Friday, September 30, 2011

Samu relishing Beijing reunion

Samu Sánchez will next week return to the place of his career-defining win in the Olympic road race. The five-day Tour of Beijing commences this coming Wednesday, and the Euskaltel captain is looking forward to the challenge, he told

"Being able to go back to where I was crowned Olympic champion means the world to me. It was a very hard race with a testing parcours that ended beautifully. The fight for the medals was intense, and my triumph signalled a 'before' and 'after' in my career. Taking olympic gold is the ultimate achievement in any sport. Needless to say, I'm especially motivated for this race. I'll try to give it my all in this new race on the cycling calendar. Cycling is continuously globalizing: we're doing races in Australia and Canada already, and now China. It's great for the sport that new races are being born all over the world, and these races really enrich the calendar. For me and my team, going to China is very exciting and we'll aim to put on a show for the spectators."

Samu will spearhead a strong team consisting of Nieve, Antón, Astarloza, Landa, J Izagirre, Txurruka and A Pérez. Alvaro González de Galdeano will call the shots from the team car.

Galdeano denies Madariaga-rift

Departing general manager Igor González de Galdeano has denied that a rift with Fundación president Miguel Madariaga is the reason for his leaving. Talking to Basque daily El Correo, Galdeano was keen to put the rumours to bed.

"My decision to leave has got nothing to do with Miguel Madariaga. Let me make it clear: it was a personal decision. Focusing on Madariaga is a big mistake. He's always been there for me 100%. We have a great relationship. We've been working side by side for six years, and I think we go well together. I've got so much to thank Madariaga for. Our relationship will last a life-time."

Galdeano went on to say he's not planning to take a year off next year, but in this moment in time he's not sure what the future holds. He said leaving his job at Euskaltel was no knee-jerk reaction though, having planned it for a year or so. "I started to think about leaving in October last year. I told Madariaga of my intentions prior to this year's Giro, and by the end of the Tour I had made up my mind".

He reiterated that the time-consuming nature of the job is what made him leave, saying he was exhausted. "I'm tired of having no days off. It really is a 365-days a year job. It wears you out. I had to take this decision".


  • Javier Aramendía looks set to join Caja Rural. The 24-year-old did not get his contract renewed at Euskaltel after four years with the team, and will, according to BiciCiclismo, team up with erstwhile team-mate Aitor Galdós at the Spanish Pro Conti team. The move marks a homecoming of sorts for the Funes, Navarra native, who spent his formative years at Caja Rural's amateur team prior to joining Euskaltel.
  • Orbea will today embark on their last race of the season; the Tour d'Empordá. The Conti team will send the following six riders to the French three-stage event according to Euskaltel's homepage: Aberasturi, Sáez, Etxebarria, Bizkarra, Bagües, García.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Euskaltel team structure sum-up

In wake of Igor González de Galdeano's decision to step down from his post as general manager, a whole host of changes have taken place at Euskaltel. Here's a sum-up of who'll do what in 2012:

  • Miguel Madariaga will, by his own admission, take over Galdeano's post. He'll also remain president of the Fundación Euskadi.
  • Gorka Gerrikagoitia will take charge of the sporting side of things. He's still likely to be in the team car quite a lot as well though.
  • According to BiciCiclismo, Iñaki Isasi will retire and become a DS. The team recently revealed he'd signed a new one-year deal with them, so this is obviously a decision taken in the last few days.
  • Taking Isasi's spot on the roster will be Orbea rider Adrián Sáez, originally let go by Orbea last week as Euskaltel had no room for another rider. The 25-year-old has had a decent season with the Continental outfit. There was no mention of the length of Sáez's contract.

Galdeano's departure shrouded in mystery

Igor González de Galdeano left Euskaltel for "personal reasons". That's the official version. According to DEIA, that's not necessarily the case.

Sources have told the well-informed Basque daily that the relationship between Galdeano and Fundación head Madariaga is not what it once was. Allegedly, Galdeano was not happy with the way the project was shaping up for the future, neither on an economic nor on a sporting level. This "rift" is supposed to have surfaced before this year's Giro d'Italia way back in May. Madariaga denies any such "rift", but does admit Galdeano's resignation wasn't totally unexpected. "It's something Igor has been talking about for some time", he stated. "After the Tour it became apparent that he would leave. We decided to wait 'till after the Vuelta before making if official. But Igor is still my best friend."

Another source has it that Galdeano was growing tired of continuously having to deal with sponsors that weren't willing to provide the necessary funds. Galdeano was concerned about the future of the team - a "dark" future - and the departures of talented riders like Intxausti and, more recently, Castroviejo. Insufficient funds and support (especially from the Basque government) mean Euskaltel can not compete with the top teams in the sport, and thus the team is forced to let its prized assets leave.

Yet another source claims Galdeano couldn't take the constant pressure that comes with leading a project like Euskaltel any more. The work-load has gotten the better of him. "Only Madariaga can handle this amount of pressure", Galdeano is quoted as saying.

The newspaper goes on to say that he'll likely take a full year off next year before returning with another team in 2013. Miguel Madariaga will take over Galdeano's role in the team as of 1 january 2012.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Galdeano to step down

Euskaltel head Igor González de Galdeano will step down from the post of general manager at the end of the season and leave the team altogether. The surprising news broke earlier this afternoon, and according to the team's website, Galdeano's retirement is due to "personal reasons". Speaking to, Fundación president Miguel Madariaga seemed taken aback by the news.

"I've had a chat with him, and the only thing I asked of him was to stay 'till the end of the year. Igor will himself explain why he's decided to take this measure when he sees fit," Madariaga, who enjoys a close personal relationship with the former rider, said.

The man himself was keen to highlight that this by no means signals an end to the team or Euskaltel's WorldTour-status, saying:

"This is not the end for this team. I need new challenges in my life, so that's why I've opted to leave. My relationship with Miguel is more than simply a professional one. I guess that's why leaving this project is so hard for me. I've served this team for six years now, and I have complete faith in the directors that have worked by my side to take this project forward. They know the team and the project's value. Miguel still has a great team at his disposal and, of course, he can always count on my support."

De Galdeano will stay in the job 'till the turn of the year. Who'll take his place is yet to be decided, but the team confirmed that they'll make changes to the team's structure (whatever that means) in the near future. Stay tuned for more news.

Samu looks to 2014 Worlds

This year's Worlds parcours didn't suit Samu's characteristics, cue his non-appearance, but the 2014 edition in his home country most surely does. Speaking at the unveiling of Orbea's new range of bikes for 2012 in León yesterday, the affable Asturian was keen to discuss the Ponferrada Worlds with the assembled press. "With it's 3000 metres of elevation gain, it looks like a hard circuit", he told "The fact that the Worlds will be in Spain obviously motivates me even more. It adds more pressure as well though. But I hope to be there in 2014, as the course really looks to suit me."

As for the rest of the season, Samu is down to do the Tour of Beijing in a week's time. He's also likely to once again challenge in the Giro di Lombardia before taking a well-deserved break.

