Monday, September 29, 2008

Amets wins criterium

Yeah I know I'm a little behind schedule these days. And I know most of you have already heard that Amets won the Criterium Jokin Ormaetxea. I still feel obliged to write about it though. After all, it's not every day an Euskaltel rider wins a race, be it the Tour de France or a low-beat criterium in the Basque Country. Koldo took the points win, while Igor Romero of Orbea won the elimination race. Amets triumphed overall ahead of hotshot Intxausti and Mikel. Even though Amets won, the day belonged solely to the family and friends of the late Ormaetxea.

4 races to go

The season is quickly coming to an end. Only four races remain on Euskaltel's calendar. Those four races are the Tour de Vendée, to be raced on Sunday, the Paris-Tours, to be raced exactly a week later, the Giro de Piemonte on the 16th and, of course, the Giro de Lombardia two days later. The starting line-up for the French one-day race in Vendée reads: Koldo, Aitor Galdos, Iñigo, Dioni, Beñat, Javier, Alán and Iván. Hopefully it'll come down to a sprint so that Koldo can add a win to the team's paltry tally of 7 wins this year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Close but no cigar

Samu did well in today's Worlds road race. He looked to be Spain's strongest man, but eventually had to settle for 22nd place after missing out on the decisive move. Realizing that the break up the road were indeed going to stay away, he jumped clear of the remnants of what had once been the peloton to go in pursuit of the leading group. The chase proved fruitless though, but he can nonetheless be proud of his performance. He came in 22nd, only 1:22 in arrears.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Castroviejo ready for Worlds

Jonathan Castroviejo, the gifted all-rounder with Orbea who's likely to join the team before the end of the season, will line up today in the U-23 World Championship road race in Varese. The 21-year-old, who's enjoyed a brilliant season with Euskaltel's feeder team, is the sole Basque representative at the Worlds this year. Jonathan will, according to himself, try to stay out of trouble in the pack before doing his thing on one of the last laps. I'll be rooting for him this afternoon.

Euskaltel stars ride for Ormaetxea

Several Euskaltel riders, among them Haimar, Mikel, Koldo and Amets, will today line up in the annual Criterium Jokin Ormaetxea. Jokin Ormaetxea was, if you remember, the first-year pro who tragically died in a car accident back in 2004. Euskaltel rider Joseba Albizu was the driver that day, but has of course no guilt in the accident. He was himself severly injured, but recovered with time. At today's race Igor will be given the prize of "Best Basque rider 2008" by the organizer. A great gesture to a great rider.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ibán not giving in

Ibán is not going to give up his case for justice just yet. The announcement that the CAS had decided to suspend Ibán was followed by silence on his behalf, but the silence was broken last week when his lawyer talked to DEIA. His lawyer, José Rodríguez, told they've taken the case to the Comité Español de Disciplina Deportiva. Rodríguez argues that the sanction handed out by the CAS is not compatible with the current Spanish legislation. The Comité Español de Disciplina Deportiva usually use up to 6 months on one single case, but it's understood they've been told to get moving and an answer will be given in October or November, at the latest. An actual judgement will not be handed out, it's the majority of the jury that will decide the case. Ibán did not comment on the case. And I don't know what kind of comment I'm going to give either. Hopefully he'll be cleared, but I'm not overly optimistic to say the least.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Egoi ends season

Egoi has decided to put and end to his 2008 season. Speaking to Gara yesterday, the likeable rider said it was time to chill out and reload the batteries after a taxing season. After all it's been a long season for him. In the interview he also expressed his sadness at not being selected for Spain's Worlds squad. His performance in the Vuelta indicated great form and led many to call for his inclusion in the nine-man team. It wasn't to be though, but he decided to look at the positive side of it: "Though, as I won't travel to Varese, I can stay at home with my new-born son. I've only been with him for three weeks, so I'm really looking forward to that." Of course, Ezequiel Mosquera performed fantastically overall in the Vuelta, but I do think that Egoi's engine and strength on the flats would be more helpful to the team than Mosquera's climbing prowess given it's a pretty flat Worlds this year. Time will tell I guess.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Iñigo glad to be back home

Iñigo was a happy man yesterday as the Vuelta came to a conclusion. In his daily column in DEIA he spoke of the hard reality of a three-week tour: "I don't think people really know how good it feels for a cyclist to finish a three-week race. The last stage may look like a transitional stage, but it really isn't. The truth is that every incline hurts. But it's not only because of the fatigue. It's because of the routines. Take the food for one. It's boring to eat the same things over and over again. We practically eat the same food for a month: pasta, rice, lasagne, chicken or meat. I need to change the routines. It feels so good to be done with the Vuelta. Cyclists have also got family, friends and a normal life we long for when we're away. I have all this in Algorta. I'll be back home today to meet the people and places I know... Today I'll get to see it all once again. We leave Madrid with an annoying feeling. The feeling of not having been able to win a stage. Not winning a stage is the only negative I can think of when it comes to our performance. After the time trial up the Nevacerrada we looked back at how the race unfolded for us emotionally. That opening day in Granada came to mind. You rememer that stage? Yeah, we came second in that team time trial. And, then, Egoi Martínez led the race from Sabiñánigo to the Angliru. I believe that's worth appreciating. People say that there, on the way to the Angliru, the race ended for us due to Igor's fall. I don't think so. I feel we recuperated well, and we were close to winning from breaks. I got into three decisive breaks, and Alán, Iván and Mikel did so as well... We've thought a lot about that day, the descent of the Cordal, and it hurts. That fall prevented Igor from continuing to progress mentally first and foremost. I talk about the experience to lead a team in a GT. That would be an important experience for a rider like him, a rider that will no doubt give the Basques a lot of joy in the future. He needs that experience, but other opportunities will present themselves. Soon. Next year. Surely."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sign 'em!

