Remo

Euskaltel put on a good showing in the Milano-San Remo today. The duo of Egoi and Iñigo were very lively in the final part of the race. Egoi was the first of the two to try his luck on the Cipressa. He brought with him Rebellin, Barredo, Axelsson and some other strong-men, but sadly got his front-wheel into Barredo's rear, resulting in them both hitting the deck hard. It was a shame, as he looked strong and unfazed, but at least he didn't hurt himself too bad, as he got up and finished the race. At the Poggio, the last climb on the course, Iñigo stayed with the favourites until some maniac Silence-Lotto rider suddenly cut in front of him and forced him to brake with only a couple of hundred metres to go to the top. His descending skills, though, brought him back to the front group on the technical descent to San Remo. With two Ks to go, he even tried to go solo, but was caught by Cancellara, who caught him before breaking clear himself. Not surprisingly, neither Iñigo nor the other riders nearby had any answer whatsoever to the CSC rider's attack. Cancellara went on to win the race, with Iñigo coming home, totally exhausted, in a brilliant 14th place. Not far behind was Aitor Galdos in 26th, who came in alongside Petacchi, Zabel and Richeze, just to mention a few. Great stuff from him as well; he looked strong all day long. Rubén was not far behind either, coming in 37th, only 17 seconds down on the winner. Javier ended up 104th, 6:11 back, while Alán was 113th, 7:16 back. Egoi and Juanio both came in with the next-to-last group, 12:35 in arrears. Koldo was nowhere to be seen, and does not figure on the list of results. But even with his absence, the team did well today.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


I'm back just in time for La Classicissima. It doesn't seem like I've missed all that much while I've been away, but, anyway, here's a quick sum-up of this weekend's goings-on:

  • First things first: there's no news on Iban's case. There's nothing on his website, nothing in the papers. Nothing. I visited CAS' website, but that was, as expected, a waste of time. It's been three weeks now... or soon 8 months if you like. Zzzz zzzz....
  • Juanjo sadly didn't manage to hold onto his green mountains jersey in the Tirreno-Adriatico, which concluded on Tuesday. How the team screwed that up, I don't know, but if you are to believe several race-reports, they just weren't paying attention. I find that hard to believe, as surely they must have tried, but still, it's not good enough. With one last climb on the menu it shouldn't be that difficult. 4 days have gone, but I'm still annoyed at not winning that jersey... At least Iñigo and Egoi tried to make up for the blunder by breaking clear shortly afterwards. The duo performed remarkably well to stay away as long as they did. You don't see two riders from the same team alone in front every day, so bravo to them, great job. Iñigo ended up as the best Euskaltel rider overall, finishing a respectable 23rd. That's not bad, but I'm sure there's more to come from the ex-Dauphiné winner.
  • Antton dropped out of the Tirreno-Adriatico during the second stage. At the time it was a mystery, but it's now been revealed that he threw in the towell because of personal reasons. What these "personal reasons" are, is of course impossible to tell, but I hope he sortes them out and will be back riding as soon as possible. Aupa Antton!
  • Antton espectedly dropped out of the line-up for San Remo as well. Koldo will take his place, and he'll probably be the team's best shot for a win tomorrow. Koldo came in with the pack last year, so he knows he can tackle the Cipressa and the Poggio. As usual with Koldo, and Euskaltel for that matter, it'll be a question of positioning. Iñigo, Egoi, Aitor Galdos, Rubén, Alán, Javier and Juanjo will be there to support him.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Back on Friday

I'm sorry to say the blog won't be updated until Friday. I'm going to spend some days with some relatives of mine You see... Though, luckily I won't miss a whole lot I think. There's only one stage to go in Tirreno, and Iban's case is, well, you know.... Anyway, see you on Friday!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Juanjo takes mountains classification lead in T-A