Duo leave Euskaltel

Javier Aramendía and Daniel Sesma will both leave Euskaltel at the end of the current season, writes El Correo today. The duo's contracts were up for renewal, but Galdeano and co. have opted against it. There was no mention of potential new suitors for either of them at the moment.

Iñaki Isasi and Alan Pérez will get their contracts prolonged though, writes the same paper. The former will thus embark on his 12th season with the team next year, while the latter has been around since 2006.

More news on Euskaltel's roster for 2012 to come in the next few days.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Orbea 2012

As reported earlier, Orbea have signed up five new riders for next season. Four (alternatively six) will stay on, while three have been let go. Here's a sum-up:

  • Arrivals: Omar Fraile and Illart Zuazubiskar (Seguros Bilbao), Haritz Orbe (Bidelan-Kirolgi), Carlos Barbero and Igor Merino (Naturgas Energia)
  • Departures: Noel Martín, Beñat Urain, Adrián Sáez de Arregi
  • Stayers: Jon Aberasturi, Mikel Bizkarra, Aritz Etxebarria, Aritz Bagües
In addition, injured riders Xabier Zabalo and Andoni Blázquez will have a spot on the team if they recover sufficiently. The former's injuries are already well documented. The latter is continuously troubled by his knee.

All new signings are in my opinion quality additions. Orbe has represented Spain several times in big races, while Fraile is one of the biggest talents in the Spanish peloton and has already signed a contract with Euskaltel for 2013 and 2014. Zuazubiskar has shown great progress this year and adds some much-needed time trialling pedigree, while Merino and Barbero are both highly regarded by national coach Dos Santos and will make an impact already next year I reckon. Despite Miguel Madariaga's comments to the contrary, I'm not too worried about the future of Basque cycling when I look at the quality in all three of the Fundación Euskadi's teams as well as talent-factories like Seguros Bilbao and Bidelan.

Orbea reveal acquisitions

BiciCiclismo today writes that Carlos Barbero and Illart Zuazubiskar will join Orbea ahead of the 2012 season. The former has enjoyed another stellar season with Naturgas so it was no big surprise to see the 20-year-old make the jump. The latter - who's posted several top 10s in ITTs this year - comes over from Seguros Bilbao and is the team's last acquisition. In addition to Barbero and Zuazubiskar, Fraile, Merino and Orbe will team up with the Continental team next year.

Orbea will keep hold of Aberasturi, Etxebarria, Bizkarra, Bagües, Zabalo and Blazquez next year, meaning Martín, Sáez and Urain have been let go. Stay tuned for further news.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Duo join Orbea

Naturgas rider Igor Merino and Bidelan-Kirolgi rider Haritz Orbea will ride for Orbea next year, reports BiciCiclismo. 21-year-old Merino has had another solid season with the red squad and was virtually a dead-certainty to make the step up. 20-year-old Orbe shone for Spain in the recent Tour de l'Avenir and will no doubt strengthen the team for the 2012 season.

The team is set to reveal two new faces tomorrow afternoon and, according to BiciCiclismo, one of them will get 'promoted' from Naturgas, while the other will come over from Seguros Bilbao. Stay tuned tomorrow for the latest transfer news.


  • One-day French Cup-race Tour de Vendée is coming up this Sunday, and Euskaltel will for the third year running send a team. 2009-winner Koldo Fernández will be present, and so too will Landa, Cazaux, Aramendía, Azanza, Isasi, Oroz and Bilbao. Source:
  • Orbea were active throughout in this weekend's two-stage Tour de Gevaudan. García and Sáez both made their way into the race-deciding 25-man break early on in stage one, but couldn't keep it up and eventually ended up 11th and 30th respectively. Martín, Bizkarra and Bagües came home with a large group some 22 minutes adrift, while Extebarria ended up 35:47 in arrears. The stage went to Guillaume Levarlet. Day two ended with another Levarlet-triumph. Sáez, Martín and Bagües finished 18th, 22nd and 26th at 1:55, while García was 45th, Bizkarra 49th and Etxebarria 57th. On GC, Sáez finished 24th, García 26th, Martín 32nd, Bagües 35th, Bizkarra 46th and Etxebarria 59th. Despite not grabbing any notable results, DS Díaz was happy, telling that "we were very close, but just missed out".
  • Naturgas Energía ended their season with the three-day Vuelta a Cantabria yesterday. Grijalba's tenth on Saturday was the closest they came to taking what would have been a sensational win in light of the level of competition. Jon Larrinaga was awarded the 'most aggressive rider'-prize overall after being on the attack continuously, while Aitor González - on loan from Debabarrena - finished as top rider in 21st place on GC.

Astarloza honing form on track

Mikel Astarloza has recently taken part in the Spanish National Track Championships. The San Sebastián resident placed a decent fifth in the omnium and was pleased with his performance - especially with a view on what's to come on the road later this season. "It's been excellent training for the upcoming races", he writes on his own webpage. "I'm very happy with my form at the moment. I was fifth in the omnium, so overall I'm pleased. The racing is more intense on the track than on the road, so it's been excellent training in that respect." Astarloza is not down to ride the Tour de Vendée in early October, but is slated for the inaugural Tour of Beijing 5-9 october.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Zabalo recovering; undecided over future

Orbea rider Xabier Zabalo is likely to make a full recovery from injuries sustained in that terrible crash at the Giro della Valle d'Aosta in late August. The 23-year-old was diagnosed with a hematoma, a fractured temporal bone and a broken jaw. Zabalo remembers nothing from the incident, but told El Diario de Navarro that he's glad he doesn't. "I don't remember anything from the accident. Not before or after it either. No one is completely sure how it happened. The team DS saw my bike crushed against the guardrail at the top of a cliff and me lying face-down on the pavement on the opposite side. I actually prefer not to remember anything", he said, adding that he simply feels "lucky to be alive".

After having a clot removed and his face "reconstructed" after several days in the ICU and the operating room, Zabalo says he's now just happy to be healthy. "I think just being alive and healthy will take on a new meaning for me", he said philosophically. "You know there's a risk involved when you ride your bike for a living, but you don't really give it much thought." Whether he'll return to the peloton is still undecided though: "I enjoyed being a professional cyclist and I'll enjoy riding my bike even after this. But I won't go for a ride until I'm 100% recovered. My body will tell me if I should keep riding a bike as a pro. If I have to put an end to my career I won't care too much as my studies mean I have other options in life. Life will go on. Orbea have assured me there's a place for me on the team if I want to continue though. We'll see".

Aberasturi 13th in Worlds

Orbea rider Jon Aberasturi sprinted to a creditable 13th in the Sub-23 Worlds road race in Copenhagen earlier today. The 22-year-old, the lone Spaniard towards the sharp end of the field, didn't really get his sprint going and had to settle for a place outside the top 10. Post-race, Aberasturi wasn't pleased. "It's a shame. I'd saved my forces all day long to arrive at the sprint in the best possible shape. But once there I was all by myself, in stark contrast to several other teams", he told RFEC's homepage. "I'm not satisfied as I could have finished higher up. The course is not hard - even though it does take its toll - so I think it'll come down to a bunch sprint on Sunday. Freire can do very well".

