Thursday, January 31, 2008

February calendar

Euskaltel will line up in three races in February. That's not really much, but then Euskaltel have always been "soft" starters. First up is the Challenge Mallorca, which runs from the 10th to the 14, and which includes five one-day races. There are some climbs on this year's route, so hopefully Haimar, Mikel and Amets, who're all looking for strong early-season performances, can pull off some good results. Then comes the five-stage Vuelta a Andalucía - Ruta Ciclista del Sol, which starts on the 17th. The Ruta del Sol is known as a sprinter's paradise, so Euskaltel should field either Aitor Galdos or Koldo, or perhaps both. The last race Euskaltel have planned for February is the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, running from the 26th to the 1st of March.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Line-ups news

Euskaltel have, according to, nominated 14 riders for the annual Spanish season-opener Challenge Illes Balears-Volta a Mallorca. The race, consisting of 5 independent one-day races, starts at the 10th of Ferbruary, and the teams can field different riders for each race. Josu Agirre, Beñat, Javier, Haimar, the two Aitors, Amets, Rubén, Jon, Markel, Iñigo, Andoni, Iván and Gorka will all probably start at least one of the races. Unai Etxebarria won the last of the five races last year, the Trofeo Calvia, so the team will be eager to emulate that success this time round. Concerning another race, namely the Vuelta a Andalucía, or the Ruta del Sol as it's better known, Igor has got that race on his calendar. That race commences at February 17., but more on that race later.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Herrero: "I may return"

Ex-Euskaltel rider David Herrero Llorente has stated that he might return to the team in the future. David, who's now riding with Pro Conti team Karpin-Galicia, talked fondly about his former team with Basque daily DEIA yesterday. Here's what he had to say: "I've often thought about returning, but it doesn't depend solely on me. It's a possibility, but I would have to win races and make them interested for that to happen. I would gladly go back, but I know it's complicated." David left his home-team in the summer of 2006, at the tender age of 25 and with an impressive nine wins to his name. It came as a bit of a shock to most Euskaltel fans, me included, as he was one of the team's better riders. David has won races in sprints, in TTs, in breaks and on mountain-top finishes, so it was a huge loss for the team. Allegedly David and Euskaltel couldn't come to an agreement over financial issues. Anyway I'd love to see him back at Euskaltel. I always liked him, and he's such a quality rider.

Aketza suspended

Contrary to what Madariaga stated some time ago, Aketza Peña did return a positive B-sample. The B-sample came back in August in fact, but the result wasn't made known to the Spanish Federation until now. He got the usual two-year ban, meaning he could return to ride in August 2009. He tested positive in May.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Poll results: Should Euskaltel do the Giro?

Yes please! 71 % of my readers think Euskaltel should take to the start in May's Grand Tour, while the remaining 29 % of course voted "no". I voted "yes" myself, as I think it would be a good experience for the younger lads in the team. And of course, it's a big race, so I'm going to watch it, and it's always much more exciting when you've got someone to cheer for.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Aitor OK after crash

It had not been a lucky Down Under for Aitor Galdos, and it didn't get any better on the last stage. With the last two 5-kilometre circuits left to go, Aitor punctured. It was the worst time to puncture for sure, but somehow he managed to get back to the group. Only for a guy to crash right before him and take Aitor with him in the fall. Then it was of course game over for Aitor, but luckily he's OK, no problem. He's been quite unlucky in his time with Euskaltel, but it can't last for ever...

Velasco 19th overall as Down Under ends

Euskaltel were not in the thick of the action as they were yesterday in today's last Tour Down Under stage. None of the riders attacked the group, and none of the riders managed to fight for the win. All of them, except for Aitor who came in four minutes down, came in with the pack though, so Euskaltel ended up with a really good 5th place in the teams classification. Iván ended up a good 19th overall, while Mikel and Jon were not far behind in 26th and 27th place. Amets ended up 44th overall, 1:39 in arrears. His attacks on the climb yesterday were great to watch, but made him lose a bit of time at the end of that stage, and thus not resulting in a higher overall placing. Further down we have Andoni in 85th place, 7:14 back, Javier in 114th, 16:35 down and Aitor finished third-to-last, placing 120th more than 20 minutes down on eventual winner Greipel. Overall I must say, even though the team never got close to a win except for Mikel's last-ditch attack yesterday, that I'm pleasantly surprised with the team's performance. A 5th place is, though not important, a good start for the team, and all 7 of them were on the attack once in a while, lighting up the race. Some of the riders still have some way to go before reaching top form, but I guess that's not really unusual considering we're still in January. Bravo!