We all know Euskaltel need new faces it they are to take a step up in quality. Even though Euskaltel is the Basque National Team of sorts, there are plenty of quality Basque riders getting their wages with other teams. I know Madariaga has stated that, except for Nieve and Castroviejo, no one else will join the team this year, so this isn't really a very realistic article I'm afraid. But this is my opionion on established, professional riders the team, regardless of wage demands and past history with the team, should bring in: (And, by the way, I'd love to hear your views on the matter)
  • David Herrero: Obvious isn't it? He's way too good for a Pro Conti team. He won something like 10 races when with the team earlier, and it was a big, big mistake to let him go. He's incredibly talented; he's won mass-sprints, time trials and on mountain-tops. Still young, still Basque, and knows how to win a bike race; fits the bill perfectly. He's stated his desire to rejoin the team. Euskaltel should pounce on the possibility to resign him. Allegedly discussions over a prolongation to his contract two years ago stalled due to financial reasons and due to the "new code of ethics" within the team (including how to behave publicly, when to give interviews, what you're allowed to say etc.) Euskaltel need him badly.
  • Beñat Intxausti: Makes me sad to see the biggest Basque talent ride with a non-Basque team. Scott-American Beef is a mess right now, so Beñat might, I reckon, actually join the team if the opportunity to do so was presented to him. I'd love to see him in orange. He reminds me of Ibán. He climbs like a God, but hasn't gotten the opportunity to shine with Scott this year. To get him would be a big boost to the team. He's a guarantee for future success.
  • Arkaitz Durán: Big, big talent. Probably bigger than most people know. He's still very young, and he's got the potential to one day win a GT. I'm serious. He's performed well below what was expected of him when he turned pro five years ago, so a change in surroundings might do him good. Though, I would say, Euskaltel isn't the best place for young talent to develop, but everything than Scott-American Beef I'd say.
  • Mikel Gaztañaga: A good sprinter who can win a race or three a year. More importantly though, he could act as Koldo's much-needed lead-out man. He'd be a solid reinforcement to the team. He has, like Herrero, stated his desire to one day ride for his home team, and it's high time he gets the opportunity. Together with Koldo and Aitor Galdos he'd form an excellent trio. He's riding with Agritubel, and would cetainly jump at the opportunity to ride all the Spanish races and stay in Spain. He'd be a good signing.
  • Juan Manuel Garate: I've wanted him to join the team for years. I almost threw my laptop out the window when I read that Euskaltel didn't offer him more than a one-year contract last year. He required a two-year deal, but as he didn't get it he signed an extension to his contract with Quick.Step. Bravo Euskaltel! There you go! One of the very best Basque riders out there wanted to join you, and now he's with a Belgian squad. That's impressive. I don't know what kind of wages he demanded, so Euskaltel might have had their reasons not to hire him, but he'd lift the team to another level. Not signing him was a catastrophy.
  • David López García: Why Euskaltel let him go is a mystery to me. Madariaga has stated that it should never have happened. He's a great climber and would add some much-needed firepower to the team. He's capable of winning hilly races, and is the kind of rider the team need so badly. Resign him please.
  • Imanol Erviti: A great talent. Could develop into a good time triallist. Of course, he just won a stage in the Vuelta, and that's impressive, but that's got little do with it. He's always been a huge talent, but he hasn't really turned his talent into performances for Caisse (until his stage-win the other day that is). He's young as well, and has never been suspected of doping or anything like that, so he'd fit the bill.
  • Iker Camaño: Quality rider, wasn't given the chance to shine he so thouroughly deserved whilst with the team. A Verdugo-type of rider. Would bring experience to an otherwise inexperience team. Has the quality to get into the top 10 in stage-races.
  • Other riders that I'd like to see riding for Euskaltel: Arrieta, Garcia Acosta, Bingen Fernández, Aitor Pérez Arrieta (I know they're all getting quite old, but still they'd bring quality).


I'm sorry for my absence, but I've been experiencing some network-problems of late. That all seems to have sorted itself out though, so I'll resume my blogging. Here's a short round-up of what's been going on:
  • The Tour of Poland saw Iñaki finish a crediatble 14th overall after placing 11th on the last stage. Samu dropped out halfway through the race due to the unfavourable conditions. Samu was afraid the freezing cold and pouring rain could put pay to his Wordls preparations, and therefore decided to go back home and train instead. All in all and OK Tour of Poland performance from the team but, still, no wins to show for the effort.
  • The Vuelta ended today. The last few stages saw what we've all become used to seing from the team; good riding, great effort, no win. Makes me proud, but also makes me sad to see the team giving it their all and just not being good enough to win. Credit to them for trying though. Losing Igor was a hard blow, but they've picked themselfes up and done their best. Koldo today collected yet another 4th place. He must be terribly disappointed with his sprints in this race. After all, the race wasn't top class every day. He looks close though, it's just a matter of details really. I reckon a place in the Tour line-up for him next year would do him the world of good experience-wise. It's just a matter of time before the wins start heaping up I feel. Egoi eventually finished 7th. That's awesome, just awesome. He's been terrific, and looks to be the rider I hoped he would be when the team re-signed him. Rubén as well did surpisingly well to claim 11th in the Nevacerrada time trial yesterday. He's turning into a complete rider Rubén, but the wins still elude him. There's a lot to improve upon for him, but the talent is there for him to develop. Euskaltel eventually ended up 2nd in the team classification after grabbing some vital extra seconds today. That's a brilliant result. Imagine how that ranking would have looked like if Igor was there. The final GC looks like this: 7th: Egoi. 28th, Mikel. 41st, Rubén. 45th, Amets. 51st, Iván. 63rd, Iñigo. 69th, Alán. 94th, Koldo. That's not too bad, but it's nothing more than I expected either. Madariaga declared himself happy with the team's performance, but, then again, he always does, so I don't really find his reactions very interesting to be honest. I'm longing for the season to end. It's been a terrible season overall for us Ibán and Euskaltel fans. Ibán is going through a hard time, and Euskaltel have performed well beneath what I had expected. If you, my readers, think I'm frustrated, then you're right. My frustration is obvious I guess, and I sense I'm not the only one feeling this way.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Haimar epitomized everything I admired when I first fell in love with the sport: he was Basque, he climbed like a God, and he was Euskaltel. Yes, together with Ibán, he was Euskaltel. I think many felt that way. Perhaps some still do. But now he's gone, and it's high time to pay tribute to a true Euskaltel legend.