Friday, September 23, 2011

Aberasturi looking for gold

Orbea rider Jon Aberasturi will line up as one of the dark horses for the win in today's under-23 World Champs road race in Copenhagen. The 22-year-old speedster will take the start as one of five Spaniards and knows his burst of speed might come in handy if the race comes down to the anticipated bunch kick. "Being here at the Worlds is something I've dreamed of all year, and the truth is I'm feeling pretty good at the moment", he told DEIA. Having taken an impressive sprint win at the GP Portugal earlier this year, Aberasturi will be a marked man going into the final. He'll count on the support of Jesús Ezquerra, Jordi Símon, Roman Osuna and Víctor Martín. Especially Símon has been strong lately, so it's by no means a foregone conclusion that that the Orbea youngster will be their main man. Nonetheless, he's aiming to "show himself" if the race does conclude with a sprint. The parcours totals 170 kilometres and is not particularly lumpy, so look out for a top performance from the Basque.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weekend line-ups

  • Orbea haven't concluded their season just yet. Tomorrow, a team comprising six riders will embark on the French three-day race Tour de Gevaudan. Bagües, García, Bizkarra, Sáez, Etxebarria and Martín will line up for Díaz's team.
  • Naturgas Energía will take on the three-day Vuelta a Cantabria tomorrow with a new rider in its ranks, reports Aitor González is coming over on loan from fellow Basque team Debabarrena to be able to "get to know Naturgas Energía and see how we do things over here", according to DS Arberas. Joining González will be Larrinaga, Legarra, Baudron, Grijalba and Alain González.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Castroviejo 11th in TT Worlds

Jonathan Castroviejo powered his way to an 11th place in today's 46,4km World Champs ITT in Copenhagen. He thus fulfilled his stated objective of finishing inside the top 12, and will surely be pleased to have bested riders like Brajkovic, Phinney, Tuft, Larsson, Oliveira, Sergent and Pinotti to name but a few. The Getxo-native, who'll switch to Movistar in 2012, occupied third place for quite a while as rider after rider came in slower than him. Only when Fuglsang edged in front of him by four seconds he was forced to step off the preliminary podium. Talking to afterwards, the crono specialist was quite pleased with his performance. "I'm really happy with my performance. I wasn't at my very, very best, but I felt pretty good out there", he said, ever modest. "I feel, though, that I lack the kind of form competition gives you. I trained a lot the last few weeks but I haven't done any races in over a month. Obviously, finishing top 10 would have looked better, but the competition was fierce. But I have no idea how Martin managed to put three minutes into me and clock more than 51km/h. He's impressive".

National coach José Luís De Santos was more than pleased with his young charge, telling the same website that "Castroviejo was simply sensational. He did well throughout and I knew he'd finish high up the standings."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Final Lehendakari-standings

The Torneo Lehendakari came to a close on Sunday. The 24-race series ended with Naturgas an impressive second in the team rankings, the red brigade only beaten by Caja Rural. Karol Domagalski, of the same team, had the win sewed up a long time ago and won with some ease. Igor Merino was the top-placed Naturgas rider in ninth, while Fernando Grijalba finished up 19th. Omar Fraile - at Orbea in 2012 - finished 11th.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Castroviejo aiming for top result at Worlds

Going into his very first World Championship, crono specialist Jonathan Castroviejo is understandably excited. But he's not in Copenhagen just to make up the numbers, as he told the Spanish Cycling Federation's own website. "I don't want to set any specific goals, but if I was to finish among the twelve best I'd be really pleased. A top-six result would be amazing. But mainly I just want to pay the coach back for the confidence he's shown in me", he said. Speaking of his preparation, the soon-to-be Movistar rider was worried a month-long absence from competition might hamper him. "I haven't competed for over a month so I don't know exactly where I'm at. But I've been feeling really good in training, so I'm eager to get going. I've been putting in a lot of high-intensity hours behind a scooter, so I should be fine. Overall it's a big challenge for me, but I'm also aiming to do well and gain some experience at this level. Being at the World Champs is a dream for any young boy so naturally I feel privileged. Who'll take the win? Like everyone else, I'll say it's between Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara."

Grijalba nabs one for Naturgas

Fernando Grijalba made sure Naturgas Energía ended their Torneo Lehendakari-campaign on a high this weekend. Two races, one in Oñati yesterday and one in Bergara today, closed out the 24-race series and Grijalba - who'll be aiming to join Orbea ahead of next year - took an impressive solo win in the former. The punchy youngster came home two seconds ahead of Aitor González of Debabarrena in second and five ahead of team-mate Jon Larrinaga in third. In today's race in Bergara the latter placed an impressive fifth to put the finishing touches to a promising late-season for him. Polish standout Karol Domagalski took overall honours. Check back tomorrow for final standings.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stars ride for charity

Euskaltel and Orbea riders today took part in a local charity event called the 'Biziberria', raising funds for the Fundación Vicente Ferrer, reports The charity ride - which saw Antón, Fernández, Minguez and R Pérez from Euskaltel and Extebarria, García, Sáez and Bizkarra from Orbea line up - started at around 10:00 am this morning close to the iconic Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and finished up a few hours later. Earlier this year, in April to be precise, the Fundación Euskadi teamed up with the same organization to provide cycling clothes and accessories for poor children in India.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Landa looking forward to late-season

Mikel Landa will soon close out a memorable first season with Euskaltel. The Murgia-native recently contested the two one-dayers in Canada and will at the start of October travel to China for the inaugural five-day stage-race in Beijing. After that, only Piemonte and Lombardia remain before the climber can take a well-earned rest. The queen-stage winner in the Vuelta a Burgos wasn't too happy with his performances over in Canada though. "I didn't feel good. I don't know if it was the allergies or the jet-lag or whatever, but I wasn't in the shape I though I'd be", he told El Correo today. "I was impressed with the organization though. Everything was top notch over there".

"The Tour of Beijing in an unknown quantity. It'll be five days of racing and we'll see how it turns out. It's the first time ever the team will be heading for China, for what is a WorldTour-event, so it'll be exciting. We'll do our best. Then I'll go straight to Piemonte and Lombardia. I'm not quite sure how my body will handle that much traveling, but I'll take it as it comes. I think my form is on the up though, so hopefully I can keep that going all the way to Lombardia".

