Sunday, September 30, 2007

No updates for two weeks

I'll have to leave you all for almost two weeks I'm afraid, as I'm heading of to Prague and San Sebastián tonight. I'll be gone 'till the 13th of October, so updates will be far and few between until then. Though, if Iban's B-sample returns I'll try to find an internet café or something, but I'm afraid we'll have to wait a little while longer to find out the result of the counter-analysis. Until the 13th, take care.

Samu 7th in Worlds

Samu performed up to his best to claim a brilliant 7th in the road world championships in Stuttgart today. Unai also showed that he's still go it at the tender age of 34 and came home with the rather small main pack 49 seconds down on winner Bettini.

Samu was one of thirteen riders who managed to break clear on the last lap, but Bettini, Kolobnev, Schumacher, Schleck and Evans got away. Rebellin escaped the second group to snatch 6th, while Samu easily won the sprint for 7th to record another highly impressing result in the Worlds. He was obviously Spain's strongest riders, so one could question Antequera's tactics. Valverde was clearly not in shape, as I thought, and Freire couldn't follow Samu and the gang up the last climb. But anyway, great ride by Samu. He's still got some wins in store for us this fall I feel.

Unai was seen a lot at the head of the main pack all day. His Euskaltel cap and Euskaltel helmet left no one wondering what team this man is riding for, and it's always great to see the team represented at the Worlds. Unai was the only one from Venezuela to complete the race, and did so with a great ride. Unai came in with the 35-man strong main group, only 49 seconds down, to record an honourable 39th. So, all in all, great performance from him too.

Haimar wins in Ormaetxea's name

Haimar won his first race in seven years as he claimed the overall win in the Memorial Jokin Ormaetxea circuit race. The race was held to pay tribute to the Basque rider who sadly passed away in a car accident back in 2004. The race brought all the best Basque cyclists together, with Haimar ending up as the winner. Haimar was second in both the points and the elimination race, and therefore claimed top honours ahead of Arreitunandia and Garate. In the team time trial a team consisting of three Euskaltel riders, Igor, Koldo and Beñat, together with Gaizka Lasa, Iker Leonet, Jon Garate and youngster Sudupe snatched the win ahead of an all-Euskaltel line-up including Haimar, Joseba, Markel, Lander, Mayoz and Iriondo. The race was of course not sanctioned as an UCI event, but nonetheless wins are important.

Samu and Unai ready for Worlds

Euskaltel will have two representatives on the startline in Stuttgart today. Samu will of course line-up as one of the favourites for Spain, while Unai will be one out of three Venezuelans at the Worlds.

Samu is mine and many others' favourite to take gold on the not-so-hilly-as-people-think-it-is course. Samu is at the moment probably the best in the world, and I mean that, so I'll get made if Samu will have to sacrifice himself for Valverde on Antequera's orders. Surely Samu's in better shape than Valverde. In addition it's been difficult to concentrate on training these last few weeks for Alejandro, as his mind has probably been elsewhere due to the fight against the UCI. Freire is an obvious candidate to take his fourth Worlds, so Samu may have his work cut out for him. But no matter whether he'll be able to race his own race or if he'll act as super-domestique he'll do a brilliant race I'm sure. I'm not going to get too carried away, but I can't stop thinking how good the Worlds-jersey would look on an Euskaltel rider.

Unai is as mentioned one of three Venezuelans, so logically it'll be difficult for him. He'll start as their captain though, so hopefully Quintero and Hernandez will help Unai out if needed. I don't expect him to be able to fight for the win or anything like that, but it would be nice to see him in an early brake. The Worlds will be one of Unai's last races ever, so I hope we'll get to see him in the thick of it. Aupa Unai!

It's been a while

2 months and 6 days have passed since Iban failed an EPO test in the Tour. That's exactly 69 days! Well, if I've done my homework that is. Anyway, it's been a while; surely it must be a new world-record. And the scary thing is that I think this might go on for a little while longer. My prediction is that Iban's B-sample will be sent to France again, before heading back to Australia and taking a detour to China. In China it will stay for two years, until the UCI remembers that, of course, there are no laboratories in China. Therefore they'll send it to the United States, who'll in turn send it to Peru as the they didn't have the time to conduct such a test. Though, the plane the test was on crashed, so the test is lost forever. So in 2027, we still don't know a thing. Anyone arguing? Nah, thought so...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Iban's new gear

Iban did naturally not wear his Saunier Duval kit when he rode his own Cicloturista race approximately 2 weeks ago. Iban was wearing the official Iban Mayo Lagunartea jersey and shorts, a new elegant line of cycling cloths "made" by his fan club. It's an elegant kit, all blue with the fan club's symbol and the Basque flag on it. Looks really nice and comfy. If it's possible for everyday people who're not members of his fan club to buy, then for sure I'm getting myself one. Here's how it looks, modelled by Iban himself.

Poll results: What happened to Iban's B-sample?