I first remember seeing Haimar racing when he abandoned the Tour in 2004. I was still in my early days as an Euskaltel fan, but I felt so sorry for him that day that, in an instant, he became one of my personal favourites. He still is in fact. Nothing, not even joining Astana, which, as you'll most likely know by now, is one of the teams I take a dislike to the most, can take away my affection for Haimar. It's the same as with Ibán; eventhough he let us all down taking drugs, he's still my favourite. Nothing can change that. Now, of course, Haimar doesn't mean the same to me as Ibán does. But, like Ibán, he's one of the most talented riders of his generation. And, sadly, once again like Ibán, he never got to fulfil that undoubted potential.

As a 23-year-old unknow quantity, Haimar rose to prominence in the latter half of the 2000 season. He showed immense promise by, first, winning the deciding time trial and the overall in the Euskal Bizikleta, then going on to place second in another time trial and thus overall in the Dauphiné Libéré, only beaten by a certain Tyler Hamilton, before going on to place 10th overall in his GT debut in the Vuelta a España. It was breathtaking stuff from the 23-year-old, so breathtaking in fact that he was dubbed the "New Induraín". Though, like every other "New Induraín", he failed to build on his early promise. So much in fact that his double win in the Bizikleta in spring 2000 is his only win to date. How a rider of his calibre has managed to win only once is a question I'm not able to answer. And I don't think I'm the only one.

The Tour de France has since 2003, without exception, been the one, and often only, goal of his season. As a result he's rarely been in top form neither before, nor after, the Grande Boucle. This has of course had its positives and negatives. On the positive side, Euskaltel have had a man capable of winning a Grand Tour on it's hands. That's a big plus for any team wanting to be invited to the biggest races around the world. On the flipside though, one of the team's best riders' season can come to nothing if he fails to shine in the Tour. That's happened, and not only once. But that's the price you've got to pay, and no one can say that it hasn't been worth it. Haimar's been fantastic to watch over the years in the Tour; he's had a great career no doubt. But the feeling that it could have been even greater can't seem to let go. I tell you, Haimar's always been capable of winning the Tour. The talent's there, period. But he'll never do it. At Euskaltel, a lot of things tend to go wrong. Rider's going in and out of form over night, good riders turn bad when they join the team, everything's public, riders being caught doping and, up until this year, the team have never really worked as a unit. Why that is I don't know. But it certainly hasn't helped Haimar achieve the goals he so easily could have obtained in different surroundings. But to blame it all on the team would be too easy. Haimar knows this, and he knows he could have done a lot of things different. But even so, he remains one of the team's all time greats.

Some say sport is beautiful. I agree. I value the aesthetic aspects of sport highly. But I rarely call sport events or performances beautiful. But I call watching Arsenal play football beautiful. And I call wacthing Haimar and Ibán in tandem at the 2003 centenary Tour beautiful. That was cycling at it's most perfect. Rarely have I seen cycling, or any sport for that matter, so aesthetically pleasing. It was something about how the two of them climbed those mountains in the Alps and in the Pyrenees so easily. And with so much style. I cherish the videos of Ibán and Haimar pushing Lance and Jan to the limit. That was quite something.

We'll never get to see that "something" again, at least not in an Euskaltel shirt. I'm sad to see him leave the team. This is where he belongs. Euskaltel without Haimar and Ibán is not Euskaltel. It's a new time, both for the team and for Haimar. For all I know he might blossom under Bruyneel's guidance. Most riders tend to. Maybe he can finally take that last step and become a Grand Tour winner. I'd love to see that happen. It wouldn't be with Euskaltel, but he's still Basque, and he stills climbs like a God. And he's still Haimar, the great Haimar Zubeldia Agirre from Usurbil. I wish him all the best.

Koldo fails to repay team

The team once again did their utmost to secure a win through Koldo, but once again to no avail. Koldo ended up 4th in an extremely tight finish, and will no doubt contemplate another missed opportunity. Though, he shouldn't be too hard on himself. A fourth place in a field of this calibre isn't that bad remember. But that's the way things are going these days. I have to applaud the team, though, for a fantastic effort. They assumed responsability straight away and led the peloton for most of the day. Impressive stuff, but sadly Koldo couldn't pull it off. He'll have another chance in Madrid on Sunday to grab his long-awaited Vuelta win.

Samu set to stay

It seems our worst fears have been unfounded; Samu looks set to stay with the team after all. News ciculating in different medias this morning indicate that Cervelo is not in the running for Samu's signature. Speaking to, a spokesman of the team said: "The team has never spoken to Mr. Samuel Sánchez. We have no plans to hire him or to buy him out of any existing contract. Not to mention that we would not have the budget to do so anyway, we are a modest team able to attract great riders because they believe in our concept, not because we buy them out of existing contracts." I was so relieved to read this. Allegedly it would cost a team 900 000 euros to buy Samu ouf of his contract. Samu himself said: "I have a contract until the end of the 2010 season, and I'm not thinking about anything else". Great to hear, this will certainly boost the team's morale after some testing weeks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Losing hope