Nieve coy on Tour

Having won queen-stages in both the Vuelta and the Giro over the past year, one would expect Mikel Nieve to be aiming for the biggest race of them all next year: the Tour de France. Talking to the Diario de Navarra a couple of days ago though, the Leitza native was anything but certain about making his Tour debut next year. "Sure, I'd like to ride the Tour sometime, but it's not an objective for me at this moment in time", the featherweight climber - never one to get carried away - said matter-of-factly. Having done three Grand Tours in his career and finished inside the top-11 every single time, Nieve is a proven GT contender and would undoubtedly add something to the team in July. But his time trialling keeps letting him down. "My body is just not suited to it. I'm lightweight and I have to pay for it", he said. "I've ever only done three long ITTs, so it shouldn't be too hard to improve a little bit if I did some specific work on my time trial bike. I'll never be a good rider against the clock, but I can definitely improve." Nieve went on to say that he "thoroughly enjoyed" doing two GTs this year and that he might well do the same Giro-Vuelta combo next year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Naturgas come up short in Bermeo

It just isn't working out for Naturgas these days. In the Circuito Sollube in Bermeo on Sunday, the guys in red were once again active but were left with little to show for it. Loic Chetout made it into a dangerous-looking eight-man move but the break didn't stick and it all came down to a bunch-sprint for second behind solo winner Karol Domagalski of Caja Rural. Jon Larrinaga, who's coming on in leaps and bounds, grabbed a decent 12th, while González was 21st, Carazo 31st, García 38th, Legarra 40th, Ocampos 47th, Chetout 48th and Merino 52nd. "We're left with a bittersweet feeling. The team worked really well but we just couldn't finish it off", a slightly disappointed Aritz Arberas told after the race. Two races in the Torneo Lehendakari-series remain, and they're both coming up next weekend.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Duo left out of Worlds

Neither Egoi Martínez nor Koldo Fernández will represent Spain in Copenhagen in two week's time. National coach José Luis De Santos revealed the final nine-man roster earlier today and the Euskaltel duo is not included. Set to ride is Freire, Barredo, Garate, LL Sánchez, Reynes, Erviti, Lastras, Rojas and Flecha.

Jonathan Castroviejo will ride the time trial though, so at least the team is represented in some capacity.

Montréal & WorldTour-ranking

  • Samuel Sánchez gave it a real go in the closing stages of the GP Montréal but eventually had to settle for 17th. The Olympic champ, obviously feeling better than he did on Friday when cramps got the better of him, escaped out of a select chase group in an attempt to catch leading trio Costa, Fédrigo and Denifl. He never really got far though and was reeled in by the main chase group. He ended up four seconds down in 17th place. Youngsters Mínguez and J Izagirre performed well over the testing 205,tkm course to place 30th and 32nd respectively, both at just ten seconds and ahead of the likes of Leipheimer and Gesink - both highly fancied to fight for top honours. Landa came through in 73rd place, while Sicard, Astarloza, Velasco and A Pérez all abandoned.
  • Despite a rather strong Vuelta campaign, Euskaltel slipped to 14th in the all-important WorldTour-rankings. Euskaltel hold a 59-point gap over Astana in 15th and a more comfortable 103-point lead over Quick Step in 16th but, with both teams likely to invest heavily in the winter to collect more points, it really doesn't look to good for Euskaltel ahead of the last few races. Strong performances in Beijing and Lombardia will be vital in securing WorldTour-status for 2012.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Vuelta conclusion

The Vuelta a España came to a close earlier this afternoon with the traditional final stage into Madrid. The Euskaltel riders kept a low profile, choosing to focus on coming through unscathed and holding onto Nieve's fine 10th place overall. Nieve came home inside the pack to hold onto his creditable GC placing, while the team as expected finished the race ranked third in the team rankings. The final GC looks like this:
  • 10, Mikel Nieve
  • 30, Amets Txurruka
  • 33, Igor Antón
  • 36, Gorka Verdugo
  • 50, Juan José Oroz
  • 55, Egoi Martínez
  • 71, Iñaki Isasi
  • 97, Jorge Azanza
  • 148, Pierre Cazaux
Euskaltel were thus one of only a handful of teams to finish the race with all nine riders. Though the leaders - Nieve and Antón - failed and succeeded in equal measures at various points in the race, the team as a whole performed admirably. The team had riders in breaks on all the important stages and secured a stage-win and a top ten overall placing through carefully planned and perfectly executed team-work. DS Gorka Gerrikagoitia seemed to agree, telling the team's website post-stage that "overall it's been a very positive Vuelta for us. Things went wrong right from the off, but the team coped well with the change of objectives and the final result is highly satisfactory. We never gave up and in the end we got our stage. Antón's win in Bilbao was the result of exemplary team-work. Overall, the riders have performed really well. We were represented in all the big breaks and in the end finished third in the team rankings - without that ever being an objective for us."

Mikel Nieve was naturally pleased with his final position on GC. "For me, this Vuelta has been good. I came with a job to do (helping Antón) and ended up doing something completely different", he told the team's website. "We changed our goals and we responded. We moved up on GC, infiltrated the breaks... I did my best and so I'm pleased with this tenth place. If I improve my time trialling I might be able to finish even higher up in a Vuelta or a Giro some day. We'll see how I develop, but right now I won't spend time thinking about it. I'm pleased with my race and I like chasing stage-wins."

Antón was also looking on the bright side of things when asked to summarize his Vuelta experience. "The team passed this test with flying colours. The historic win in Bilbao, Nieve's tenth overall and third in the team rankings is a good haul. Personally, it's been a very important race. I've learned how to cope with adversity and come out on the other side with the win of my life. I'm really pleased with this Vuelta; I've learned more than I've ever done before. I wouldn't change the win in Bilbao for a podium place. No way."

Ibán salutes Vuelta homecoming

The Urkiola delivered on its promise yesterday with exceptional racing and an exceptional turn-out of fans. Among the many thousands cheering the riders on on the mythical climb, was Ibán Mayo, writes DEIA. And like the majority of fans present, he was overjoyed. "These two days have been incredible", he told the Basque daily. "Yesterday (Friday) was awesome and today (Saturday) was awesome. It's the first time I've seen the Vuelta in the Basque Country and I can see people have been waiting for this moment. A lot of people have dressed in orange and, even though it'll be hard for Euskaltel to win again today, this is just fantastic".

Looking for sponsors

With the team's future only secure 'till the end of the 2012 season, Fundación Euskadi president Miguel Madariaga has a busy winter ahead of him. Speaking to DEIA a day after Antón vowed a whole nation with his etapón into Bilbao, the eccentric Madariaga was sounding optimistic. "I'm not worried this team might end one day. Euskaltel-Euskadi will stay in the peloton", he stated confidently. "Next year will be very important as I'll try to keep this team going into at least 2013 and 2014. Having to find new sponsors and renew existing ones all the time is tough. If you want to be a part of the WorldTour and take part in the biggest races, ideally you'd want a four-year deal. But I have no doubt we'll succeed. I really hope we do, because this team means so much to so many people. Euskaltel is in the hearts of thousands of Basques. Sometimes I feel the team's value is underestimated. If we were given the recognition we deserve and people really understood how important this team is, we wouldn't have to scramble for sponsors all the time. We'd go on forever!".