Iñaki's 2008 calendar

Iñaki revealed his racing appointments for the first half of the year in today's DEIA. Iñaki, who'll be looking for his first ever pro win, will start out in the Vuelta a Murcia, and then later on line up in the Vuelta al País Vasco, the Tour de Romandie, the Dauphiné Libéré and then, perhaps, in the Tour. Speaking of the Tour, he was in no way sure that he would get a spot on the team: "I know it's going to be difficult, because the guys who did it last year performed really well, and in addition we've now got Samu and Egoi..."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Euskaltel in the action, as Mikel almost wins it

It was an all-action day right from the start for Euskaltel today in the penultimate stage of the Tour Down Under. Early on, Andoni was, yet again, on the attack several times. He got into a couple of breaks, but none of them managed to open up a big enough gap. Though, anyway, I must say I'm impressed with Andoni's performances in Australia, he looks like a good rider this year. Finally a break got some leeway, and in it was Aitor Galdos. Aitor looked strong all day, and took 4 intermediate points before being reeled back in by the chasing peloton some 35 kilometres out. The big climb started, but couldn't really shatter the pack, and it all came down to another mass-sprint between 41 riders. Though, Mikel didn't want it that way and escaped inside the last kilometre. Mikel proved his form is awesome by staying away with only a 100 meters left to go. A great try by Mikel, but it just wasn't to be. Iván, who's clearly on form got a good 15th, while Jon and Mikel were also in that group, getting 19th and 23rd respectively. That good team performance lead to the team now lying 4th in the team classification. There's one stage left to go in this race, so I'm pinning all my hopes on Aitor for tomorrow. Full results:

  • 15th, Iván Velasco, 0:00
  • 19th, Jon Bru, s.t.
  • 23rd, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 53rd, Amets Txurruka, 0:56
  • 82nd, Andoni Lafuente, 2:27
  • 97th, Javier Aramendia, 11:48
  • 122nd, Aitor Galdos, s.t.

General classification:

  • 19th, Iván Velasco, 0:30
  • 29th, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 30th, Jon Bru, s.t.
  • 46th, Amets Txurruka, 1:26
  • 87th, Andoni Lafuente, 7:01
  • 116th, Aitor Galdos, 16:20
  • 118th, Javier Aramendia, 16:22

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fantastic Aramendia close to victory

What an impression new-boy Javier Aramendia is making at the Tour Down Under. Today he went on an amazing solo-break 80 kilometres out, and the peloton didn't reel him in until only six kilometres were left to ride. That's nothing less than very impressive from a 21-year-old in his first ever Pro Tour race. Mikel was also active today, taking two points in the first intermediate sprint, thus propelling him up to 16th overall. A sprint was on the cards all day, and Greipel stormed to his second win in Strathalbyn. Aitor was not in the mix today, coming home a distant 24th. "I'm not feeling especially good", he's been quoted as saying. As for the rest of the team, they all came in with the pack.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Uneventful day in Australia

Not much to say about the Tour Down Under's third stage to be honest. Euskaltel had no one in the breaks, though Andoni was the first to attack today, or close to winning, as the peloton split in two towards the finish line in Victor Harbor. 94 riders made up the first group, among them four Euskaltel rider. Iván, 41st, Jon, 71st, Amets, 73rd and Mikel, who came in 81st, all came in on the same time as the winner, and are naturally within touching distance of overall leader Mark Renshaw. Javier, Aitor and Andoni (103rd, 107th and 110th) all came in with the second group, 4 minutes 4 seconds down. Tomorrow's 4th stage is a hint tougher than today's, so hopefully the guys will be more in the thick of it then.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Amets and Javier on the attack Down Under