Juanjo Oroz has taken the lead in the mountains classification in Tirreno-Adriatico with one stage to go. Just like he did two days ago, he got into the break of the day, accompanied by 12 others. They were all reeled back in by a hard-chasing peloton with 5 clicks to go, but at least he looked strong all day long. The most important thing for him today though, was to take the green jersey. He now leads that competition by a mere two points on Ag2r-duo Mondory and Dion, but with just one climb on the menu tomorrow, I've got my money on him to make it. Expect the French outfit to put up a fight though. "There's only one stage to go", he said afterwards, "and even though it's not a very hard climb tomorrow, they (Mondory, Dion) are both fast, so it'll be necessary to defend it with all we've got. To stand on the final podium in a race like the Tirreno-Adriatico is very important". Not only Juanjo impressed today. Egoi managed to come in with the first group today, up the steep Castelfidardo climb. 31 riders made up the front-group, so that's a sign of strength no doubt. He eventually came in 23rd. Rubén came in only 13 seconds afterwards, in 34th place, while Juanjo ended up 111th, 3 minutes 9 seconds down. Iñigo had hoped to fight for the win today, but sadly he crashed at a critical moment, and had to make do and mend with 116th, 3:17 back. Aitor and Alán came in 4:37 adrift, while Javier continues to struggle in Italy, eventually coming home a massive 8:37 back. Due to his fall today, Iñigo dropped to 31st on GC. None of the other guys are particularly well placed overall either, so expect them to risk it all for a stage-win and the mountains jersey tomorrow.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gorka finishes Paris-Nice in 7th

Gorka successfully defended his 7th place overall on Paris-Nice's last stage today. Gorka came in with the group of favourites, together with a very lively Igor, in 26th place, and therefore secured his best result so far in his career. Bravo Gorka! He never looked troubled in a very hilly last stage, sitting comfortably on the wheels of Rebellin, Nocentini etc. all through the stage. Another Euskaltel rider who deserves praise, is Igor. Igor infiltrated in a large breakaway group early on, and was active in all attacks all day long. He looked especially strong on the climbs, putting in some attacks on Cunego and co. Eventually, his group got reeled in with a few kilometres to go, but he still finished inside the main pack. Haimar came in with the next group, 3:29 back, while Aitor ended up 15:28 in arrears. Markel, Dioni and Lander abandoned, like 33 others did, halfway through, meaning the team ended the race with four riders. Gorka ended up, as mentioned, a great 7th, while Igor was 28th, Haimar 30th, and Aitor 66th. As a team, Euskaltel grabbed an okay 9th. Though, what the team rankings mean these days, I have no idea...

Tirreno ITT

As the heading says; not much to write home about. An ITT in an Italian stage-race really isn't Euskaltel's cup of tea. Though, it wasn't a total disaster. Iñigo posted a respectable time, coming in 55th, 3:05 down on the unstoppable Cancellara. That means he's 24th on GC with two stages remaining, and that could have been worse. Stage results:
  • 55th, Iñigo Landaluze, 3:05
  • 70th, Juan José Oroz, 3:38
  • 73rd, Alán Pérez, 3:42
  • 89th, Egoi Martínez, 4:01
  • 95th, Rubén Pérez, 4:03
  • 132nd, Aitor Galdos, 5:11
  • 141st, Javier Aramendia, 5:24

Gorka back in 7th overall

Gorka once again showed outstanding form to grab 13th on the hilly and penultimate stage into Cannes. With that performance he also got back to 7th overall, after he surpassed yesterday's winner Carlos Barredo, who ended up further back. Gorka looks really lean and strong on the climbs these days. Today he was on the front on most of the stage's climbs, right beside the likes of Rebellin and Gesink. With one stage to go, and judging by what I saw today, I'm confident he'll end up inside the top 10 on GC. The other riders, though, don't seem to have the same form at the moment. Stage results:

  • 13th, Gorka Verdugo, 0:44
  • 51st, Markel Irizar, 5:07
  • 55th, Haimar Zubeldia, s.t.
  • 88th, Aitor Hernández, 10:28
  • 102nd, Igor Antón, 19:18
  • 103rd, Lander Aperribay, s.t.
  • 105th, Dioni Galparsoro, s.t.