That's a good question, eh? I put up this poll several weeks ago, and to this day there is still no news. I gave you readers 5 options; some serious, some not so much. The most popular option was "It's negative", which amassed 33 % of the votes in fact. Number two was "The sample got messed up" which accumulated 24 %. "Someone stole it", which was one of the not so serious suggestions, ended up third, nicely reflecting what people think of this whole saga. "The laboratory does, in fact, not exist" followed in fourth, while astonishingly "It's positive" ended up dead last. I know I'm repeating myself, but only time will tell. Perhaps we'll know the result of the counter-analysis by 2009; that would be great.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Saunier Duval's new image

I couldn't believe it when I read Saunier had terminated Iban's contract. How can they just fire a rider without a B-sample to back up the positive A-sample? It doesn't make sense, but then Saunier Duval never really did either. To me it seems they're jumping on the chance to send out an anti-doping signal to the world, something they've never done before. I read they also got rid of Koldo Gil, a Basque climber implicated in the Operacion Puerto. Or not. Who knows whether Koldo is implicated or not? But one thing we do know is that Saunier Duval defended him all year long, claiming he didn't have anything to do with Fuentes' business and started him in several races. But then, when his contract was up for renewal, he was suddenly a persona non grata because of his links to the scandal. This doesn't make sense! And neither does Iban's case. As Iban's test has been sent to a THIRD laboratory, the first two laboratories certainly didn't return straight-forward positives. But then, after supporting Iban and stating that they would wait for the return of the counter-analysis to judge him, he's suddenly fired. What's going on over in Cantabria? Someone's trying to wash their hands clean if you ask me...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Vuelta round-up

Here's my asessment of each rider's Vuelta a España performance:
  • Igor Antón: Brilliant. Back to his best after suffering from fatigue at the Tour. Climbed brilliantly, and also time-trialled quite well this time around. Showed he's a team-player and not a big-head by sacrficing his own ambitions for the team's and Samu's greater good. Lovely spirit and never-say-die attitude with the 24-year-old. Finished 8th overall, which is an outstanding performance considering his role as Samu's lieutenant and his less-than-perfect lead-up to the race.
  • Koldo Fernández: Showed that he's got the end-speed necessary to beat the very best. Came agonisingly close with his second place, and bagged several top 10 finishes all the way to Madrid. This guy has got some potential, and he's got a bright future as he's still rather young. His placing in the bunch leading up to the sprints leaves a lot to be desired though.
  • Aitor Hernández: Valuable member of the team, and proved the directors right to include him. Suffered in the first week it seemed, but got better as the stages went by. Showed glimpses of his climbing potential and pulled off a good ITT on the penultimate day. His consistency though seems to have room for improvement. I had also hoped for a better GC placing. A 81st place overall does not do his talent justice. Fulfilled his team duties though, so thumbs up for Aitor.
  • Dioni Galparsoro: Great overall performance. Infiltrated in several breaks to help the team out, pulled hard on the front of the pack when needed, and showed he's a climber in the making with some solid results in the mountains. Couldn't have asked for more, something his contract extension is a proof of. His work was highly appreciated by his team-mates, and he got to show what a quality rider he is.
  • Iñaki Isasi: Worked for Koldo in the sprints and for Samu on the hilly and mountainous stages. Did an awesome job dragging the peloton along on the flats when needed, and brought as usual much experience to a rather young line-up. Good performance, but not great.
  • Iñigo Landaluze: Expected to see him in some breaks, but that didn't happen for one reason or another. Showed strength on the flats when on the front and, considering he recently did the Tour and has had a long season, he more than did his job.
  • Alán Pérez: Just like Aitor prooved Miguel and Igor right to give him his first outing in a Grand Tour. Looked lively early on in the race, and was Koldo's main helper in the sprints. Looks like a solid rider who'll probably win a race or two next year due to his end-speed. I'm more than pleased with his ride.
  • Samuel Sánchez: 3rd place overall is just astonishing. Three stage-wins even more so. Absolutely a class act on all terrains. Could well turn out to be the winner in Stuttgart on Sunday. Though, if he's to win a Grand Tour one day, he'll have to have his form spot on right from the gun. Just like in previous years he needed some time to get going, but once he did, he took my breath away. What a rider Euskaltel have got on their hands.
  • Haimar Zubeldia: Did surprisingly well considering his bad tumble on the third stage. That looked nasty, and I doubted at the time that he'd come though all three weeks. He even made it into a couple of breaks. Finished 42dn overall, but if it hadn't been for the crash, I think he'd have finished inside the top 20. Offered valuable assistance to Samu.
  • The team: Second overall in the team rankings is a good picture on just how strong the team was. Racked up 5 "stage-wins" as a team along the way, and was together with Caisse the best team in the race without a shadow of a doubt. Pleased to see the team take responsability on a couple of stages, and Samu's win on stage 15 was a demonstration of how a team should work; united, strong and willing to to put their own ambitions aside for the captain. Best ever Grand Tour for Euskaltel.

Simply the best

It seems I missed the biggest weekend in Euskaltel's history. That feels bad for an Euskaltel devotee like me, but I guess you can't see it all. It's a shame, as Euskaltel put on a show like no other and totally crushed all opponents the last three days.

I've got nothing to say on Samu that hasn't already been said. I'm lost for superlatives when it comes to this man. Brilliant, world-class or amazing just doesn't do him justice. I'm not going to write too much about his triple-win, as it's all old news by now. I guess the most propriate thing to say now would be "thank you, Samu". Thank you for winning three stages, thank you for getting Euskaltel's first podium in a grand tour, thank you for putting Euskaltel up there with the very best and thank you for the joy you've brought to all of us Euskaltel fans.