Amets and Javier were both lively on today's 2nd stage of the Tour Down Under. They both attacked in the closing kilometres, trying to avoid a mass-sprint finish, but they both failed. We've become used to Amets' attacking exploits, but to see a young guy like Javier, in only his second day of racing in the Pro Tour, attacking such a strong field at the end of the stage is really something. I have the feeling we'll see more and more from him as the season evolves. In the sprint Aitor once again couldn't really pull it off, coming home 21st. The rest of the lads all came in with the pack, so they're all still within touching distance on GC. Especially so Aitor, who's 15th.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CAS to rule on March 1

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has announced that a ruling on Iban's case will probably be issued on the 1st of March. The Spanish Cycling Federation has 'till the 28th of January to come up with their defence. The RFEC will turn to Iban's lawyers, who'll decide the way to go in the trial. The CAS' decision is definite, and both parties will have to accept the ruling.

Aitor again 16th

Aitor Galdos claimed 16th in the Tour Down Under opener today, the exact same placing he got in the pre-race criterium on Sunday. Today's 129 km long stage was mainly flat, but had one climb included on the way to Angaston. Jon got second place on the climb, right behind Gilbert, and got himself 12 valuable points in that competition. That's a good sign from Jon, who'll perhaps be targeting the climbers' jersey in this race. Amets was also active today, but the break he joined never got more than half a minute and was reeled back in. As said, Aitor sprinted to 16th place, and the rest of the guys all came in with the main pack.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Aramendia OK despite fall

Javier Aramendia's first ever race with his new team didn't go exactly to plan. The talented all-rounder hit the tarmac in yesterday's Tour Down Under Classic criterium, something that might go some way to explaining his next-to-last placing in the event. Though, he did not sustain any serious injuries, and will take to the start of the real Tour Down Under tomorrow without problems. Aitor Galdos did not hit the deck, but was disturbed by a Bouygues Telecom rider when the dash for the line was just about to start for real. The incident meant Aitor didn't get started properly, and had to settle for a 16th spot. Anyway, his form must be good, so hopefully he can pull it off in the next few days.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Galdos opens season with 16th place

Aitor Galdos got Euskaltel's season off to an okay start by claiming 16th place in the Tour Down Under Classic criterium today. Aitor was one of only 19 riders to come in on the same time as the winner and, considering the time difference and the exteme heat, I'm pretty pleased with that performance. He probably didn't get to sprint properly, but still beat other fast men like Grame Brown and Robert Förster. None of the other Euskaltel riders came in with the first group, but that's not really important as this pre-race criterium has no effect on the GC. Full results:

  • 16th, Aitor Galdos, 0:00
  • 41st, Amets Txurruka, 0:23
  • 56th, Mikel Astarloza, 0:31
  • 69th, Andoni Lafuente, 0:36
  • 97th, Jon Bru, 1:01
  • 98th, Iván Velasco, 1:01
  • 122nd, Javier Aramendia, 1:34

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Heat wave in Australia

The Tour Down Under is going to be a tough race for the Euskaltel riders. The time difference between Spain and Australia is 8 hours, so that will definetely have an effect on their performance. So too will the predicted excessively hot weather. Temperatures might reach an unbearable 50 degrees celsius at some stage in the race, something the Euskaltel riders may struggle to cope with. According to Euskaltel's homepage, Jon, especially, is stuggling to adapt to the extreme weather. The predicted heat wave in Australia might have a big impact on the racing, so, if the riders don't perform to expectations, they're excused.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Intxausti likened to Iban

Saunier Duval's Basque hotshot Beñat Intxausti, who a year ago turned down an Euskaltel offer, has been likened to Iban by Saunier chief Joxean "Matxin" Fernández. Intxausti is a known admirer of Iban, and has for years been the hottest property in Spanish cycling. "He reminds me of Iban in many ways", "Marxin" said. "He's a brilliant climber and a winner, just like Iban, but he's not as aggressive as Iban. Iban, when in form, attacks all the time. That's not Beñat, he's more calculative. We have great hopes for him". I was gutted to see him turn down Euskaltel last year, as he's going to be one of the biggest stars in the sport in a few years. His performances in the Worlds and the Tour de l'Avenir is a proof of that.