Why is luck never on Euskaltel's side? I've had it, I'm so tired of always being let down by a fall, irregular sprinting, block-outs, or, as happened today, by Koldo being directed the wrong way with 2 kilometres to go. It all looked so rosy. The whole team, with Koldo at the end of the line, were at the very front of the pack, taking control of proceedings along with Quick.Step inside the last 10 kilometres. Finally I though it'd be Koldo's, and Euskaltel's, day. But no, it just isn't meant to be. With two kilometres to race, and with Koldo surrounded by team-mates in perfect position on Boonen's wheel, Koldo, another Euskaltel rider, along with four other riders, suddenly find themselves misdirected coming out of a roundabout. The six of them look up and notice they're all alone on the road. Luckily they were directed safely back onto the same road as the other riders, but by then it was all lost. Koldo didn't stand a chance of, first, getting past, say, 30 riders, to get in position in the space of a thousand metres, and then, secondly, to have enough left in the tank to mix it with the very best. With the formidable help of Rubén, though, he nearly pulled off the impossible. But, just for good measure, he was blocked out in the sprint by Haussler and had to settle for 6th place. The result in itself is good, very good actually, considering the circumstances, but Koldo is past the stage where a sixth-place finish is worth celebrating. For him, a rider of his calibre, only the win is good enough. He's got it in his legs, but with the way things are going these days, that might just not be enough.

Aitor keeps Andoni in red

Andoni managed to hold on to his lead in the intermediate sprints classification today. Thanks to Aitor Hernández. Just like yesterday there were three sprints on the menu for the riders, meaning a rider in a break theoreticallly could overtake the red jersey if he was to win all three sprints. Marcin Sapa of the Polish National Team set out with the objective to do just so. Euskaltel stayed alert though and sensed the danger. Aitor jumped clear of the pack to join up with the two in front. He took second in the sprints twice, but, much to Andoni's relief, won one of them. As a result Sapa ended up with 8 points, one down on Andoni. Mission accomplished for the team, and they all came in with the peloton with Iñaki placing 19th.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mikel 5th in Ponferrada

It was a day for the escapees in the Vuelta today. An 11-man break got away early on, and stayed away as predicted by most. Mikel was among the 11, but sadly had to settle for 5th, after he was out-manouvred in the closing kilometres. He looked good though I have to say, but that alone will unfortunately never bring you a win at this level. Credit to him for trying though, he must after all be exhausted by now. He's had a long, and terrific mind you, season. The other riders did okay today, and Egoi is still 8th overall. The stages are running out though, and I'm afraid the team might not win a stage in this year's race. That would be a pity, as that would leave them winless in all GTs this year. But life goes on, doesn't it? (At least is Samu stays)

Andoni shines in Poland

It was a good second stage for the team in the Tour of Poland today. Andoni got into the break of the day, along with local favourite Bodnar and Italian veteran Longo Borghini, and took maximum points at all three intermediate sprints along the way. He therefore leads that particular competition going into the third stage. "It was a very hard stage", he said afterwards. "It was more than 230 kilometres long, and I'm pleased. I got into the break of the day and captured the red jersey of the intermediate sprints classification. I knew it'd be hard to stay away, but it was great to step up to the podium and receive the jersey. The teams of the sprinters controlled the stage, and we knew they would, but we had to give it a try. Coming to Poland, I felt my form was good, and leading this competition gives me confidence. I'll try to continue this way". We sure hope you will, as it would be a nice way to round of the season. Everyone but Andoni and Josu, who both came in 7:21 down, rolled in with the peloton.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Euskaltel recuperate

Euskaltel put in a surprisingly good performance in today's Vuelta stage. The 14th stage was another one for the climbers and, given that the team were without the services of leading climber Igor, I'm impressed with their showing and attitude. Iñigo got into the break of the day, Iván impressed greatly by attacking the leading riders on the very last climb, Egoi held onto his 8th place overall and Alán ended up 14th. Good shit. Halfway up the last climb, with many tough mountains behind them, Euskaltel had three riders in the leading bunch. Alán took the responsibility of looking after Egoi, and they came in together at 1:40, in 14th and 15th place respectively. Iván, though he must have been exhausted by his heroics earlier on on the climb, came in 17th, just 1:52 off the pace. This was enough to give the team 3rd place on the day. That's quite impressive I'd say. There's one mountain-stage to go, and that one's on the menu for tomorrow. Keep up the good work.

OK start in Poland

They were never going to get a good start were they, as a TTT kicked off procedings in the Tour de Pologne today. It wasn't bad though, as the team came through in 14th place. More importantly they were just 12 seconds in arrears, so Samu is still in with a shout of a high overall placing.

Poland line-up

The Tour de Pologne starts today, and Euskaltel will field the following 8 riders: Samu, Iñaki, Jorge, Javier, Aitor H, Markel, Andoni and Josu. Samu will of course lead the team in his quest for getting ready for the Worlds later this month. The seven-day stage-race will feature some hilly stages, so don't discount Samu for an overall win.

"I'm sad for the team"

Igor spoke to the team's website yesterday after being diagnosed with a fractured collarbone. Here's what the climbing ace had to say: "What happened to me was awful. My front-wheel slipped away under me in a left-hand turn, and I crashed. But I'm mainly sad for the team. We're doing very well in this Vuelta, but suddenly it's all for nothing because of this misfortune. I don't know if I could have stayed with Contador or not, but it makes no sense talking about it now. Right now I want to send a message of hope to my companions. We've been doing great so far, and we have to keep it up. Our goals will change, but we've worked as a team all along and we have to continue that way. I want to thank all my team-mates for the support they've lended me in this race. I'm convinced we'll continue being protagonists in this race."