Rubén again 11th in Tirreno

Rubén once again sprinted well to claim 11th on the 4th stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. The stage came down to a bunch-sprint finish, after the early break, containing the impressive Juanjo Oroz, had been caught. After his big breakaway attempt, Juanjo was pleased when talking to the team's website afterwards: "The important thing is that we are protagonists in the race. We try to go in breaks every day, but it's hard to go with the right one. Today, the break didn't materialize until 40 kilometres had been raced, so that's a good example of how complicated it is. You can go with the three or four first breaks, but then the fifth is the one that gets away. Landaluze, Egoi, Alán... we're all trying to get into breaks, and finally we've had some luck on that front. We have to continue this way, as to sprint would be almost impossible. The list of good sprinters is endless. Tomorrow we've got the TT coming up, but after that we've got another two stages to make our mark." In addition to Rubén, Egoi, Alán and Iñigo came in with the pack. Aitor Galdos ended up 2:29 down, in 118th place, while Juanjo eventually ended up 7:42 in arrears. Javier was among the last to cross the line, coming home a full 8:30 adrift.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Mayo is attractive to watch"

Igor and Beñat Intxausti are both like us. They're fans of Iban. Igor and the young Saunier Duval climbing sensation talked about the pairing of Iban and Haimar in DEIA and, when asked if they were "mayistas" or "zubeldistas", they both expressed their admiration for Iban. "I've never only liked one of them, but I've always identified myself more with Iban because of the way he rides", Igor said. "He's more aggressive, but Haimar's regularity has made achieve better results in the Tour though". Beñat, who I'm still sad is not with Euskaltel, agreed: "Mayo is more attractive to watch and, in addition, he's from around here (Bizkaia)". Well, I couldn't agree more, and it's a fact that the two have always reminded me of Iban with their aggressive way of riding up mountains. They are both, like Iban was, destined for greatness.

Friday, March 14, 2008

3rd Iban Mayo Zikloturista

Info about the third running of the Marcha Zikloturista Iban Mayo, or Iban's own cyclosportif event as we'd say in French/English, has just been released on his website. The event, held to great success the last two years, is organized by Iban's official fan club, the Iban Mayo Lagunartea, and will be held on the 18th of May this year. It's possible for most people to take part and ride alongside our great hero, so if you want to take part, click the following link: . Videos of last year's race can be found on YouTube.

Gorka 8th overall with two stages to go

Gorka is still inside the top 10 on GC in Paris-Nice with two stages left to ride. Today he dropped from 7th to 8th, but that's not really a big deal I think. He came in 28th today, in the main pack, 2:15 adrift of breakaway winner Barredo. Dioni and Haimar were also in that group, helping him out whenever he needed it. Igor and Aitor were caught off guard when the peloton suddenly split halfway through today, and came in a massive 8:21 back, in 101st and 99th respectively. The two remaining riders, Markel and Lander, both came in with the gruppetto 18:50 down. The last two stages are both hilly, so hopefully we'll get to see Haimar, Gorka, Igor and Dioni in the midst of the action these next days. Here's the riders' overall placing after the 5th stage:
  • 8th, Gorka Verdugo, 2:11
  • 21st, Igor Antón, 11:14
  • 39th, Haimar Zubeldia, 24:22
  • 54th, Dioni Galparsoro, 31:01
  • 106th, Markel Irizar, 57:57
  • 121st, Lander Aperribay, 1:08:36
  • 125th, Aitor Hernández, 1:10:28

Iñigo shows form in Tirreno

It was a better day for the team in Tirreno-Adriatico today. Alán was active early on, but didn't get any leeway by the pack. Iñigo climbed really well to come home 18th, only 44 seconds down, in a small group containing power-houses Pozzato, Efimkin and Ballan. A really good performance, as he reached the line ahead of riders like Pietropolli, Visconti, Larsson, Pellizotti and Hincapie as well. Rubén was next to cross the line, coming in 35th, 1:50 adrift. Further we have Juanjo in 42nd place, 2:20 back, Aitor Galdos in 54th, 5:05 down, Egoi was 71st, 7:24 back, Alán was 141st, 13:33 back, and Javier came in together with Freire 15:32 back. This leaves the team with Iñigo in a respectable 25th place overall, just 1:46 off the pace.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Amets pens long-term deal

Amets finally ended months of uncertainty concerning his future by putting pen to paper on a contract that will keep him with Euskaltel through 2009. Amets' contract was due to run out after this season, but he gladly agreed to prolong his stay. After signing the dotted line, Amets spoke to the team's website: "I'm very content with the prolongation. This team has confidence in me, and I hope to be able to live up to their expectations. Euskaltel Euskadi is the local team, and has a philosophy which makes it unique. It's an honour to be part of this project, and I would like to thank Miguel Madariaga and Igor Gonzaled de Galdeano for their faith in me. I've already assumed training again after my crash in Down Under, but I still don't know when I'll return to competition. The prolongation gives me an even bigger incentive to train."