Izagirre dreaming of Euskaltel

Basque wonderkid Gorka Izagirre has revealed his desire of one day riding for Euskaltel. The 20-year-old, now with the Seguros Bilbao outfit, has risen many eyebrows the last two years for his outstanding performances in the Spanish youth categories. Winner of four races last year, he's destined for a glorious future according to the experts, and if Gorka gets it his way, that future will be with Euskaltel. "Euskaltel-Euskadi is the team I want to ride for", he told El Diario Vasco, "it's my home-team". I would love to see this talented all-rounder at Euskaltel in a couple of years. I've been impressed with his riding, especially this year, and he seems to have got what it takes to succeed at the highest level no doubt. And we're suddenly empty of Gorkas on the team, and that's not good. There should always be at least one Gorka on Euskaltel. Aupa Gorka!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Murcia line-up

It may be two months away, but Euskaltel have already decided on the team for the annual Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia. And it looks like a strong one. Samu, Mikel, Jon, Iván, Josu, Jorge, Javier and Andoni will all ride the event, much to the organizer's delight, who had asked Galdeano to take Samu to the race. Samu is looking forward to the race, and especially the uphill time trial, which should suit him.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Poll results: Euskaltel's prospects for 2008 are looking...

Seems I'm not the only Euskaltel fan optimistic about the season ahead out there. "Quite good" took quite a convincing win, accumulating 46 % of the votes. "OK, similar to last season" got 30 %, while "Brilliant, better than ever" got third with 22. 1 single person opted for the "Doesn't look too good" alternative, while, not surprisingly, no one voted for "Really bad, worse than ever". The season starts on Sunday, and I'm looking forward to it...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Euskaltel Down Under

The Euskaltel team for the Tour Down Under, consisting of Mikel, Amets, Jon, Aitor Galdos, Andoni, Iván and Javier, yesterday left the Bilbao airport for Australia. The team will be directed by Gorka Gerrikagoitia. The race consists of six stages, starting on the 22nd and ending on the 27th of January.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Iban supposed to race in Argentina

Iban would have started this season in Argentina if everything had gone to plan. Of course, Iban won't start his season for some time yet, but if the UCI had used their brains a little, Iban would have lined up in the Tour de San Luis towards the end of this month. I would love to see that happening, but I know we won't. Paris-Nice was supposed to be his next race, just like last year, and, as that's in March, I wouldn't rule out that happening just yet. It all comes down to when CAS will start the hearing of the case, but to this date there's no news on when that will be.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Camaño missing Iban

Iker Camaño, now with Saunier Duval and formerly of Euskaltel, has voiced his sympathy for Iban in a recent DEIA interview. "I'm the one who misses him the most", he said. "It's just unfair. We're not only team-mates, we're friends as well. 'Till now, we always shared rooms", he said in a sad tone. "We (the whole team) really want him to be here. I don't want to think that he can't come back but, seeing where this is heading... I just hope everything turns out right". So do we.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Looking for improvement

Reading through today's DEIA I found this great overview of every Euskaltel rider's objectives for the season ahead. This wasn't easy, but I've tried to sum it all up in short rider by rider. Here you go:

  • Mikel Astarloza: Will look to better his 9th place overall in the Tour this year. "A win would be great", he said, "but I appreciate more consistency".
  • Jon Bru: He admits last season was bad, and hopes to once again enjoy the bike this year. No specified objective.
  • Haimar Zubeldia: Will look to shine in the early-season races, specifically in the Vuelta a Valencia and in Paris-Nice. But make no mistake, the Tour will as ever be his biggest goal.
  • Jorge Azanza: No concrete objective, will look to avoid injuries and illness.
  • Beñat Albizuri: Hopes to leave an impression in the early months of the year, especially in Valencia and Paris-Nice. Hopes to have luck on his side this year.
  • Dioni Galparsoro: Aims to be in peak condition early on, especially in Paris-Nice, and in the Giro d'Italia in May if the team decides to take part.
  • Igor Antón: Two aims: the hilly spring classics and the País Vasco, and the Vuelta at the end of the year. No Tour.
  • Lander Aperribay: Will start the season in Paris-Nice, and will hope to be in good shape come the spring classics. Hopes to ride the Giro.
  • Antton Luengo: Will start slowly, his first race being Tirreno-Adriatico. Antton is a certain starter in the Giro. But there's a big if there as you know...
  • Andoni Lafuente: No real objectives, aims to help the team as much as possible.
  • Aitor Hernández: Will start out in Paris-Nice. Looks to grab first pro win, as well as being a valuable domestique.
  • Aitor Galdos: Did not mention any races to aim specifically for, but is feeling great after some hard training this winter. Will start in the Tour Down Under.
  • Gorka Verdugo: Is a guarantee for the Tour, and aims to improve on further this year.
  • Amets Txurruka: One big aim; the Tour de France. He's already sure of a spot on the team. Will do the Tour Down Under, and hopes to perform well early on in the season.
  • Iñaki Isasi: Is looking for an injury-free year, simple as that.
  • Alán Pérez: Will take advantage of any opportunity presenting itself, but did not mention what races he's planning on doing this year.
  • Iñigo Landaluze: His goal will be to win a stage in one of the three Grand Tours. He's a certainty for the Tour, and might do the Giro for the first time. Will also look to be competitive all year long.
  • Iván Velasco: Hopes for strong showings in Australia, Mallorca and Murcia, and to participate in the Giro.
  • Koldo Fernández: Hopes to take part in a Grand Tour, as well as winning more races than last year.
  • Juan José Oroz: Like Koldo, hopes to start one of the three GTs.
  • Markel Irizar: Hopes to peak for Roubaix and Vlaanderen.
  • Javier Aramendia: Will start the Tour Down Under, followed by Mallorca, Andalucía, Almería, Murcia, Castilla y León, Llodio and then his biggest goals; Roubaix and Vlaanderen.
  • Rubén Pérez: Not targeting one or two races, but hopes to be in the breaks in the races he'll take part in. Will do the Tour again this summer.
  • Josu Agirre: Will sacrifice himself for the team's greater good. No exact peak.
  • Samuel Sánchez: Will focus solely on the second part of the season, starting with the Tour. Won't do Paris-Nice, País Vasco or the Ardennes classics. After the Tour, he'll do everything he can to win the Olympics and the World Champs.
  • Egoi Martínez: Did not indicate what races he'll do or when to peak.

5 goals for Euskaltel

Euskaltel will target especially strong performances in five races next year; the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España, the Vuelta al País Vasco, the Euskal Bizikleta and the one-day GP Miguel Indurain. Say what? GP Miguel Indurain? I was a little surprised to read it myself, as it's a pretty low-key race to be honest. Targeting the Giro di Lombardia for example would have made much more sense to most of us I think. But for Euskaltel, the races held close to home hold special importance. For the Tour, Samu, Haimar and Mikel will lead. In the two Vueltas Igor will lead, but he'll probably share the captain's role with Mikel in País Vasco. Who'll lead the team in the two other races I don't know. It could be anyone I guess, but no matter who it'll be I think they'll leave their mark on the race.

7 riders ready for Tour

The season hasn't even started, but still 7 Euskaltel riders can rest asured that they'll take part in this year's Tour de France. Samu, Mikel and Haimar will share leadership duties between them. The remaining four riders also took part last year, namely Amets, Rubén, Gorka and Iñigo. No big surprises there then, but it'll be exciting to see who can nick the last two spots. I hope they'll take either Aitor Galdos or Koldo, as a presence on the flat stages would be nice, and perhaps Egoi, as he's proven his credentials in three-week races before.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Aketza's B-sample negative

Miguel Madariaga revealed in an interview with the Noticias de Gipuzkoa today that Aketza Peña indeed returned a negative B-sample last year. Aketza tested positive for testoserone in April's Giro de Trentino, a result which was made public half-way through the Giro d'Italia. Euskaltel withdrew Aketza from the race and since then we haven't heard a word about his case. It has been speculated, mainly on this site, that the counter-analysis came back negative, and today Miguel confirmed that. Though, Miguel couldn't say more than that, as he didn't know what Aketza's representatives were doing with the case right now. I sincerely hope he manages to clear his name, but in today's climate that's not very easy even if you have the law on your side.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Samu set to stay

Samu finally ended months of speculation surrounding his future by putting pen to paper on a new deal, effectively keeping him with Euskaltel until 2010. Samu will thus remain with the only team he's ever been with for at least another couple of years. At the press-conference, Samu told reporters: "I've decided to stay because of sport and personal reasons. Euskaltel is the only team I've ever been with and, to be honest, I can't picture myself with another jersey than the orange one. It's an immense joy to be able to stay. I feel appreciated and respected by Miguel and Igor, and to me that's fundamental". He further went on to say that there are still economic differences between the two parties, but that wouldn't stop him signing a new contract. Speaking of the new season, Samu is going all in for the Tour de France this year. The Beijing Olympics are also on his schedule, provided he's selected. Though, I don't think he needs to worry too much about that...