  • Euskaltel will send pretty much all their big stars to the Tour of Beijing, reports Cyclingnews. The race, which kicks off at October 5, will see nine orange-clad riders in action, and it's not just any nine: Samuel Sánchez, Mikel Astarloza, Mikel Nieve, Amets Txurruka, Igor Antón, Jon Izagirre, Álan Pérez, Pierre Cazaux and Romain Sicard. Landa and Aramendía are listed as reserves. The five-day event is the penultimate WorldTour-ranked race of the year, and so securing points towards that ranking is of utmost importance. I assume that's the reason they'll be sending such a powerful team.
  • Víctor Cabedo was today forced to abandon the Tour de l'Avenir on the race's penultimate stage. The Orbea rider has been struggling all race, and I can only expect it's because of a virus or something like that. More news on Cabedo's DNF will be posted here in the coming days.
  • For those of you who missed out on the Challenge Sprint Pro in Québec on Thursday night, the first of its kind, Romain Sicard went out at the earliest possible stage of the competition. Not unexpectedly, former track ace Michael Mörköv took the spoils.
  • Naturgas will line-up at the Clásica de Bermeo on Sunday hoping to repeat last year's victory in the team rankings. Roster: Barbero (who crashed badly a the recently-concluded Vuelta a Salamanca), Baudron, Carazo, Chetout, García (who also crashed out of Salamanca), González, Grijalba, Guinea, Larrinaga, Legarra, Merino and Ocampos.

Vuelta stage 20

It was a rather quiet day for the team - for once - in the Vuelta today. Isasi and Txurruka both got into the day's massive big main break and gave Euskaltel some presence up ahead in front of the Basque faithfuls, but the fugitives were as expected reeled back in by a Leopard-Trek team hungry for success. And success they got in the shape of Bennati's sprint win. Everyone, bar Cazaux and Azanza, cruised home with the peloton. The former ceded 10:23, the latter 15:48. Ahead of tomorrow's traditional (or should we say boring) last stage into Madrid, Nieve is 10th overall and the team is ranked third.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Madariaga praises fans

Miguel Madariaga was quick to praise the huge turn-out of fans on yesterday's epic stage into Bilbao in the wake of Antón's equally epic win. The Basque fans (or is that fanatics) did their country and region proud by turning up in their thousands on the Vivero, in downtown Bilbao and, well, pretty much everywhere along the route. "This must surely be the Vuelta stage with the biggest amount of fans lining the road. Ever", he told BiciCiclismo. "No team in the entire world has this many fans. So this is obviously the most emotional and important victory. The last few kilometres were so hard because we knew the route inside-out and knew we needed a 30-second gap. We really suffered - the pressure was on us all day - but we knew Antón could make it to the line when he had 32 seconds at the top of the Vivero. It was emotional".

Antón relieved at Bilbao-win

Igor Antón was visibly moved and delighted at taking Euskaltel's first stage in this year's Vuelta - and thus secured the team wins in every GT this season - in his own backyard. "I can't really comprehend what I've just done", he said to raucous applause post-stage. "To win here, in front my of fellow Basques and friends, is quite extraordinary. I've failed in the fight for the overall but this win makes up for it. You always hold your very first win dear - and wins like that on the Zoncolan of course - but this one is easily my best. It's a special win in special surroundings. To win here in Bilbao is very much a dream come true. I dedicate it to all the fans, especially those who turned out en masse on the Vivero. I wanted to try for the win for all my friends who packed that climb. It was fantastic to have so many fans cheering you on so close up."

He admitted though that he was nervous upon taking the start of the stage as much was expected of him and his team-mates in the first stage in the Basque Country since 1978. "I was nervous this morning as I knew it was a special day. It was imperative to get into the break, but that's never an easy thing to accomplish. Eventually I got into it and it felt right. Verdugo did a great job in helping me out and the break stuck."

Before going onto the podium, he shed some light on why his form has been everything but great in this year's race. "I didn't really recover well from the Giro d'Italia. I started training intensively and then I got gastroenteritis. I didn't feel good on the bike. I improved in Burgos, but it was like I was riding with the brakes on. I guess cycling isn't an exact science. I did the same races and the same training as last year but it just hasn't worked out."

Québec, l'Avenir & Urduliz

  • Mikel Astarloza showed he's back close to his best in the GP Québec yesterday, while captain Samu Sánchez had to abandon with leg cramps. The former stayed attentive near the front of the race throughout and eventually finished a good 15th, 1:23 in arrears. It's easily his best result since his comeback. The only other Euskaltel rider to finish was Jon Izagirre who came home 73rd. All eight riders took the start despite six of them being involved in that big training-ride pile-up.
  • Víctor Cabedo had a tough day in the saddle in yesterday's fifth Tour de l'Avenir stage. The soon-to-be Euskaltel rider finished next to last at a big 40:31 on the 171,5km trek from Champagnole to Le Salève. Omar Fraile posted a DNF, while Caja Rural's much-hyped Basque Garikoitz Bravo spent the majority of the day up ahead in the break of the day, picking up enough points to now sit atop the KOM-rankings.
  • Fernando Grijalba was as usual on the offensive in yesterday's Torneo Lehendakari-race in Urduliz. The youngster, who's likely to join Orbea for the upcoming season, escaped with five other riders 30 kilometres out, writes BiciCiclismo, and the sextet were left to duke it out for the win as they quickly built up an unassailable lead. The Naturgas Energía rider was left to settle for sixth place though as he had to let go of his breakaway companions towards the end. Cueva El Soplao rider Gerardo Rienda took an impressive win ahead of Caja Rural's 21-year-old Dutchman Niek Van Geffen.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Antón lands legendary win

The script couldn't really have been written any better. The leading Basque rider on the leading Basque team winning solo on Basque territory 33 years on since last time the Vuelta paid a visit. It was the stuff of legends, a moment that will live long in the memory of those present. And it was nothing more than Igor Antón and Euskaltel deserved. Going clear early on along with team-mate Verdugo, Movistar's Bruseghin and Astana's Dyachenko, Antón dropped them one by one on his way to a commanding solo win in downtown Bilbao. Hailing from nearby Galdakao, Antón was as close to home as he'll ever be and fulfilled everyone's expectations. The fans went crazy as he put his arms aloft and shook DS Gerrikagoitia's hand in the team car before crossing the line 41 seconds clear of Bruseghin. Nerz, local hero Haimar Zubeldia and Sørensen led the pack home a minute and a half later, and the presence of Txurruka and Nieve in that reduced group of favourites secured Euskaltel the win in the team rankings as well. Perfect. Check back later tonight for full results and reactions from the main players.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Vuelta, l'Avenir & Salamanca

JJ Oroz went on the attack in today's 18th Vuelta a España stage. The lanky all-rounder went clear with a strong-looking 17-man group early on and they got to duke it out between them for the win as Geox decided to take it easy and rest up for tomorrow's potentially more taxing stage. Gavazzi and Vandewalle escaped on a small incline with 2500 metres to go and finished first and second, while the Euskaltel rider came home a solid seventh 10 seconds down. Though easily one of the strongest in the break, Oroz was easily the most unpopular one as well. As Euskaltel took control of the peloton inside the last 30km to avoid jeopardizing Nieve's hard-earned 10th place on GC, Oroz was naturally told by the team car not to take any pulls in the break. That's pretty standard. You don't contribute in towing along a break when your own team is pulling the pack behind you. That didn't go down too well with his fellow escapees, though, as Rodríguez, Kiserlovski and co. continuously remonstrated with him. The other riders just didn't seem to get it and vented their anger non-stop. Oroz did the right thing though no doubt. The pack, including Nieve, Verdugo, Martínez and Txurruka, came home 7:42 later, while Isasi came home 15 seconds further adrift. Antón and Cazaux ended up 9:44 in arrears, and Azanza 12:01. Oroz warned the rest of the peloton that Euskaltel will go all out to win tomorrow's stage into Bilbao, so be sure to don't miss out on what promises to be a spectacular day of racing in spectacular surroundings.