Not the best of days

It was not a noteworthy day for Euskaltel in Tirreno and Paris-Nice today. In Paris-Nice, Igor was the best placed rider in 21st place, closely followed by Gorka in 22nd. In Tirreno though, it was a lot worse. The best rider was Juanjo in 45th.

The mythical Mont Ventoux was on the menu for the riders in Paris-Nice today. My expectations were high given Igor and Gorka's good form of late, and I was also expecting to see Haimar back in the action. It wasn't a total failure by any means, but it'd be fair to say I was a little disappointed after the race. Igor and Gorka came in with the same group, 2:18 down on winner Evans, meaning that Gorka is now an excellent 7th overall. Igor is 13th overall, and, even though I didn't get to see the stage, I assume he did a lot of work for Gorka today. Haimar, who seems to have lost his excellent form overnight, was nowhere to be seen, coming in 4:09 back. Dioni was next, 8:58 down, while Aitor finished 15:09 back. Aitor has not been riding as well as I had hoped he would, but, hey, there's still some stages left for him to leave a mark. Markel and Lander came in with a big group 18:28 adrift.

Not much to say about today's 2nd stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. Juanjo and Iñigo performed reasonably well, coming in with a big group a minute and six seconds down on surprise-winner Illiano. Egoi, Alán, Rubén and Aitor Galdos came in with another big group, some 8 minutes down, while Javier crossed the line another four minutes later. Antton sadly had to drop out today. I don't know why, if it's down to injuries or illness or something, but I'll let you know once I find out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gorka 3rd overall as Ventoux loomes

There seems to be no end to Gorka's great form at the moment. In today's 3rd stage, the first of the mountainous ones, he came in with the favourites, got 10th place, and advanced to an impressive 3rd overall. And what's more, he's not more than 8 seconds back on overall leader Sylvain Chavanel. Another rider who had an outstanding ride today, was Igor. On the major climb he seemingly struggled to keep up at times, but, in typical Igor style, he was suddenly back in the mix and attacking the lead group a couple of times. He looked awesome, so I'm no doubt looking forward to see him on the mighty Ventoux tomorrow. He's now 15th overall, 2:45 adrift. The other riders, though, didn't perform to expectations. Haimar's form is a mystery, as he came in a massive 17:06 back. He was supposed to be the team's GC man for the race, but perhaps he's saving his forces for tomorrow. After the unfortunate first two stages, he probably realized that he wouldn't be able to fight for the top overall placings. At least I hope so... Dioni, Markel and Aitor came in at with Haimar's group, while Lander ended up 100th, 19:36 back.

Rubén 11th in Tirreno opener

Rubén got off to a good start in the Tirreno-Adriatico today. The impressive all-rounder sprinted to 11th place on the opening stage, beating noted sprinters like Fischer, Chicchi, Sutton, Horillo, Haussler and Hondo in the process. Another rider who was in the thick of the action, was Javier. The neo-pro took off with breakaway specialist Ignatiev early on, but they weren't allowed any leeway by a hard-chasing peloton. Javier, who eventually finished 5:51 back in 144th place, and Antton, who came in 10:06 adrift, were the only Euskaltel riders who didn't come in with the main pack.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Igor active, but Beñat crashes out

It was another day to forget for Euskaltel in Paris-Nice. The second stage saw a major pile-up with approximately 50 kilometres to go, a crash which took with it at least two Euskaltel riders. Dioni got up and finished the stage, seemingly unscathed, but the same cannot be said of Beñat. Beñat had to abandon due to several cuts in his face, needing stitches immediately. Luckily though, he's doing just fine at the moment. It didn't look good though, as he remained on the ground for a considerable amount of time after he nastily his the deck.