Igor was superb, as we've become used to, and so was the rest of the team. Rarely have I seen such grit, determination and pure will in our team. EVERYONE on the team contributed to making this Vuelta Euskaltel's best ever three-week race. It was a joy to watch, and the team's devoted work for Samu made me proud. Evaluation of the team and each rider will of course appear in a day or two. I'm already looking forward to writing it. Euskaltel, we love you!

Friday, September 21, 2007

I'll be back

I'm going out of town for the weekend, and I'm afraid I won't be able to update the site until Monday night. Though, I'm not ruling out updating the blog, as an internet connection might be in place where I'll live, so tune in as usual in case I get the possibility to post something.

Iban Mayo Martxa Zikloturista sees Iban back in action

Iban was finally back on his bike on Sunday, as the annual Iban Mayo Martxa Zikloturista was held. The race, held for the second time this year, is an event to honour Iban and his exploits on the bike. 170 people participated this time around; 39 more than last year. These kind of races are mostly for fun and not really competitive, with Iban finishing in 40th place. He was wearing the Iban Mayo Lagunartea clothes, his official fan club's, with a matching Catlike Whisper helmet to go. And, yes, he was riding his Scott Addict bike. I guess the riders get to keep their bikes when they sign for a team, so no real surprise there. He looked very slim and lean, seemingly in good form. A couple of his friends participated, among them Gorka Amuriza and Egoitz Murgoitio of the Grupo Nicolas Mateos outfit. Great to see him back in action and with so much support. Aupa Iban!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Samu now 4th overall

It was a highly successful day in the Vuelta for the team today. Samu and Igor advanced to 4th and 9th overall respectively, while the team once again won the team classification.

It was a stage designated for a break, but it wasn't the kind of break most had expected. The break consisted of twelve general classification riders, among them Samu and Igor. Also present were Menchov, Sastre, Evans, Mosquera, Monfort, Pellizotti, Goubert and eventual victor Luis Pérez among others. Notable absentees were Efimkin and Beltrán. The break established a three-minute gap; a significant amount of time. Several of the riders in the break had interests in the overall, but still most of the job was left to Igor, who did an awesome job leading the break up the climbs. The 12 riders crossed the line nearly 2:30 ahead of the pack, with Samu grabbing fourth on the stage as well as 4th on the overall. Sadly he couldn't fight for the win, as Pérez escaped with 10 km to go. But anyway, great peformance once again from the team, resulting in the third, if I'm not mistaken, win in the teams classification. Tomorrow will be the last mountain-top finish, so watch out for Igor and Samu once again. Full stage results:
  • 4th, Samu Sánchez, 0:41
  • 11th, Igor Antón, 0:47
  • 36th, Haimar Zubeldia, 3:07
  • 56th, Iñigo Landaluze, 3:47
  • 93rd, Iñaki Isasi, 17:31
  • 105th, Alán Pérez, 27:45
  • 106th, Koldo Fernández, s.t.
  • 107th, Aitor Hernández, s.t.
  • 142nd, Dioni Galparsoro, s.t.

Samu, Amets and Rubén till 2010?

If Madariaga gets it his way, that's indeed going to be the case. Amets, Rubén and Samu, who've all enjoyed a more than satisfying season, will be offered extensions to their current contracts. If I've got it rigth, reading the Spanish newspapers, they've all got contracts until the end of 2008. Though, the Euskaltel heads would like to tie them to the club longer than that, and it seems likely they'll all sign on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Koldo 10th as the mountains loom

Koldo once again failed to place himself well enough for the sprint and had to make do and mend with another 10th place. He'll be disappointed, as there's only one stage left for the sprinters in this race, and that's the last stage into Madrid. Though, he'll be as keen as ever to nick what would be his first ever Vuelta win. That would surely be deserved... As for the other lads, Alán was 15th and Dioni 20th, resulting in Euskaltel grabbing another 2nd place in the team rankings. A breakaway will likely succeed tomorrow, so my bet is on Iñigo for that stage. Watch out for Aitor though as well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Another laboratory to test Iban's sample

According to the reliable Basque daily El Correo, Iban's B-sample will be subject to yet another test. Where and when was not revealed, but a third laboratory will peform tests on the sample. How is this possible? Can the same sample be tested over and over again? Don't think so, but nothing would surprise me in this particular case...

Koldo once again close

It just isn't going Koldo's way in this Vuelta. Today he grabbed another 4th place, as a break he and Dioni were a part of made it to the line ahead of the pack. Though, Koldo was clearly the fastest rider in the big group of escapees, meaning everyone wantet to get rid of him before the finale. And, sadly, they succeeded, as a three-man group crossed the line a mere 6 seconds ahead of the second group led home by Koldo. He won the sprint for 4th easily, but that won't make up for the fact that another chance for a win went begging. Anyway, he did a good stage together with Dioni, who came home 15th. In the bunch, Iñigo sprinted to third and therefore got 20th place. All Euskaltel riders finished safely inside the peloton. Koldo will be out for revenge tomorrow, as the stage should provide the sprinters with yet another chance for glory. Watch out for him then!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jon, Dioni and Alán extend

Jon Bru, Dioni Galparsoro and Alán Pérez have all got their contract extended with a year. That means they'll all be Euskaltel riders until 2009 at least. That's great news I think, as they're all an intergral part of the team and all of them have the qualities to get good results and win races. Dioni and Alán are both impressive in the Vuelta at the moment, while Jon came into his own in Poland recently.

