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.


Arnout said...

Nothing to add. Only something about the team. Last Friday they were working at the same rate. They controlled the race exactly the same as they did on the stage to Granada.

And best Grand Tour ever? You forget the Tour of 2003 :) But this one is definately at the same rate.

Magnus said...

Well, it's certainly a close call isn't it? But, I guess you're rigth. The Tour of 2003 really put Euskaltel, Iban and Haimar on the map.


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