The heading says it all, doesn't it? I was so disillusioned yesterday that I couldn't stand the thought of writing about it. But another day brings another mood, at least partly. As you all know Igor crashed out of the Vuelta yesterday, breaking his left collarbone in the process, and thus 13 stages of hard work were wasted. I felt for Igor, of course, but also for his team-mates. It can't be easy to give it your all for your captain, day in, day out, only to see all your work come to nothing when it all looked oh so rosy and it was just about to start. That was hit in the face. Though, I must say, the rest of the team did quite well actually. Of course, they used up most of their energy in leading the peloton the whole day, but still the team placed three riders inside the top 30 on the stage. Egoi came in a creditable 23rd, Amets was 25th, while Rubén impressed with a 29th place on the stage. Results:

  • 23rd, Egoi Martínez, 7:05
  • 25th, Amets Txurruka, 7:42
  • 29th, Rubén Pérez, 8:11
  • 71st, Mikel Astarloza, 15:48
  • 72nd, Iván Velasco, s.t.
  • 76th, Iñigo Landaluze, 16:33
  • 80th, Alán Pérez, 17:11
  • 116th, Koldo Fernández, 19:57

Of course, none of the riders are in the running for a podium place overal anymore. But Egoi is still 8th, so he might be able to finish inside the top 15 or something on GC.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Good day for Euskaltel

Euskaltel will no doubt be pleased with their efforts today; Valverde lost over 3 minutes to Igor, Egoi placed 6th and still leads overall, Igor placed 10, Koldo placed 16 and, by the way, they won the team's competition today. Not bad, huh? So how did Valverde manage to lose three minutes to Igor and the rest of the favourites? It's simple: he didn't pay attention as the pace in the peloton was upped considerably on a descent, resulting in the pack splitting into numerous pieces. Igor, Egoi, Rubén, Mikel, Alán and Koldo were all left in that first group alongside the main Astana riders. The two teams cooperated to great effect, meaning Piti, oh, sorry, Valverde, is now effectively out of the running in terms of a podium place overall. Good day? Yes indeed...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Déjà vu

Euskaltel controlled the pack, Koldo ended up 6th, and Egoi remains in gold. Sounds like yesterday's stage? Most certainly, but today's stage had the exact same outcome. Don't know what more to say really. Everyone but Iván, who paced the peloton for large portions of the day, came in with the main pack. Iván ended dead last today, conceding an irrelevant 5:32. And, by the way, Samu joined up with his team-mates for today's stage, joining Egoi on the podium after the stage.

6 riders out

Euskaltel have announced that the following 6 riders will leave the team at the end of the year: Haimar, Antton, Jon, Dioni, Beñat and Lander. No big surprises there then, but still sad to see it all official. But those riders might not be the only ones who'll have to leave, as the team don't discard the possibility of releasing even more riders.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Egoi remains in gold

Egoi successfully defended his overall lead in the Vuelta stage 10 today. The team took control of affairs early on and chased down all dangerous breakaways. Matej Jurco of Milram was eventually given lee-way and spent the day alone up front. Euskaltel were in the latter stages aided by Rabobank, and the jersey was never in danger. It came down to the anticipated sprint finish, in which Koldo placed 6th. It was a chaotic sprint, with Hinault winning, but Koldo wasn't that far off. Tomorrow will likely give Koldo another shot at winning a stage, as stage 11 is mostly flat. Euskaltel will try to keep hold of the jersey up until the rest day on Friday. Egoi will have a rough time keeping it on the Angliru on Saturday, but if he's still in gold come the rest day, we'll all be pleased.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Galdeano's tribute

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano was naturally a happy man after today's stage. Here's Igor's tribute to the man in gold: "Egoi Martínez is materializing a great season. He started competing in March, in the Tirreno-Adriatico, and was already then in good shape. Without having planned to peak for the Vuelta al País Vasco this year, he still performed at a high level and made sure the colours of the team stayed in the thick of the action. He led the mountains competition and won the prize of most aggressive rider. He then went to the Tour and performed well. After becoming a father in August, he's now racing the Vuelta and has conquered the golden jersey, the first overall leader's jersey in a GT for the team. Egoi's strength is his combativity. He's a man for the good breaks, he never goes empty, and he rescues the team in difficult situations. In Sabiñanigo he got his just reward after coming second on the stage to Prato Nevoso in the Tour. He deserved to win that day, but for several reasons he didn't manage to do so. But what's more important is that Egoi's success is a result of team-work. Jon Odriozola read the race before it even started (I promise you that the objective in Vielha was to grab the leader's jersey through Egoi). Alán Pérez sacrificed his options of winning the stage in favour of Egoi. It's a victory for everyone. But we'll keep our feet on the ground. The best team in this race is Astana. We will, as holder's of the jersey, together with Astana, assume our responsibility."

Egoi over the moon

Speaking shortly after donning the golden jersey of overall leader, the humble Egoi said the following to the assembled media: "It's a dream. This is huge. It's fantastic. We've got two major wins this year; first Samu in Beijing, and now this. But we'll stay true to out initial plan; helping Koldo win a stage and bringing Igor to the podium. I'm the leader because I got into a break, because the pack wasn't interested in chasing, and because I avoided losing too much time the last few days. I'm conscious I'm no star." Well, Egoi, you're a star to all of us at the very least.

Egoi strikes gold

It's an historic day for the team: for the first time ever, an Euskaltel Euskadi rider is leading a Grand Tour. And that rider is our beloved Egoi Martínez. My oh my what a day. But let's rewind for a moment; here's how today's stage unfolded: The stage started with a flurry of attacks, with our own Amets and Egoi between them. They were momentarily reeled back in, but when Egoi jumped away with eventual winner Van Avermaet, the break of the day had been established. A further 9 riders joined in, with Alán being one of them. The break quickly got a nice, big gap back to the Astana-led peloton, and it became clear that the Kazakh team weren't going to pull out all the stops to defend it. Egoi was 16th overall going into the stage, and was thus the highest-ranked rider in the breakaway. The team realised they had the chance of a lifetime to grab the golden fleece, so Egoi wasn't letting any chances of taking a few bonus seconds here and there slip away. He grabbed 10 on the stage to increase his chances of donning the overall leader's jersey at day's end. Alán, though, was essential in Egoi's quest for gold. He totally burried himself at the front of the break to keep the pace high, and really did his utmost to make sure the team got the jersey. Bravo Alán! Egoi and Alán were by now solely concentrated on getting the jersey, not on taking the stage-win. Van Avermaet sprinted to glory at the line, with Egoi coming home at the same time in 10th place. Alán came in 52 seconds later, completely depleted. As the pack got closer and closer to the line it became evident that this one was going to go down to the wire. And it sure did, as Egoi now leads Levi Leipheimer by just 11 seconds. 11 seconds that will forever be etched in the team's history. Congrats Egoi!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Galdeano pleased