Iban talks

For the first time since the news of his positive sample broke, Iban has talked to the public. In yesterday's Noticias de Gipuzkoa, Iban outlined his frustration on the mess that is the B-sample testing. "I don't know anything about the result of the counter-analysis. It would have been great to be informed about what's going on soon, as the waiting is killing me. It's so hard to just wait. Every day I wake up I hope this is going to be the day. But the days pass and I'm left with no clue whatsoever. I hope I'll learn the result soon." He also talked of the hard times after the positive:" For sure I was feeling down. I was feeling very down sometimes. Though sometimes I'm feeling better, mainly when the people who love me, like my family and friends, are around. But there's no hiding I was going through some bad moments, as what happened was like a slap in the face". No more was said, but at least it's good to hear he's alive after all the silence.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Samu: "This win is for the team"

Samu Sánchez was a happy man after taking his third Vuelta win earlier today. When speaking to his team's homepage, Samu emphazised the great work of his team-mates. "First of all, I want to thank my team-mates for the brilliant work they did for me today. They had confidence in my possibilities and they gave it their all. Haimar was in the break and Igor saved strength for the Monachil climb but, other than that, the rest of the squad was at the front to reduce the break's gap. This win is one for the team, as the whole team worked well today." Talking of his ride, he said: "I didn't fade on the ascent of the Monachil. I could have given it more gas (when on the climb), but already in 2006 we saw that the slope is very technical in the beginning and that the final kilometres demand a lot of effort. If you don't arrive (in the final kilometres) with something in reserve, you ain't got a chance. The last part was all about strength, so it was important not to suffer too much and to save something for the last kilometres." "I attacked three kilometres from the top. Earlier me and Igor both tried to attack, but we didn't get clear. Though, once I was reeled back in I managed to recover and try it again. When I reached the summit I tried to catch Cunego. I succeeded in that, and then it was all about catching Beltrán. We cooperated well together, and I was able to beat him in the sprint. I knew I had possibilities (to win), but Beltrán is a great rider with much experience so it was necessary to fight till the end." On the remainder of the race, the Asturian stated:" This victory is great for the team. We regarded this stage as a stage where we might win, and we've done it! Now we will continue to try to reach the podium. Though, this will be very difficult as the riders ahead of me on GC are not yielding anything. Anyway, I'm feeling good, and we will try to do something on the remaining stages even though there aren't many left."

Samu descends to glory

What a day for Samu and the team today! To cut a long story short, Samu won the stage, Igor was fourth, Samu is now 5th overall, Igor is 10th, Haimar was in the break and Euskaltel won the team rankings and are now second overall in that competition. Could it possibly get any better?

The day started out with Koldo beating Petacchi and Bennati to take maximum points in the first sprint. That's great, and perhaps he's got his sight set on the points jersey, who knows? After that a big group of riders broke clear and, just like yesterday, Haimar was in it. Though, as the break contained several dangerous names, Euskaltel put the whole team at the front to keep the break within a couple of minutes. The team succeeded, and at the base of the last climb, the category 1 Alto de Monachil, the gap was at about a minute and a half. As the going got tougher, a select few made up the front group. Among them were Samu and Igor, both looking comfortable. Igor even peeled off the front a few times to try his luck, but couldn't get away. Though, with three kilometres to go to the top, he finally did. Samu and Igor suddenly accelerated up the climb and nobody could match the pace. Igor did an awesome job for his captain as the gap back to the GC favourites increased. At the top, only Cunego and Beltrán were ahead of Samu, and by now Igor had dropped back to the Menchov group. Samu, who's perhaps the best descender in the business together with Savoldelli, flied like a bird down the descent to catch, first, Cunego, and then Beltrán who was at his lonesome at the head of the race. It was breathtaking stuff, watching Samu on that descent, he for sure defied gravity a couple of times. The two Spaniards then worked well together to hold off the chasing pack, and Samu easily took his third Vuelta stage by emphatically out-sprinting Beltrán. Igor had joined Barredo in a late dig to catch the leaders, though of course Igor didn't do any turns. He raised his arms in celebration when he found out Samu had done it, and crossed the line in 4th place. Haimar capped off a great day for the team by coming home 26th, 2:32 down, ensuring Euskaltel won the team rankings for the second time. There's no stage on the program tomorrow, as the riders get to take a well-deserved day off. The racing resumes on Tuesday though and, with a lot of hilly stages to go, I'm really looking forward to it. Aupa Euskaltel! Full stage results:

  • 1st, Samu Sánchez
  • 4th, Igor Antón, 0:24
  • 26th, Haimar Zubeldia, 2:32
  • 114th, Aitor Hernández, 22:15
  • 135th, Iñigo Landaluze, s.t.
  • 136th, Iñaki Isasi, s.t.
  • 137th, Dioni Galparsoro, s.t.
  • 139th, Alán Pérez, s.t.
  • 141st, Koldo Fernández, s.t.