Cabedo struggled to keep up on today's fourth l'Avenir stage and came in 5:57 down on the peloton in 83rd place. Omar Fraile finishes two places back in the same time. Cabedo lies in 65th overall, 17:10 down on leader Boily of Canada.

The Vuelta a Salamanca came to a close today with the fifth and final stage. Spaniard Prades took the win from a small breakaway group. The young Naturgas youngsters once again failed to impose themselves but will no doubt have a learned a lot from competing in such a high-calibre race. Chetout and Larrinaga placed 35th and 42nd respectively, both at 19:01, while Merino, Carazo and Ocampos came home with a group 13:55 back. On GC, Larrinaga was 54th, Ocampos 59th, Chetout 64th, Merino 65th and Carazo 79th.

Sicard volunteers for sprint challenge

24 riders will battle it out this evening to win the new event on tap in Canada: the Challenge Sprint Pro, a knock-out sprint competition held on a one-kilometre course in downtown Québec. The event is thought to be similar to that of a sprint event you see on the track and will feature many of the peloton's most explosive riders. And Romain Sicard. With no sprinters on Euskaltel's plane to Canada, the team asked for a volunteer, and the French youngster kindly put his hand up. It'll sure be interesting to see how a climber like Sicard fares against the world's fastest riders. Tune in to Eurosport tonight to find out.

Training crash in Québec

Six out of eight Euskaltel riders crashed on a training ride in Québec yesterday, reports Cyclingnews. Apparently one of the riders touched wheels with the one in front of him and took with him five riders. Miguel Mínguez is reportedly the one worst off.

"A rider lost concentration and touched a wheel. He went down", said Samu Sánchez at the team's hotel. "No one was prepared for it and suddenly we were all on the tarmac. Obviously not what you want to happen on a training ride. Mínguez took the brunt of the crash and I reckon it's unlikely he'll line-up on Friday."

On a similar training ride prior to last year's event, the same thing happened. "It's not ideal", Samu said matter-of-factly.

There's no official word from the team yet.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Vuelta stage 17

Mikel Nieve moved into the top 10 after a strong showing on today's 17th stage of the Vuelta a España. The last summit-finish stage saw Froome and Cobo duke it out, but Antón and Nieve weren't far behind in fifth and sixth respectively. The duo crossed the line side by side at 27 seconds, meaning Nieve ascended to tenth overall, ten seconds ahead of No 11 Poels. Nieve had a couple of digs at the stage-win inside the last few kilometres with some powerful surges but couldn't get away. Txurruka also tried his luck five kilometres out, but despite his admirable attacking performances in this race there's no hiding he's some way off top form. Antón was dislodged inside the last two clicks but recovered well to finish a morale-boosting fifth.

Stage results:
  • 5, Antón, 0:27
  • 6, Nieve, s.t.
  • 25, Txurruka, 2:19
  • 56, Martínez, 7:22
  • 57, Verdugo, 7:27
  • 77, Isasi, 11:46
  • 93, Oroz, 17:53
  • 109, Azanza, s.t.
  • 113, Cazaux, s.t.
General classification:
  • 10, Nieve, 5:33
  • 34, Txurruka, 47:23
  • 36, Antón, 50:42
  • 37, Verdugo, 54:39
  • 58, Oroz, 1:45:15
  • 59, Martínez, 1:45:52
  • 80, Isasi, 2:11:15
  • 87, Azanza, 2:25:23
  • 153, Cazaux, 3:57:24


  • Euskaltel will send the following eight riders to the two Canadian one-day WorldTour-events coming up this weekend: Sánchez, Astarloza, A Pérez, J Izagirre, Sicard, Landa, Mínguez and Velasco. Source:
  • Victor Cabedo finished 63rd at 10:24 on today's third stage of the Tour de l'Avenir. The Orbea rider occupies the same spot on GC. Fraile, who'll team up with Orbea next year, ended up next to last at a full 24:49.
  • Arabic TV channel Al Jazeera visited Euskaltel's headquarters and interviewed president Miguel Madariaga here the other day to get the Fundación Euskadi supremo's view on the Vuelta's return to the Basque Country, writes Madariaga was naturally "very pleased" with the fact that, 33 years on, the Spanish Grand Tour is finally returning "home".
  • Naturgas will send a seven-man team to tomorrow's Torneo Lehendakari-race in Urduliz. DS Urretxua will call on the services of Baudron, Ocampos, Merino, Carazo, Larrinaga, Barbero and García.
  • Despite finishing a solid fifth in Vioño on Monday, Fernando Grijalba lost his overall lead in the Copa Ibérica. Grijalba formed part of the winning five-man move but uncharacteristically lost the sprint and the rankings lead with it. Though disappointed post-race, DS Arberas was still happy with the team's performance as a whole. "The team worked really well", he told Euskaltel's homepage. "We neutralized a break that formed towards the end, but Grijalba lost the sprint on the top of the climb and the Copa Ibérica-lead with it as he was surpassed on points. Nonetheless, I'm pleased as we worked well as a unit and took control of the race". A González finished 61st, A Guinea 66th and K Baudron 69th.
  • Aitor Ocampos had a good ride to finish with the 35-man strong peloton on today's fourth and penultimate stage in Salamanca. Ocampos - who's in his last year with the team - finished the stage in 32nd place, while Larrinaga was 36th at eight seconds. Chetout and Merino came home 19:34 in arrears, while Carazo was 80th at 23:20. Damien García was forced to pull out.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Vuelta, l'Avenir & Salamanca

  • Euskaltel got through today's chaotic 16th stage of the Vuelta without mishaps. Nieve, Oroz, Isasi and Cazaux all came in with the main group of riders at seven seconds, while Martínez finished 49 seconds down, Verdugo at 1:11, and Txurruka, Azanza and Antón at 1:34. Nieve thus remains in 12th on GC. On tap for tomorrow is the last summit finish at the Peña Cabarga.
  • Stage three of the Tour de l'Avenir came down to a bunch sprint in which none of the Spaniards got involved. Cabedo came in mid-pack at the same time as the winner, while Fraile ceded 1:13. Gipuzkoan Garikoitz Bravo got into the break of the day and is the new KOM-leader.
  • Naturgas are still finding their feet in Salamanca and had another tough day in the saddle on today's third stage. On the 129km stage starting and finishing in Montemayor, Damien García was the only rider in red able to stay with the pack, finishing 30th. Chetout placed 58th at 21:56, Barbero 60th at 21:59, Larrinaga 62nd at 25:10, Ocampos 68th at 25:39, and Carazo ended up 79th at 25:45. Carlos Barbero threw in the towel mid-stage.