"The stage to Pla de Beret made me happy. Euskaltel Euskadi were the only team that really tried to win this stage. We made the race, and we tried to win it. Ascending the Bonaigua, Mikel Astarloza did very well to narrow down the pack. Amets took over his job the last three kilometres. We took control of the race in an intelligent way, without wasting any unnecessary energy. We're not going to do the dirty work for others. We couldn't let Moncoutié get too big a gap if we were to win the stage, and it wasn't in our interest that a group of 60 riders started the climb of Pla de Beret together. Therefore we decided to up the pace. Igor Antón told us he felt good, and that some other riders clearly didn't. The fight for the Vuelta can potentially come down to seconds, so we had to take advantage of the occasion. On one hand to reel in Moncoutié and fight for the stage-win. On the other hand to improve Igor's GC placing. "Fuji" is already 6th. We had another thing on our mind though: We saw Valverde struggling, and that, if Contador and Igor could off-hook him, they could go ahead alone. That would have been very positive; Igor and Contador would have cooperated very well. They didn't manage to leave him behind though, sadly. Anyway, I'm really proud of the team, and I think they'll continue to make us all proud in this race."

Euskaltel impressive in the Pyrenees

Euskaltel put on a great show today on the Vuelta's 8th stage. It was another mountain-top finish, and the team were intent on mixing it with the best. Not much happened until the ascending of the Bonaigua, where Mikel and Amets came to the fore. With a lone rider up the road, French favourite Moncoutié, and still 60 or so riders in the peloton, Euskaltel decided enough was enough and turned up the pace. First Mikel set a ferocious pace at the front of the pack with 5 km to the top. Riders immediately had to let go, and the pack slimmed down considerably. Once Mikel had done his part, Amets took over. With his impressive, gritty riding he managed to slim down the pack even more. It was great stuff to watch; team work at it's most beautiful. You know, it's such a pleasure to watch the small, skinny Amets doing what he knows best; riding full out in the mountains for one of his team-mates. He never stops impressing me. His attitude, an attitude he shares with the rest of the team by the way, is warming to watch, and makes me once again feel proud of my team. Anyway, back to the race... With only the Pla de Beret left to climb, the favourites burst into action. Sastre went out the back quite early and looked exhausted, but he managed to limit his losses to a minimum with what has become his trademark; keeping a steady pace, not overdo it, and keep calm. Contador soon attacked, and only Valverde and Igor managed to follow him. The three came in together, half a minute down or so on Moncoutié, and a few seconds ahead of the other favourites. Igor looks to be at his best, and is already 6th overall. The podium is not that far off... Stage results:
  • 4th, Igor Antón, 0:34
  • 25th, Amets Txurruka, 2:55
  • 27th, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 70th, Mikel Astarloza, 11:43
  • 74th, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 75th, Iván Velasco, s.t.
  • 98th, Alán Pérez, 19:00
  • 135th, Iñigo Landaluze, 23:15
  • 138th, Koldo Fernández, s.t.


  • 6th, Igor Antón, 2:12
  • 16th, Egoi Martínez, 6:41
  • 42nd, Amets Txurruka, 21:29
  • 55th, Mikel Astarloza, 28:10
  • 66th, Iván Velasco, 34:01
  • 71st, Rubén Pérez, 36:28
  • 74th, Iñigo Landaluze, 39:26
  • 105th, Alán Pérez, 53:18
  • 112th, Koldo Fernández, 56:45

OK performance in Hamburg

The Vattefall Cyclassics in Hamburg was on the program for the eight riders that tackled the D-Tour today. They didn't look too tired though, as Iñaki joined the break of the day, and three of the riders, Juanjo, Haimar and Markel, all came in with the main pack. Juanjo was the best of the trio, coming home nicely in 21st place, while Haimar was 35th and Markel 39th. Jon, Iñaki and Aitor H came in further back, while Jorge and Lander abandoned. It was Haimar's last race for the team, so stay tuned for a tribute to the man from Usurbil in the near future...

Euskaltel on the attack in the Pyrenees

The team put on a great show in the Vuelta's first summit-finish stage yesterday. Iñigo got into the break of the day, along with fellow strong-men Zandio, Ballan, De Maar and Meersman. The quintet quickly established a big gap, something which made me dream of a stage-win for Iñigo. On paper, and judging by form, Zandio and Iñigo should easily have been the strongest yesterday. Yet, somehow, they were the first two to get dropped. I have no explanation for it, as it should have been the other way around. Classics men Meersman and Ballan, and all-rounder De Maar, I expected, would go right through the back once the climbing started. It didn't happen though, and we got to witness something very special indeed; Ballan winning a mountain-stage in the Vuelta. How he pulled that off I don't now, but it's close to the weirdest thing, except for Sella's adventures in the Dolomites earlier this year, I've ever seen in this sport. But enough about Ballan's ride... Amets and Egoi also looked lively and in good form, as they attacked the pack up the Rabassa. None of them managed to get away though, but it indicates their form is good. Igor looked awesome coming in with the favourites, and is now 9th overall. I can't wait for today's stage; Igor might just pull it off today I think. Stage 7 results:
  • 6th, Igor Antón, 2:50
  • 21st, Egoi Martínez, 3:48
  • 40th, Amets Txurruka, 9:37
  • 46th, Iñigo Landaluze, 9:59
  • 65th, Mikel Astarloza, 17:12
  • 66th, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 67th, Iván Velasco, s.t.
  • 106th, Alán Perez, 29:55
  • 122nd, Koldo Fernández, s.t.