Haimar 9th as break goes all the way

Haimar snatched another top 10 placing on yesterday's 14th stage. Haimar formed part of the break of the day and, as expected, the break made it to the line ahead of the pack. Though, Haimar never looked like winning, going out the back of the 10-man strong group all the time up the last climb. He managed to get back on though, but as McCartney and Lövkvist had already taken 1st and 2nd on the stage, Haimar didn't put in a real effort to grab 3rd. He got 9th on the stage and, considering his bad fall on stage 3, that's an amazing feat. Back in the pack the going was easy. All Euskaltel riders but Koldo came in with the main pack 10:05 down. Koldo came in with another group 20 seconds further back. Today's stage should be the best opportunity for Samu to win I reckon. The 20 kilometre descent to the line after the 1st category climb should suit Samu to perfection. Look out for Igor, Aitor and Dioni as well, as I think they'll be on the attack from the go.

Jon 15th overall as Tour of Poland ends

Jon finished an honourable 15th overall in the Tour of Poland which ended yesterday. Jon finished a good 17th on the stage, 55 seconds down, while Juanjo was not far behind in 34th, 2:51 back on the winner, Johan Van Summeren. Only two more riders finished the race, Markel and Iban Iriondo. They finished 47th and 56th respectively, and that's not too bad. Overall Jon ended up 15th as mentioned, while Juanjo was 32nd, Markel 38th and Iban 51st. Those results led to Euskaltel grabbing the 9th spot in the team rankings, something which took the team up to 13th in the UCI Pro Tour team rankings. I feel Euskaltel certainly pulled off their best perfomance ever in the Tour of Poland this year. They never managed to fight for the wins, but grabbed some top 10s along the way. A 9th overall in the team rankings is not bad either. Aupa Euskaltel!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Iban's test in Australia

Finally we have a clue to what's going on with Iban's B-sample. At the time of writing, the sample is in Australia for additional testing. It was tested in Gent, but has been sent to Australia as it seems that EPO tests have to be tested twice due to some problems with some triathletes' tests recently. Though, when they're finished with the testing Down Under is a big unknown at the time being.

Markel climbs to 7th overall in Poland

Markel Irizar is a noteworthy 7th overall going into the last stage of the Tour de Pologne. That's a great performance so far from him, and he'll hope to stay in touch with the leaders on tomorrow's tough stage. Markel was naturally also one of three Euskaltel riders to come in with the first big bunch, made up of 90 men. Juanjo and Jon were the others, grabbing 31st and 32nd on the stage respectively. Further down the list of results you find Antton Luengo in a lowly and disappointing 97th, 6:27 back, while Iban Iriondo was 7:52 down. Andoni Aranaga and Lander were both 19:04 in arrears, while Aitor came in with the last group, 33 minutes back. With one stage to go, Markel is 7th, Jon 19th and Juanjo 31st, while there's no time differences among the 19 best teams on GC. Euskaltel are currently ranked 16th.

Vuelta stage 13

There were no major changes to the overall standings in the Vuelta today. Though, it wasn't for the lack of trying. With approximately 20 kilometres to go, the high pace set by Caisse led to the peloton being splintered. A small lead-group formed, among them Samu and Alán. The latter gave it his all to keep the pace up, but unfortunately the 20-man strong group was reeled back in. As a break made it to the line today, there was no win up for grabs for the sprinters. Koldo sprinted half-heartedly to claim 14th, something which puts him in 8th place in the points competition. All but Iñigo came in with the first pack today. Iñigo came in a minute down with the second part of the bunch, though I doubt he'll care. He's probably got his sights set on tomorrow's hilly affair. Look out for him then...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Iban still training

As Iban is waiting on the result of the retesting of his positive A-sample, he's passing his time training at home. He's not been training every day, but most days he takes his bike out for a spinn to keep himself in shape. That's a good sign from Iban. I was afraid he might be sitting at home totally depressed and disillusioned.

There's no news on Iban's B-sample. The Spanish Cycling Federation knows nothing, Saunier Duval know nothing and Iban knows nothing. It's speculated in the media that the laboratory in Gent encountered some problems with the test, and sent it to some other labs to check it out. Though, this is just rumours, so don't take it too seriously. It doesn't sound unlikely, but that doesn't prove anything I'm afraid.

Koldo on sprinting, Bennati and nervousness

There's an interview with Koldo in today's El Correo. If you want to read it just click the link: It's an interesting interview, as Koldo talks of everything sprinting and all the aspects to it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

No luck in Poland

Luck is not on Euskaltel's side in the Tour of Poland. Today, with less than a 1000 metres to go, Aitor crashed in a bend and was of course out of the running for the win. Luckily though, he seems to be ok. Markel was once again active in the early parts of the stage and grabbed another bonus second, meaning he's still 15th overall going into the last two stages. Markel was also very active indeed when the sidewinds and the high pace split the peloton in three pieces. Most of the team got caught in the second group and it seemed they wouldn't be able to catch back on in time. But then Euskaltel came to the fore. Four Euskaltel riders set a frantic pace at the head of the second group and almost single-handedly reeled in the 60-man strong first group. There's some fighting spirit for all of you! I was really impressed when I watched it, but sadly the riders couldn't cap off an otherwise good peformance due to a crash. It's just not going for the guys down in Poland it seems... Jon was the best placed rider in the end, crossing the line 17th. Three of the riders didn't manage to follow the rhythm of the pack and came in afterwards. Iban Iriondo was 6 seconds back, while Lander and Antton both came home 14:23 in arrears. Tomorrow's stage is a rather hilly affair, so hopefully some of the boys will be active in the break of the day. Aupa!