Castroviejo confirms exit, says he didn't fit in

Jonathan Castroviejo has confirmed he will be leaving Euskaltel for Movistar and claims Euskaltel's leadership structure is the main reason. Speaking to BiciCiclismo, the young time triallist said he didn't really fit in. "Euskaltel is a team with some undisputed leaders, and this doesn't suit me 100%", he lamented, perhaps hinting at a lack of leadership possibilities. "As a result I've opted for a change of scenery, but speaking as a professional and a Basque I don't discard one day returning to this team. I'm very grateful for the faith they've shown in me. Igor González de Galdeano and Miguel Madariaga gave me a chance in Orbea, first, and then with Euskaltel. I'm indebted to them. Now we'll be rivals, but I'll nonetheless strive to maintain the excellent rapport I have built up with my colleagues here over these years."

Some disappointed Euskaltel fans have - since the news broke - claimed Castroviejo was just in it for the money, but the rider denies this. "It hasn't been a question of money", he said. "It's been a question of finding the team best suited to me. I had three very interesting offers to choose from, and I opted for a team I feel have the same aims and goals as I do."

Monday, September 05, 2011

l'Avenir & Salamanca results

Víctor Cabedo finished today's first stage proper of the Tour de l'Avenir mid-pack, 26 seconds down on winner Hofland who led home a small group of riders ahead of the peloton. Omar Fraile did not go equally well earlier today, coming home a full 4:42 in arrears over the 160,5km stage from Yutz to Lunéville.

The Naturgas youngsters found the going tough over the taxing 129 kilometres from Aldeadávila to Villaseco on day two of the Vuelta a Salamanca. All seven riders came home with a big group 16:55 down on winner Belykh and can thus count themselves out of the running for top overall placings.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sunday news round-up

  • It's becoming a familiar sight, isn't it? Euskaltel taking control of the race and attacking near the end but ending up empty-handed. That was again the case on today's dreaded stage to the top of the fantastic/horrible Angliru. Verdugo and Txurruka paved the way for Antón to have a go halfway up the climb, and for a moment it looked as though it might come to fruition. JJ Cobo attacked soon after though and Antón eventually had to settle for sixth on the stage, but it was still a great showing by the pre-race favourite. Speaking to reporters post-stage, the Galdakao-native said he was delighted with his ride and that, for the first time in this Vuelta, he enjoyed riding his bike. Tomorrow's rest-day will do him good I reckon, and the Vuelta isn't over yet so he might, just might, go on the attack again in the third and last week. Nieve had a decent ride and ended up 13th, 2:02 down on new overall leader Cobo. He told the team's website that it was a little below what he had expected, but was still optimistic about his chances of breaking into the top 10. He's ranked 12th, 37 seconds off that top ten placing, at the moment. "Overall these last three days have been really good for us", he concluded. Txurruka danced his way to 20th on the stage, 3:22 in arrears, and was thus integral in the team moving into third in the team rankings. Verdugo, who looked quite good early on, came home an okay 36th at 6:51, while Martínez was 56th at 10:37. Azanza and Cazaux - who've both worked tirelessly for their team leaders throughout this race - came in with a big group at 15:57. Oroz and Isasi crossed the line side by side at 18:28.
  • Víctor Cabedo got his Tour de l'Avenir off to an okay start by taking 64th in the 6,6km prologue in Yutz. The Orbea rider came home 51 seconds down. Omar Fraile, who'll join Orbea in 2012, stopped the clock at exactly the same time as Cabedo.
  • Mikel Astarloza won gold in the omnium at the Euskadi Championships earlier today, reports BiciCiclismo. The Pasajes-native pushed Unai Elorriaga and Illart Zuazubiskar into second and third respectively.
  • Narturgas got off to an okay start in the Vuelta a Salamanca today. Entirely as expected, the all-conquering Karol Domagalski took the win on day one for Caja Rural, while all seven Naturgas riders - Barbero, Merino, Carazo, Chetout, Ocampos, García and Larriñaga - finished the 113,8km-stage mid-pack at 57 seconds.

Vuelta stage 14

Mikel Nieve put on a strong performance in yesterday's stage to the top of the Farrapona to inch closer to a top 10 overall placing. Nieve stayed with the main favourites almost all the way to the line to distance riders like VDB, Nibali, Purito, Moreno, Martin and Fuglsang to name but a few. The going got a bit too tough for Nieve in the last kilometre and he ended up ceding 10 seconds to Wiggins, Froome, Mollema and Menchov on his way to a highly-impressive ninth place. Heading into today's stage to l'Angliru, he's 13th on GC, a minute down on number ten, Moreno.

The team as a whole had an outstanding performance. Isasi and Azanza formed part of the main break and animated the racing throughout, while Txurruka had a dig with five kilometres to go. Txurruka looked as swashbuckling as usual but couldn't put enough time into a hard-chasing lead group and was swallowed up with three to go. Isasi showcased his increasing strength on the climbs by staying with the likes of Moreno and Bruseghin far up the Farrapona, while Verdugo took huge pulls at the head of the pack to set up Nieve. Azanza had a crash coming off a descent leading into the final climb and was reeled in by the pack, but he still had enough left in the tank to set a high tempo in the peloton on the first half of the climbs. All in all an impressive performance from the team. Stage results:
  • 9, Nieve, 0:55
  • 24, Txurruka, 2:02
  • 33, Isasi, 4:21
  • 38, Verdugo, 6:45
  • 47, Azanza, 11:42
  • 101, Martínez, 23:45
  • 104, Oroz, s.t.
  • 166, Antón, 30:20
  • 169, Cazaux, s.t.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Vuelta stage 13

Saying Euskaltel's Vuelta thus far has been a failure would be no understatement. But it's not for the lack of trying. In a bid to shake up the GC, the team put a remarkable four riders in the break on today's 13th stage from Sarria to Ponferrada. On a highly entertaining and at times chaotic day of racing, a 24-man break - including Antón, Nieve, Txurruka and Verdugo - broke clear early on. Under the impetus of Euskaltel (or should I say Amets Txurruka), the break made it all the way to the line for a change, meaning Mikel Nieve is back in contention for a top 10 place overall. The break crossed the line 1:33 ahead of the peloton, resulting in Nieve now sitting 20th on GC just a minute and a half (roughly) off the top 10 with two decisive days in the Asturian mountains coming up. Nieve's team-mates totally buried themselves for their default captain by towing the break along for large portions of the stage, and the ever-willing Amets Txurruka was awarded the 'Most aggressive rider'-prize for his efforts. Hoping to snatch what would have been a deserved stage-win, Gorka Verdugo had a go in the closing kilometres but was eventually forced to watch on as Albasini took the win on the line. Nieve came home ninth, Verdugo 18th, Txurruka 19th and Antón 67th at 2:12. Martínez came home 74th at 14:39, while Azanza, Isasi and Oroz finished inside a big group at 18:30. Cazaux came in third from last, 27:50 adrift.