Time trial delight

Euskaltel placed 3(!) riders inside the top 30 in yesterday's closing ITT in the Deutchland Tour. Aitor H did very well to place 14th. He did well in the prologue as well; he's developing into a good time triallist. He's been doing a lot of good time trials the last years in fact, so well done to him. Markel looks to be getting back to form, placing 17th, while Haimar did okay to claim 29th, though he dropped to 11th overall. The rest of the guys did okay, nothing spectacular: Iñaki was 68th, Jorge 85th, Lander 87th, Juanjo 95th and Jon ended up 110th. That makes for the following final GC:

  • 11th, Haimar Zubeldia, 5:15
  • 27th, Iñaki Isasi, 11:50
  • 29th, Jorge Azanza, 12:33
  • 34th, Markel Irizar, 15:24
  • 40th, Juan José Oroz, 18:10
  • 74th, Aitor Hernández, 41:59
  • 95th, Jon Bru, 54:25
  • 96th, Lander Aperribay, 54:29

Five riders inside the top 40 overall in a race as tough as the D-Tour is no mean feat. Iñaki has really taken big steps as a climber, though that sadly seems to have had an effect on his sprinting. Anyway, the same 8 riders will take on the one-cay classic Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg today, so check back later to find out how they did.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Galdeano's view on Vuelta week 1

"My evaluation of the first week is positive. We didn't think it would work out as well as it has. We start the second week stronger; the moral's good, but we've got our feet on the ground. But it doesn't change too much. There are dangerous riders like Contador, Sastre, Valverde, Gesink, and even Chavanel, who, with the leader's jersey, can put up a fight."

"This year's Vuelta is following the script; Astana will take control of the race, but we'll try to take advantage of the fight between Astana, CSC and Caisse. Personally I'm very pleased with the attitude the team have shown. They've taken good care of our leader, Igor. Simultaneoulsy they do what's in their power for Koldo. From now on the mountains are on the menu, with the summit finish on the Rabassa on the horizon. It's going to us an indication on what's in store for Igor and co."

"The day of rest is complicated. We haven't seen anything as of yet. We'll soon see how strong Contador is. Valverde as well. If Sastre's in the same form as he was in the Tour, he's of course among the top candidates for the win. We'll see an Igor Antón who'll make us dream in this year's race. But, one error and you're out of the running. The level is incredibly high"

"We're past the worst terrain. Zamora and Valladolid are up, but we have a team consisting of Astarloza, Landaluze and Martínez, so the team will watch out for him just as they've done so far. But there's another enemy: it'll be cold. It's been warm, now it'll be cold. Changes of temperature can affect some riders badly."

Koldo's view on Vuelta week 1

"We're done with the first week now, and the team as a whole has peformed well. We got the race off to a good start, placing 2nd in the team time trial in Granada. We were only 8 seconds off first place. The primary goal was to get through this first week unscathed and without too many problems, and we've succeeded. Igor Antón hasn't lost time due to crashes or anything like that, and he did well in the time trial in Ciudad Real. To me, he looks to be in great shape. Now the mountains loom, a terrain in which he excels. It's important not to put pressure on him. If everything goes to plan he'll bring us much joy.

"As a team we've done well. Egoi Martínez went close to grabbing the leader's jersey when on the attack in stage 2, Mikel Astarloza has protected Igor Antón, and Alán and Rubén Pérez have helped me out in the sprints. We try to help one another, and that collaboration forms the basis on which we can perform well day in, day out."

"Speaking of myself, I didn't know at what level I was before taking the start. I'd trained hard, but I didn't feel as good as I did prior to the Giro. I've been feeling good though. In Córdoba I was blocked inside the last kilometre and placed 4th, while I went one better in Puertollano... The positioning has let me down, and that's my weak point. If you are to beat Bennati or Boonen you cannot commit any failures. Now I'll try to get through the Pyrenees without spending too much energy, as my mind is now on doing even better in Zaragoza and Burgos."

Jorge gives it a go

Yesterday Jon tried his luck by joining a break that went all the way. Today it was Jorge's turn. He got into the decisive 11-man break early on but, just like Jon yesterday, didn't really have the legs when it came to fight it out for the win. He eventually placed 8th, which is no mean feat. This propelled him into 28th overall. With one stage to go, an ITT, the GC reads as follows:

  • 10th, Haimar Zubeldia, 2:40
  • 28th, Jorge Azanza, 7:45
  • 29th, Iñaki Isasi, 7:50
  • 41st, Juan José Oroz, 12:48
  • 42nd, Markel Irizar, 13:36
  • 86th, Aitor Hernández, 40:20
  • 100th, Jon Bru, 46:05
  • 103rd, Lander Aperribay, 49:35

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Status quo in Spain and Germany

Not much to say about either race today to be honest, but an honourable mention goes out to Jon who did well to get into the break of the day in Germany and finish 7th on the stage. Jon is without a contract for next year, and he won't get a new one with Euskaltel, so he's doing his best to impress eventual new employers. I would be sad to see talented guys like Jon leave the sport at such an early age, but he'll be fine even if he doesn't get a contract somewhere I think, as he's got his hands full with his Chi Kung stuff. I wish him the best though and hopes he lands a contract somewhere. Not much of importance happened in the Vuelta, as the little climb towards the end of the stage left the team with no real possibility of taking the stage. Everyone came through fine though, so no worries. Tomorrow's the first rest day if I'm not mistaken, but I won't take a rest, so check back tomorrow for more news.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Haimar advances to 10th