Samu 7th and Koldo 11th in Vuelta stage 12

Euskaltel won the team rankings of the day, as the team put three riders among the 22 first. Samu sprinted well to claim 7th, even though he was partially boxed in, while Koldo came in as number 11th and Iñaki was 22nd. I know the victories are all that counts in cycling, but these are still good results and should be valued. I'm happy with the team's performance today, but Koldo, who turned 26 today, was all but happy about his sprint. "It was a stage suited to me, but I didn't take advantage of it", he told "I didn't feel good today, I'm starting to notice the kilometres accumulated in my legs. Unfortunately I didn't get the birthday present I had hoped for, but I'll continue to try in the upcoming stages". Not much else to report, besides that Aitor Hernández was the only Euskaltel rider to come in after the main pack, 1 minute and 50 seconds in arrears. And, even though it's anecdotal, Igor moved up to 12th overall as Piepoli didn't take to the start today.

Iban finished in Saunier

Iban will not form part of the Saunier Duval roster for 2008. "Matxin" Fernández revealed this in an interview with DEIA today. Iban's B-sample has still not returned, as we all know, and "Matxin" says that the team knows nothing about the delay. "We don't know anything", he said. Therefore I must say that it's kind of a weird thing to do, as the B-sample may not be negative. Of course, it'll likely be positive, but as it's still an unknown I'm critical of Saunier's actions. Iban is one of 11 riders that will leave the team at the end of the year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Koldo off the pace

Koldo did not get close to winning today's 11th stage of the Vuelta. He's placed 2nd and 4th earlier in the race, so my hopes were high when it became apparent that the stage would end, once again, in a bunch-sprint. Though, Koldo never managed to mix it with the best in the run for home and only got 14th. Though, tomorrow should present him with another chance, so look out for him then. The rest of the Euskaltel riders also came in with the main field, so Samu's 6th place overall is still very much intact.

Close but no cigar for Aitor in Poland

Aitor Galdos sprinted to a good 9th spot on today's fourth stage of the Tour of Poland. Or, wait, Tour de Pologne I guess I should say, though that's a really lame name. Anyway, he got 9th just as Jon did a couple of days ago. A 9th place in a Pro Tour race is a really good result, but I'm left with the feeling that Aitor could easily have won some races this season if the margins had been on his side. Though, it's not all margins it has to be said, as his placing in the bunch leading up to the sprints are often lacklustre. Though, he's still young, so I guess he'll just get better and better as the years go by. On GC Markel is still well placed. He's 13th at the same number of seconds back, so good job by him. Aupa!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Igor looking on the bright side of Vuelta

At today's well-deserved day off in the Vuelta, Igor spoke to Euskaltel's homepage yet again. Here's what the climbing specialist had to say: "I'm doing better that expected. I've been among the best on the three mountainous stages, and that boosts my morale. I'm not thinking about winning a stage, I'm just thinking of being useful to the team. We're doing a good race. On the queen-stage we had two riders in the break, while Samu was third and I was eighth. That result should be valued, as it's all but easy to obtain them". Igor is 13th overall going into the last part of the Spanish Grand Tour, and I would love to see him among the 10 on the final general classification. Wouldn't it be awesome to have two riders among the ten best in the Tour AND the Vuelta?

Markel 10th overall in Poland

Due to bonus points on offer today in Poland, Markel Irizar advanced to a good 10th place overall. That's good and active riding, something we fans appreciated. Other than that not much to report as no Euskaltel rider got to sprint today because of THAT mishap with the police car in the middle of the road which completely disrupted Aitor. Though, at least all eight riders came in with the pack today, so that's better than yesterday at least.

Jon sprints to 9th in Poland

Jon Bru sprinted to a surprisingly good 9th on the Tour of Poland's second stage yesterday. In the process he beat riders like Napolitano, Lornezetto and Haussler, so that was no doubt impressive. Aitor tried to sprint, but due to the way too narrow and difficult last 15 kilometres, he found himself far too back and just rolled in to grab 29th. That's too bad, but there'll be other opportunities. Antton and Lander both came in behind the pack, 1:17 and 4:33 respectively, but that's not of great importance. Going into today's third stage, Jon is 11th overall while Aitor is 29th. Today should be another day for the sprinters, so hopefully Jon and Aitor will be in the mix again.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dioni content with Vuelta so far

One of the most aggressive riders so far in the race, Euskaltel's very own Dioni Galparsoro, spoke to Euskaltel's homepage post-stage today. Here's what he had to say: "I've been very active so far. I was in the break on the Covadonga stage as well as today's stage, I'm feeling good, and for the team it's important to be represented in the breaks. I'm well placed in the general classification, so that saves work for the team as well. I thought I was going be better on the ascent today, but perhaps I paid for being in the break so long. I lost a lot of time eventually". On the Vuelta in general, he stated:"I started the race with desire and illusion, and I'm doing everything I can to perform well". So far, Dioni, I'm impressed.

