Sunday, November 18, 2007

A farewell to Unai Etxebarria

34-year-old Euskaltel legend Unai Etxebarria decided to put an end to his ten-year long tenure with Euskaltel this year and hang up his bike for good. Here's a tribute to the admirable Venezuelean:


Unai is a true Euskaltel legend. He's been one of the household names since he joined way back in 1997, and has given Euskaltel 9 wins along the way. Unai was always, together with the likes of Iban, Haimar, Samu, Igor, Roberto Laiseka, you name them, one you hoped would figure on the start-list for the upcoming race. Because, as with the aforementioned, Unai had that capability to win races on all terrain. The flat, long stages were suddenly not that boring for us Euskaltel fans when Unai was in the team, as he was one of the few riders who could jump clear some kilometres from the line and actually stay clear. He was also a good rider to have in a break, which his palmares shows. Many of his wins have come from breaks, something his wins in stages of the Vuelta, in the Dauphiné and in the Klasika Primavera, just to name a few, are testaments to. Though, he's also recorded remarkable results in the hilly spring Classics. A second and a fourth in Fleche Wallonne, in 2002 and 2003 respectively, showcased his abilities on the short, steep climbs in the north, making him a valuable addition every year to Euskaltel's Classics team. What really made Unai stand out from the rest though, was the fact that he was a Venezuelean. What, a Venezuelean in an all-Basque formation? It sounds odd, I know, but just from his name you can hear he's got Basque blod in his vains. We didn't get to see Unai that much in his national coulours at the Worlds, but he performed really well this year in Stuttgart. He came in with the rememnants of the peloton just half-a-minute down or so on Bettini, and became in the process the first ever Venezuelean to finish a World Road Race Championship. He seemed to be in good form all year long in the 2007 campaign, taking Euskaltel's first win of the season in the Trofeo Calvia in January, and finishing on such a strong note at the Worlds. I'm sad to see him leave. The name "Etxebarria" was always synonymous with Euskaltel, and his team-mates will surely miss both the rider and the human Unai Etxebarria. So will I.

4 comments:

Lizzard4567 said...

Yeah i'm going to miss him too ! He's such a nice and sweet guy, always ready to autograph and smile for a pic, and he was very well known in the peloton too. At the eneco tour there were constantly riders from other teams saying hey to him

Magnus said...

Yeah, he was said to be a nice guy:) Though, never met him of course

Arnout said...

I still never met an Euskaltelguy. Well, the Vuelta in 2009 will give me a chance!

Nasty thing is school though.

Monika said...

Unai is one of the nicest Euskaltelboys... and his family is so sweet! They allways accompanied him to the races...

 

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