Euskaltel opted, yet again, for a day off in the Deutscland Tour. Completely anonymous, but the results weren't that bad in fact. Iñaki and Juanjo both did really well to come in with the 24-man strong lead group at the summit of the small climb at the end of the day. They placed 16th and 17th respectively. Haimar came in a full 24 seconds down in 30th, but nonetheless advanced in the overall standings. He now sits 10th, 2:40 down on leader Gerdemann. Stage results:

  • 16th, Iñaki Isasi, 0:00
  • 17th, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 30th, Haimar Zubeldia, 0:24
  • 38th, Jorge Azanza, 0:58
  • 44th, Markel Irizar, 1:38
  • 77th, Lander Aperribay, 20:37
  • 83rd, Aitor H, s.t.
  • 107th, Jon Bru, 20:44

Igor passes test

The first test for the GC men were on the schedule today, a 42,5-kilometre long individual time trial in and around Ciudad Real. It was a course suited to the specialists against the clock, and Igor was expected to lose a lot of time to his GC rivals, namely Contador, Sastre and Valverde. He didn't though, coming home a good 38th, only 2:35 down on winner Leipheimer. He lost 1:46 to Contador, while he conceded 1:34 to Valverde and 1:05 to Sastre. I have to admit I'm really pleased with that result, as it puts him in 12th place overall already, and just 2:17 back on leader Levi. Judging by his performances so far, though it's still early days, he looks to be in great shape. Can't wait for the Angliru... Mikel was the fastest of our riders today though, as he came in one place ahead of Igor losing three seconds less. In other good news, Egoi got back his lead in the Combined classification, now leading Bettini by 11 points. Stage results:

  • 37th, Mikel Astarloza, 2:33
  • 38th, Igor Antón, 2:35
  • 56th, Rubén Pérez, 3:10
  • 76th, Egoi Martínez, 3:39
  • 83rd, Alán Pérez, 3:54
  • 84th, Amets Txurruka, 3:59
  • 117th, Iñigo Landaluze, 5:24
  • 149th, Koldo Fernández, 6:40
  • 158th, Iván Velasco, 7:31

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Koldo comes close

It's not meant to be, is it? Four days in and we've already got one second place, one third, and one fourth. But, just like in the Giro and the Tour, no first place. Okay, there's many stages left to go, and Euskaltel will probably nick a stage or two, but still, I get fed up with these close misses. I'm not blaming Koldo, or anyone else for that matter, 'cause he's doing a phenomenal job. I'm just praying for the luck to turn our way, sooner rather than later.... If you didn't know before, you've probably got the point by now; Koldo placed third today, being beaten only by Bennati and Boonen, two of the very best sprinters out there. A great achievement. All in all it was a good day for the team, as Igor got some seconds on his closest rivals for the overall crown. Several crashes occured inside the last 10 kilometres, taking with them manuy of the favourites and causing them to lose what may, just may, be crucial seconds. None of the Euskaltel guys got caught up in the crashes, and Igor is now a brilliant 5th overall. He's 59 seconds down on leader Bennati, but more importantly just 11 adrift of Valverde.


Yes, I'm staying. For a while at least. I couldn't let you all down by just leaving, so here we go again. I'll try to update it every day. That's try, not necessarily doing it everyday. But I'll give it my best to make the "deadline". Thanks for all the comments by the way, I really appreciated it. I guess an Euskaltel round-up is obligatory now, a lot has happened since my last post. First things first; a great start to the Vuelta for the team. The team time trial performance was sensational, nothing less. Second places would normally be irritating, but not this time. It was like a win. Great teamwork. Egoi looks to be coming into great shape, and he showed that on stage 2. He was easily the strongest out of the four in the break, including Ignatiev. Of course he was never going to succeed, but it was worth a shot.I expect to see him in more breaks in this race, perhaps he'll be going for the mountains jersey. I'd love to see him do that, as he's got what it takes to win it I reckon. He's won it before, so why not again? Koldo did okay to finish 4th yesterday, but he won't be too pleased I think. He's looking for wins this time around. He's stated he's unsure about his state of form at the moment, but I reckon he's in with a decent chance of nabbing a stage or two. Yesterday he lost all chances of winning with a kilometre to go, as he's was blocked off and forced to brake. If he can just get into the right position he'll be right up there with the very best. There's a race going on in Germany as well, the Deutchland Tour to be precise. Euskaltel have kept a low profile thus far, but Haimar's been doing pretty well to come home with the group of favourite's on each stage. He's 11th overall so far, and he's definetely got a chance to improve that position. "We're doing our best", he said in defence of the team. "It's the last race for me with Euskaltel, as I'll join Astana, and I'd like to go out on a high. A win would be nice, and I feel I have the possibility to grab one. I'm not too far off overall; I'm already thinking of the last time trial." Well done to Haimar, but I must say I'm disappointed that this is his last race. After all, the season's far from over. He owes it to the team to do his utmost 'till the season ends. Some of the riders though have already left the team. Dioni has, regrettably, followed Antton in retiring all together from the sport. Dioni pulled ouf of the ENECO Tour's first stage. Rumours circulated that he'd decided to retire, something which has later been confirmed. Retiring at 29 isn't good. Especially not so for a rider as talented as Dioni. He's had more than his fair share of injuries over the years, injuries which have continuously hampered his progression. I'm sad to see him leave, I think many are. I don't know what he'll do for a living now, but I hope he finds more meaning in whatever he'll do than what he got from professional cycling the last years. Dioni will be missed. So too will Lander, Beñat and Jon, none of whom will get their contracts extended with the team next year. They've all failed to impress this year, so, sadly, it wasn't a big surprise. Several other riders are also in the danger zone of not getting their contracts extended, among them Jorge, Aitor Galdos and Andoni to name but a few. Mikel Nieve will join the team next year, as earlier reported, and might be joined by Eriz Ruiz d'Erenxtun, Madariaga has revealed. I hope he does, as Eriz has put in some impressive performances this year.


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