Samu grabs 3rd in gutsy team peformance

Euskaltel put on a great show on today's queen-stage of the Vuelta a España. Samu got third, and in the process advanced to 6th overall. Igor was a magnificent 8th, climbing to 13th overall and the team is now ranked third in the overall team rankings. Not bad, eh?

A big break broke clear quite early on, and Euskaltel of course had their representatives. Alán Pérez and Dioni, who're both riding impressively, infiltrated in the escape and stayed at the front of the race until halfway up the last climb. Then it was all over once again for the break, but the pair nonetheless gave colour to the stage and showed good form. A select lead group formed, with all the big favourites including Samu. Igor was not far behind though... Samu looked to be struggling quite a bit up the climb, not managing to stay in touch when someone, most often Sastre, accelerated. Though, Samu showed grit and determination to work himself back up the the remaining group time after time, and with two kilometres to go, Igor suddenly showed up. Igor came and, in his now trademark style, attacked the group immediately. He was followed by Piepoli, but the two climbers couldn't stay away and was reeled in by the group led by Menchov. Igor and Samu both stayed with the leaders till the end, and Igor once again attacked. Though, it was doomed, and Igor eventually finished 8th, 7 seconds down. Samu gave it his all to win, and came oh so close. He crossed the line in third position, and is now 6th overall. Way to go Samu! As a team, Euskaltel got third on the day and is ranked third overall as well. Aupa! Full results:
  • 3rd, Samu Sánchez, 0:00
  • 8th, Igor Antón, 0:07
  • 44th, Alán Pérez, 5:12
  • 54th, Haimar Zubeldia, 7:58
  • 74th, Iñaki Isasi, 12:08
  • 82nd, Dioni Galparsoro, 15:50
  • 88th, Aitor Hernández, 18:54
  • 158th, Iñigo Landaluze, 28:10
  • 170th, Koldo Fernández, 41:05

By the way, resting is on the program for tomorrow in Spain, but the riders will be back in action on Wednesday.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What if...

Iban's B-sample has been messed up and leaves the laboratory with no clear answer on whether Iban has doped or not? I don't know what I would do then; if Iban "got away" on a technicality. That would not be a likeable situation for any of us I think. Though, as the days go by, I'm getting more and more worried that that might indeed be the case. Why else would this be taking so long? I can't see another reason to be frank, except for the possibility that it was negative and they decided to re-test it of course. But how many times have that happened? I've never heard of it, but I guess it's an imaginable scenario. A word or two from Iban would be nice though, that might just clear things up a little. But I assume he's got his reasons for not speaking to the public, so we've just got to respect that. But, as ever, I think a Monday would be a likely day to unveil the result, so tune in tomorrow for more news, or not, on the case...

Great weekend for Euskaltel

It's been a very good weekend for the whole squad, in Spain as well as in Poland. Here's a quick sum-up:

Samu Sánchez seems to be heading for his best form in Spain. A very good 19th on Saturday's ITT was followed up by impressive riding on the Cerler climb today to clinch 8th on the stage and a satisfying 7th overall. He looks to be getting better day for day now, so expect something great tomorrow. Igor also performed really well today. After disappointing a little in the time trial, coming home 71st, he bounced back today with a 15th place on the stage after being in the big break of the day for most of the stage. He's now 14th overall, so he too seems to be heading in the right direction. Dioni and Aitor also deserve mention. They placed 30th and 32nd respectively today, meaning that Dioni is now 28th overall. That's some quality riding, and has resulted in Euskaltel occupying 4th in the team rankings. Aupa Euskaltel! GC after today's stage:
  • 7th, Samu Sánchez, 4:42
  • 14th, Igor Antón, 7:51
  • 28th, Dioni Galparsoro, 12:53
  • 64th, Iñigo Landaluze, 27:08
  • 80th, Iñaki Isasi, 33:16
  • 92nd, Aitor Hernández, 36:31
  • 104th, Haimar Zubeldia, 40:59
  • 135th, Alán Pérez, 53:36
  • 143rd, Koldo Fernández, 56:08

It's not only in the Vuelta Euskaltel are doing well. The team got off to a shockingly good start in the Pro Tour stage-race Tour of Poland today, claiming 8th on the 3 km long, or short if you like, team time-trial. How Euskaltel pulled that off, with Markel the only real time-triallist present, is a mystery to me, but I guess it's got something to do with the terrible weather. But anyway, GREAT riding! The team is, by the way you've missed it, made up of Aitor Galdos, Andoni Aranaga, Markel Irizar, Jon Bru, Juanjo Oroz, Jon Bru, Iban Iriondo and Antton Luengo, with the two latter ones coming home 14 seconds after the 6 others had crossed the line. Look out for Aitor in the upcoming bunch gallops!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

No updates until tomorrow

I won't be able to update my blog until tomorrow evening I'm afraid. Though, I'll post everything that's worth reading on Iban and Euskaltel's charge in the Vuelta when I'm back, so tune in then. Go to for daily Euskaltel updates till then...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Koldo 4th in Vuelta