On the bright side for the team, Igor and Gorka looked sharp. The crash split the pack into several pieces, just like yesterday, and the duo managed to stay with the first group. Igor even tried an attack with 400 metres to go on the last climb, taking a few points with him in the process, but was sadly reeled back in on the descent. Though he looked awesome, so he'll be a marked man come the Ventoux tomorrow. Haimar came in 1:15 back, while Dioni, who lost his polkadot jersey to breakaway hero Hupond, came in 2:56 back. Markel ended up another minute and a half in arrears, while Lander was 109th, 8:01 down, and Aitor 152nd, 26:20 down. That leaves Gorke in an excellent 15th overall, while Igor is 38th, 3:15 back on leader Hushovd.

Igor and Samu pre-selected for Olympics

Igor and Samu were both named in Spain's national coach Paco Antequera's pre-selection for the Beijing Olympics. Antequera named a 12-man team, from which he'll choose five riders, to compete in the hilly road race. Spain will also be entitled to field two riders in the ITT, where Samu is one of three candidates to start at the time being. The final decision on who to take to China, will likely be made during the Tour.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dioni grabs climber's jersey as GC hopes falter

On a day of strong sidewinds that split the peloton into several pieces, Euskaltel lost all hope of a good overall placing. Gorka was the only rider who ended up in the first group after the pack split, while Haimar, Beñat, Igor, Dioni and Markel all ended up in the second group, together with other heavy-hitters like Evans, Monfort, Schumacher and Julich. Despite a concerted effort from the five riders, who spent a lot of time on the front of the second group doing team time trialling, they couldn't get back to the first group, eventually losing 2:37. That will likely put an end to the team's GC hopes with Haimar, but on the bright side, Gorka was once again active and came in 17th, only 7 seconds back. He looked good, so maybe he'll spring a surprise as the race progresses. Let's hope so... Dioni grabbed maximum points on the day's first and only climb, and will therefore get to wear the mountain's jersey tomorrow. I'd love to see Dioni go for the jersey, as a climber's jersey in Paris-Nice isn't to be sniffed at. The two last riders, Lander and Aitor, got stuck in one of the last groups, and both came in 6:32 in arrears.

Tirreno and San Remo line-up

Euskaltel today revealed their line-ups for Tirreno-Adriatico and La Classicissima, Milano-San Remo. The same eight riders will start in both races, and they are: Rubén, Iñigo, Aitor Galdos, Javier, Alán, Egoi, Antton and Juanjo. Looks like a potent squad to me, and I'll be rooting for them in both races of course. Rubén should be in top form at these races, so should Aitor, so they certainly don't lack firepower. It'll also be good to see Egoi back in the orange of Euskaltel for the first time in some three years. As always I'm looking forward to see what Antton can do, he should also be coming into form, so watch out for him too. Gora!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Markel 2nd in Paris-Nice prologue

Markel astonishingly almost won today's Paris-Nice prologue. Only Thor Hushovd, one of the last starters, managed to surpass Markel's amazing time, meaning he had to settle for 2nd in the end. A bit disappointing to come so close, but still great stuff from him. He led the race for more than two hours, but he'll still be pleased I think. After his sensational ride, he told : "I'm pleased, I can't say that seeing myself among the best isn't satisfactory. The course was suited to me, and I felt good out there. I want to arrive in a good state of form for the Classics, so my form in this race must be good. It's a pain that the last riders got to ride without the rain today. If it had continued to rain I might have won it, as only a great rider like Hushovd was able to beat me." Markel's time was the best for more than two hours, and those two hours were long indeed he said: "The waiting was really hard. It killed me to see Hushovd beating me. I was prepared to stand atop the podium..." Speaking of tomorrow's stage, Markel seemed intent on fighting for the leader's jersey: "It's an uphill finish tomorrow, with the last climb at 9 %. I know Hushovd is a specialist in that kind of arrivals, but I'm going to give it my all in getting the leader's jersey. Normally I wouldn't try to dispute such a stage, but I have to try tomorrow in hope of a split in the field."

Besides Markel's 2nd place, there wasn't much to cheer about for the rest of the guys. Gorka was the next best Euskaltel rider in 37th place, 18 seconds back, while Igor was 72nd, 25 down. Further down we have Aitor Hernández and Haimar in 110th and 114th respectively, both at 33 seconds, Lander and Dioni at 41, and Beñat ended up 47 seconds in arrears.