DS Gorka Gerrikagoitia was naturally pleased with his charges post-stage, telling that "overall it was a very positive day for us. We started the stage with the aim of bringing Mikel Nieve back into GC contention. Once the break got up the road I expected the group to stay away by a couple of minutes. Eventually it was a little less, but still. The composition of the break meant it was hard for us to win the stage, but the team was active all day. In the days ahead we'll continue working to reach our goals in this race."

Friday, September 02, 2011

News shorts

  • Naturgas Energía will take on the five-day Vuelta a Salamanca commencing this Sunday. Seven riders - Chetout, Larrinaga, Carazo, García, Barbero, Ocampos and Merino - will take part and will "try to learn racing in the windy conditions that characterize this area of Spain", according to team DS Aritz Arberas.
  • Injury-victim Xabier Zabalo has been transported from a hospital in Italy to the Hospital de la Virgen del Rosario in Madrid, Euskaltel's website says. The Orbea rider's condition is reportedly improving. There's no time-frame set for his recovery at this moment in time as la Fundación Euskadi is staying rather tight-lipped on the situation. Stay tuned for further updates on the promising young rider's health in the next few days.
  • "I'm pretty good on the climbs as well as in the sprints", Orbea rider Ricardo García told El Correo, who earlier this week penned a deal with Euskaltel. "I've taken another step in the right direction this year, so I hope I can repay the team for the faith they've put in me."

Cabedo on song for l'Avenir

Víctor Cabedo, who earlier this week put pen to paper on a contract tying him to Euskaltel for the next two seasons, is looking forward to his debut appearance in the Tour de l'Avenir. The race commences this coming Sunday and the Orbea rider is eager to put on a show despite having already secured a pro-contract for next year. "Now, with my future secured, my career is not at risk if I crash out or have a mechanical. But that doesn't mean I'll take it easy", the youngster told BiciCiclismo. "If I wasn't motivated I would have stayed at home. I'm very motivated actually. I have the possibility to show the world what I'm capable of."

Despite being forced to abandon his tune-up race (the Giro della Valle d'Aosta) due to a crash on day one, Cabedo is confident he can come up with the goods. "I will try to aim for the GC as well as going for stages. If that doesn't work out I'll just have to alter my objectives and help my team-mates. You can never be sure how that crash is going to affect my form, but I'm eager to get to it and it gives me added motivation. In Italy my form was actually really good."

As mentioned, Cabedo will swap the blue of Orbea for the iconic orange of Euskaltel in 2012 and 2013. Speaking of his move, the rider was naturally more than pleased. "I'm delighted to join a team as big and important as Euskaltel", he enthused. "After doing so much racing in Euskadi these last few years it's a dream come true to actually sign for them. They've shown they believe in me, and I'll do my utmost to pay them back."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Txurruka conundrum

There's no one quite like Amets Txurruka.

Fabulously entertaining and divinely talented, he's one of that rare breed of riders able to get people out of their seats every time he graces the screen. The kind of rider that every fan, be it of Euskaltel or of any other team, roots for. Yet you sense there's something unfulfilled about him. Desperately out of luck and hopelessly ineffective, there's no hiding Txurruka continuously flatters to deceive. Struggling to build on his seemingly unquestionable promise, he confounds like no other rider with his less-than-stellar performances. So how good is he really?

Amets Txurruka is the best climber in the world never to have won a bike race. Fact. Exactly how he has failed to win a single race is beyond me though. With all his elegance and prowess on the climbs - coupled with that uniquely smooth pedal stroke - Txurruka should have had quite a healthy palmarès by now. Yet he doesn't seem like a better bike rider than he was four years ago.

Four years ago was of course the year he broke through so spectacularly at the Tour. His all-out attacks in the mountains were refreshing and marked him out as a potential heir to the King of the Mountains-throne vacated by Virenque a few years earlier. Some even touted him as a future GC rider as he placed an impressive 23rd overall in his maiden Grand Tour. Then nothing happened.

'Nothing' may be an exaggeration. He's performed solidly overall and he's not a shoo-in at the biggest races for Euskaltel for nothing. But his results make for dire reading: his seventh place on the Vuelta's 11th stage here the other day was easily his best result of the year. And better than anything he came up with the year prior. 2009 was his best year results-wise with his second place on a stage of the Tour and fourth on stage five in the Vuelta a Asturias. Yet it's hardly results worthy of the talent he possesses. Some will claim, and maybe rightly so, that injuries are to blame. A nasty streak of collarbone fractures have put him out of the biggest races and robbed him of some of his best form the last couple of years. But blaming it exclusively on injuries would be too easy.

Txurruka has the ability to shine when you least expect it. On six-hour stages in the Alps and Pyrenees he might spend half of that on the front setting a furious tempo, showing the world what he's capable of. He can be absolutely brilliant. On the next day he might lose ten minutes on a perfectly flat stage. Saying he's eccentric would be an understatement. Saying he's hard to pigeon-hole is not. Every rider has his 'place' in the peloton. You're either an excellent climber, a good climber, an average climber or a bad climber. Where to place Txurruka no one knows. He's none and everyone of those at the same time. That bothers us. When you expect him to shine, he might. Or he might not. God knows. In that sense he's the most perplex of cyclists. Reminiscent of a certain Ibán Mayo and, more recently, the eternal son that is Beñat Intxausti. From time to time showing glimpses of what he's made of but more often than not being pretty average. Sometimes up there with the very best, sometimes everything but.

Txurruka at his best - gritty, brave and dancing up those mountains - is Euskaltel at its purest. Irrepressible, enigmatic and seemingly born to ride a bike, he's Amets. He might not become what everyone expected of him, or then again he just might, but does it really matter? For better or for worse, he really is one of a kind.

Vuelta stage 12

Stage 12 of the Vuelta proved to be a rather uneventful one for the Euskaltel riders. On a course destined for a sprint and without a sprinter in its ranks, that was entirely expected though. The pack splintered slightly on the high-speed run-in to the finish, but main GC man Mikel Nieve was attentive and came home with the main group at five seconds. The rest of the guys took it easy, preferring to save their forces for the mountainous days coming up this weekend. Stage results:
  • 41, Nieve, 0:05
  • 68, Cazaux, 0:19
  • 75, Isasi, 0:28
  • 90, Antón, 0:37
  • 91, Martínez, s.t.
  • 100, Azanza, s.t.
  • 108, Verdugo, s.t.
  • 116, Oroz, 0:49
  • 157, Txurruka, 9:39


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