Samu and Euskaltel to stage press-conference

Euskaltel will hold a press-conference later today to talk about, and likely reveal something, about Samu's future with the team. Igor Galdeano, Miguel Madariaga and Samu will be present at the Aula Pedagógica de la Fundación Ciclista Euskadi today at 12:30. The team presentation will be held tomorrow, so likely the two parties have either come to an agreement or to the end of the road.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Garate turned down Euskaltel offer

Basque Quick.Step climber/GC rider Juanma Garate todya revealed he turned down an offer from Euskaltel last year. The 31-year-old has been a quality rider for some time now, and I've been one of those singing his praises. I've always wanted to see Juanma don the famous orange jersey but, judging by an interview in today's Noticias de Gipuzkoa, that will probably never happen. "I'm glad I didn't join Euskaltel", he said. "They contacted me for the very first time, ever, this year. They offered me a contract that wasn't anything near the contract I'm on now. I was only offered a one-year deal, while some other Euskaltel riders have got two-year deals. And I was already on a two-year deal with Quick.Step... I understood that they had more confidence and interest in other riders". He also seems to disagree with everything Miguel Madariaga is doing, and saying, so I guess I can wave goodbye to that dream...

"We'll continue to support Iban"

So it says in the Spanish Cycling Federation's letter to the UCI, in which they confirmed they won't re-open Iban's case. The Federation's General Secretary, Eugenio Bermúdez, told el Diario Vasco: "We've written a letter to the UCI, dated December the 28th, to make it clear that we have no intention of reopening Iban Mayo's case, simply because a person can't be judged on the same thing twice. We've supported Mayo, and we will continue to do so as that's the only reasonable thing to do". Now we're only waiting for a date for the case to get underway in CAS.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Strength in depth

As you readers might have noticed, I'm very optimistic about the season ahead for Euskaltel. Sure, they should have had more riders capable of winning big races in the squad, like Herrero, López Garcia, Mayo etc., but I'm very pleased with the strength in depth.

Especially the climbing department looks rock solid. Igor, Samu, Haimar, Amets, Antton, Mikel, Egoi, Aitor Hernández and Dioni all know how to climb. They're bound to accumulate a fair share of wins this year, if they can find the form, so, on paper at least, Euskaltel look to be a force to be reckoned with in the high mountains this year as well. Igor and Samu are the two most likely to grab mountain-top wins, but I'm hoping Haimar and Egoi will take responsibility in that area as well.

We've got three recognised sprinters in the team, namely Koldo, Aitor Galdos and Iñaki. Though, Iñaki was nowhere to be seen in the sprints last year, so I think the Euskaltel directors will have to count on Koldo and Aitor. Koldo got his big breakthrough last year with his win in Tirreno, and Aitor came close over and over again, so hopefully they'll add to their palmarès in 2008. They've also got fast riders to help them out, or rather lead them out, like Beñat, Alán, Rubén and Jon. It seems it's just a question of finding the right place in the bunch when the sprint starts, as their end-speed is more than good enough.

There will never be enough good time triallists at Euskaltel, but at least they're improving. Markel showed his qualities against the clock last year, so I'm counting on him. Egoi and Mikel both shine in the discipline, so hopefully they'll add to the season tally of wins for the team. They've both got what's needed to win TTs, they just have to pull it off. Samu is also a candidate for wins in TTs 30 kilometres long or shorter. He's improving by the minute, so I'm confident he'll grab a win or two in the discipline this year.

Samu is the one for the hilly races, no question. He's among the five best riders in the world on a hilly parcours I reckon and, with the help of Iñigo, Jon and Igor, who's also strong in hilly races, Euskaltel can no doubt be a factor in these races too. Amstel, Fleche, Liège, San Sebeastián, Zürich and Lombardia are there for the taking.