Koldo hails team-mates

Koldo was a visibly happy man after taking Euskaltel's first win of the season earlier today. Speaking to the team's website moments afterwards, he praised the work of his team. "The work of my team-mates has been impeccable. I'm very pleased, and this win has taken an enormous amount of weight off my shoulders. They've been working for me the whole race, so to win this stage for them was very important. Today they got me over the last climb and got me into a perfect position at the front. I still remember Samu shouting, with 300 metres to go, "start sprinting, start sprinting!". They all did an incredible job, and I'm very grateful for that." Interestingly, he also spoke of a change in mentality: "I'm fully aware of the fact that I have to win this year. The triumph in Tirreno helped me, but the Vuelta a España really changed my approach. I realized that I cannot always wait for the others to start sprinting. When the best sprinters take off, there's little you can do. They time their sprints very well, so it's very hard to pass them. Because of that, I just have to go for it when I feel the time is right. This approach has made me more consistent, I've got more confidence, and I've become more experienced." Koldo will now take a short break, before he reassumes racing at the Vuelta Ciclista a Castilla y León at the 24th of March. He will then race the first week of the spring Classics, before he takes on his first big goal of the season; the Giro d'Italia. "Now I'll rest a bit, so that I can go to Castilla y León with desire. It' s a very selective route, so I'm not sure there'll be many chances for the sprinters. But if an opportunity arises, we'll try to be in the fight. I still need to improve my form though. The Giro is the objective for the first half of the season, and I'm not at my best yet". If he gets better than this, then we're in for a real treat...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's Koldo!

Koldo has won the final stage of the Vuelta a Murcia ahead of Brown and Haedo. I got the pleasure to watch the final kilometres, and man did our team make me proud. For the first time, Euskaltel formed a real train for Koldo, consisting of Samu, Iñaki, the man himself obviously, and two others I didn't manage to recognise (thought they were likely Mikel and Iván). With 1 click to go, the train hit the front, and Samu lead out Koldo perfectly for the last dash for the line. Koldo started sprinting from the front, and amazingly managed to hold of Brown's and Haedo's late bursts. It was awesome, just awesome. A real team-victory. It was also beautiful to watch Samu and Iñaki with their hands raised in celebration as it became clear that he would win it. Koldo was of course overjoyed afterwards, so stay tuned for interviews with him later today. (By the way, go to Vuelta a Murcia's website to watch the last kilometres on video).

As for the rest of the team, Samu was 7th, Iñaki 15th, Mikel 19th, Iván 20th, Jon 70th, 14 seconds back, Jorge 82nd, 6:15 back, while Josu was 85th at the same time as Jorge. Euskaltel of course won the day's team rankings, while the team ended up 8th overall. Koldo gladly won the sprinters' competition ahead of Brown, beating him by a mere 4 points. This is how the riders ended up overall:

  • 18th, Mikel Astarloza
  • 25th, Iñaki Isasi
  • 28th, Samuel Sánchez
  • 53rd, Jorge Azanza
  • 62nd, Iván Velasco
  • 69th, Koldo Fernández
  • 70th, Jon Bru
  • 77th, Josu Agirre

Mikel, Igor and Rubén to lead in País Vasco

Euskaltel will go with a three-pronged attack at the Vuelta al País Vasco in April. Rubén, Mikel and Igor will all assume leadership duties in their quest to be the first Euskaltel rider to win the event since Iban in 2004. It's not been decided yet who'll fill up the remaining 5 spots on the roster. Galdeano told DEIA that a decision on who to fiel will only be taken after Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, where the five strongest will get a place on the team. The race is, like every year, the team's season-highlight together with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Haimar heads strong Paris-Nice team

Euskaltel will/will not/perhaps/who knows?/probably/probably not/hopefully start Paris-Nice on Sunday. If they do, which seems to be the plan at the moment, they will field a strong line-up. Haimar will head the chase for GC glory, with strong support from Igor, Gorka, Beñat, Andoni, Markel, Dioni and Aitor Hernández. I'm glad to see so many climbers will feature; I can't wait for Ventoux, where the duo Igor-Haimar shone brightly last year. Seems like a really strong team throughout, with quality in every department. I've got my money on an Haimar top-3 place overall...