Koldo once again showed that he's a sprinter to be counted with by placing 4th on today's stage. It was a great sprint from the 26-year-old; he only got beaten by Zabel, Davis and Bettini. Though, it wasn't a normal mass-sprint, as a crash brought approximately 95 % of the pack to a halt with 2 kilometres to go. Samu Sánchez was involved, bleeding a little, but nothing serious. He rode over the line together with Haimar and Alán while joking and laughing, so he'll be okay. Except for that, not much to report before tomorrow's race against the clock, where I hope to see Samu place top 20. By the way, Koldo is now a great 6th in the points classification.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Close shave for Koldo

Koldo pulled off an amazing sprint today to claim a fantastic second on the 6th stage of the Vuelta. Only Freire bettered him, while he beat the likes of Petacchi, Davis, Boonen, Korff, Greipel, Bennati, Bettini and Duque. That's just great from Koldo. He was just inches away from claiming a famous win. Aupa! The rest of the team came in with the pack today, except for Aitor, who seems to be struggling quite a bit. Aitor came in 55 seconds adrift, though that's not of great importance. Going into the 7th stage, Samu is 17th overall, Igor 18th and Dioni 26th. That's not bad at all is it?!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Still no answer

OK, so I guess you're all laughing at my "I've got this strange feeling that tomorrow will be the day the test result will be unveiled" now. It turned out Monday, or Tuesday and Wednesday for that matter, wasn't the day. I don't know what to write on the subject anymore, as there's really not a hell of a lot more to say on the matter. Though, I'm wondering what's going through Iban's head right now. Has he got a clue to what's going on? Or is he just like the rest of us, left with no idea what's going on or what will happen? This process can only take so long... But, then again, I said that on Thursday as well...

Euskaltel head for the vélodrome

Mikel, Gorka, Amets and Rubén will all be heading to the vélodrome in Anoeta tomorrow and on Friday to hone their time trialling skills and to test out new gear and alternative positions. Mikel and Gorka will do the tests on Thursday, while Amets and Rubén will do them on Friday. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano and Juan García López, the "biomecánico de la formación", will both be present in Anoeta, Gipuzkoa.

Haimar doing well

It was a rather uneventful stage five of the Vuelta for Euskaltel. Though, the positive of the day must surely be that Haimar looked good today and impressively came in with the main field on the hilly course. So too did Dioni, Igor and Samu, who placed 14th, 17th and 18th respectively, together with Iñigo. They all clocked the same time as the winner, once again Oscar Freire. And, just for the record, Iñigo was very active in the early breaks, but missed the right one. Though, he'll for sure be in a couple of breaks before the end of the race. Koldo came in 12:05 down, while Aitor and Alán were both a massive 17:33 back. Though, so far it's all looking rosy, so aupa Euskaltel!

Aketza Peña and Aranaga clarification

Contrary to what I've previously posted at the blog, Andoni Aranaga has not had troubles with his weight. Miguel Madariaga stated in an interview that Andoni's weight has never been an issue, and that he's in fact quite skinny at the moment. He didn't get his contract renewed because, simply, he's not come up with the goods.

When it comes to Aketza Peña, he's still waiting for his B-sample result. What is happening to B-samples these days? Anyway, he won't be around either next year, as he's not produced the kind of form the Euskaltel heads had been expecting.

And, last but not least, another few riders face the daunting task of having to find another team next year. According to Monika Prell at Cylingnews, "the team is currently reviewing the future of some of its other riders and will decided whether they renew more contracts over the coming months". Wonder who that might be...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Samu pleased with stage four performance

Samu Sánchez expressed his contentment with his performance that placed him 17th on today's first testing stage in the Vuelta. Here's what he had to say afterwards: "We've passed the first important test of the race and we've been ahead. I preferred to ascend the climb with a constant rhythm, as that's the best option for me on this climb. If you follow the attacks at the start you can crack and lose a lot of time. I'm content as I've had good sensations, and this makes me optimistic. The Vuelta has only just begun, and there's a lot of racing left to be done". Speaking on the team's efforts, Samu told Euskaltel's homepage:" The stage started really fast, indicating that the peloton in this race is quite strong. The team has been great and has worked all day long. We put three riders in the break of the day and, when he reached the Covadonga, I had the help of Igor, who was magnificent. If Igor really is this good he'll provide valuable support and he can be a joker in the race".

Good performance on the Covadonga

Euskaltel enjoyed a good day on the Vuelta's first mountainous stage today. The stage, with the goal-line at the mythical Lagos de Covadonga, saw three Euskaltel riders in the break of the day, thanks to Dioni, Aitor and Alán, and a 17th, 18th and 26th place one the stage as well as in the overall rankings. Samu rode OK to claim 17th, 2:29 down on Efimkin, but only 1:23 down on the first group of favourites, so that's not too bad. After all he said he didn't expect to fight for the win today; he estimated a time loss of about a minute. Igor came in just besides Samu and looked strong riding in support of his captain. Dioni got a good 26th after being in the break, while the rest of the guys came in further back. Aitor was 68th, 9:16 down, Iñigo 78th at 9:23, Alán 105th at 17:45, while Haimar, Iñaki and Koldo all came in with the gruppetto 18:03 adrift. Great to see Haimar completing the stage, and as he said himself after the stage, he expects to get better and better over the coming days. Great riding and great spirit from Haimar. Haimar for president!


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