Samu impressive in ITT in Murcia

Samu Sánchez showed surprisingly good early-season form in today's time trial in the Vuelta a Murcia. The penultimate stage of the five-day event saw each rider tackle a hilly 23 km course. Mikel didn't perform to expectations, sadly, as he came home a distant 28th. But Samu certainly did. He's not supposed to peak in about 4-months time yet, so an 11th place in an ITT, beating TT specialists like Karpets, Colom, Nozal and Blaudzun, is a sign of stregth. He's obviously improved in the discipline over the years, so I'm expecting a lot from him come July. Overall the team did okay today; the progress in time trials is slow, but it most certainly is steady. Stage results:

  • 11th, Samuel Sánchez, 0:48
  • 28th, Mikel Astarloza, 1:43
  • 31st, Iñaki Isasi, 1:45
  • 50th, Jorge Azanza, 2:33
  • 51st, Josu Agirre, 2:44
  • 58th, Iván Velasco, 3:04
  • 73rd, Jon Bru, 4:04
  • 80th, Koldo Fernández, 4:12

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Poll results: Iban to be cleared on Saturday?

What a stupid poll that turned out to be. As we all know, Iban was neither cleared nor suspended this last Saturday, as the CAS decided to think about the case for a little while longer. But at least we got to see that a surpisingly huge percentage of the Iban Mayo Blog readers think that Iban will indeed be cleared. 76 % voted "yes", but I'm not 76 % sure that we will ever see an end to this mess...

Koldo again 2nd

Koldo once again did wonderfully well to claim 2nd on the 3rd stage of the Vuelta a Murcia. This time only JJ Haedo of CSC beat him. Man, four races so far this season; one 4th place and two 2nds is awesome. Remarkable consistency. Mark my words, he's going to have a great season. Besides Koldo there's not much to write about. Jon got some points on the first climb, and everyone but Josu, who came in a minute down, came in with the bunch. On tomorrow's menu is a hilly ITT, so I'm counting on Mikel to bring Euskaltel their first win of the season. Gora!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Disappointing day in Murcia

Euskaltel did not have the best of days in the Vuelta a Murcia today. None of the riders were able to fight it out for the win but, to their credit, they tried at least. Jon, Jorge and Mikel were all active and looked strong as the stage progressed, but when the going got tough, they all went missing. Mikel was the first Euskaltel rider to cross the line, in a not-too-bad 19th place, 1:10 in arrears. Next in was Iñaki, who did well to claim 29th, 4:23 back. Samu was also quite good, considering he's not supposed to peak until July, coming home 34th, 6:08 back. Jorge was 12:15 down, in 51st place, while the rest of the lads, Koldo, Iván, Jon and Josu, all came in with the gruppeto, a massice 21:27 adrift. Best on GC is Mikel of course, in 16th, though that's probably too far down to fight for the overall win. Tomorrow is another sprinter-friendly stage, so I'm crossing my fingers for Koldo. Aupa!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Koldo grabs 2nd in Murcia opener

Koldo just sprinted to an excellent 2nd in the Vuelta a Murcia opener today. The only rider to beat him was Rabobank's Graeme Brown. Koldo beat noted sprinters such as Ventoso, Haedo, Palumbo and Trusov, so he's form is awesome already this season. As for the rest of the squad, they all came in with the pack. Some of the riders on the team spent a lot of time at the head of the peloton together with CSC and Rabobank to bring the break back, something they were successful in. Tomorrow's stage will be a bit more hilly, so here we go Mikel...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Weekend round-up

So I'm back, and it seems I haven't missed a thing. What's up, CAS? Taking some days off? When is all this going to end? I guess their ruling is only a few days away, but, hey, I don't know anything more than you do, so this might drag on for a little while longer. No word from either Iban nor the UCI. I'm at a loss to decide what I'm going to do with the blog IF Iban is suspended or retires though. Should I keep it going anyway? I don't know, any input or views from you my readers will be appreciated.

It's been a good few days for Euskaltel though. Koldo showed magnificent early-season form by sprinting to a convincing 4th place in Almería. Lookin' forward to see him in Murcia tomorrow... Rubén showed just how versatile and good rider he is in Valenciana by sprinting to 5th on the last stage, and I was overjoyed to see Gorka hang on to his 5th place overall. I know a 5th place isn't a win or anything, but it was a quality field down there in Valencia so it was a really good performance from him. More of that please!


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