Many Euskaltel riders are keen "breakawayers". Beñat, Rubén, Gorka, Alán, Aitor Hernández and Dioni all figured in many breaks last year, and hopefully they'll continue that trend. The team's fighting spirit was there for all to see last year, and that was in great part thanks to the eagerness to get into breaks. Riders like Josu, Juanjo, Andoni and Lander, and not least strong-man Jorge, will also, I think, figure in many breaks, so it looks good on that front too.

Samu will be the star once again this year I think, but I've got a message to all of you: watch out for that kid Javier Aramendia. He might be a bit too young to win the big races already this year, but he's got talent in abundance. Mark my words.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Links updated

Finally I managed to just sit down, take the necessary time, and go through all of my links to see if they were still active. Turned out quite a few of them weren't... Many sites, and especially rider sites, have ceased to exist in the last year. That's a shame, but I guess life goes on. Leave a comment if there are links not working properly or if you want me to add some links to whatever may interest you. And, by the way, check out Patxi Vila's finally-up-and-running home page. Looks great.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

No photo of Iban

Saunier Duval have, just like Euskaltel, recently held their annual photo session . Everyone on the team has got their picture taken, except for one. Yeah, you guessed it, all except for Iban. Maybe not that big a surprise, as the UCI would not be happy with the Saunier management if they did, but anyway disappointing. I guess they'll take one of Iban as well if he's cleared, and hopefully that will be a bit better than last year's, though that shouldn't be too much of a problem...

Friday, January 04, 2008

New pics added

The riders' factfiles have all been updated with their official 2008 photo now. It took me a while to change pictures, but I think they are all done now. And, I must say, this year's photos are so much better than last year's. Take a look yourself...

Official presentation on Thursday

Euskaltel will stage it's official 2008 presentation this upcoming Thursday, January the 10th. The presentation will be held at 19:30 Irún, a small town in the Basque region of Gipuzkoa.

Euskaltel to offer Samu 3-year deal

Samu will be offered a new three-year deal before the Pro Tour season gets underway with the Tour Down Under on the 14th of January. Euskaltel have been keen to tie up Samu on a new deal for some time now, as his present contract expires at the end of the year. It seems both rider and team want the cooperation to continue, but so far they've not managed to come to an agreement on Samu's salary. "We want to have Samu signed up before Down Under", Madariaga and Galdeano told the Diario Vasco. "We hope that he wants to stay on, but the contract proposals he's got from other teams are financially lucrative. We would like him to sign a three-year deal, and we are hopeful we'll reach an agreement". If Samu doesn't put pen to paper now, the negotiations will be put off until the end of the season.

New jersey

This is what the Euskaltel riders will be wearing while racing next year. The new jersey looks great I reckon, though the changes from last year are minor. The main change is that, in all previous seasons bar last year, they used jerseys with the words "Euskaltel-Euskadi" while racing in Spain, while they used "Euskaltel-Pays Basque" when racing in all other countries. As you can see, this year's jersey has got both, and I must say I like how it looks. Except from that it's quite similar to last year's, but that's cool with me, as I really liked that one.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Madariaga looking for improvement

Euskaltel and Fundacion Euskadi chief Miguel Madariaga is happy with the 2007 season, but is looking for more this year round. He told Esciclismo: "We completed a memorable Tour. Though, no one will remember it, as we didn't win anything. But I'm very pleased with it, and I think everyone should be. Anyway we'll demand more this year. It's our obligation to demand more, as, even though we enjoyed a good year, there's still big room for improvement. We'll go step by step every year to reach the highest level". That's the spirit Miguel!

Samu to race León

Yeah, big news huh? I know it's not the most interesting post, but Samu will race the Vuelta a Castilla y León in March. A host of top riders will be there, among them Menchov, Sastre, Contador, Leipheimer, you name 'em. It's getting increasingly difficult to find anything to write about these days, as there are practically no news on Iban or Euskaltel. I'm running on empty, but I hope it's better than nothing. I found this "news" just now and, as I'm trying to post something every day, it's the best I can do right now...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Poll results: Iban to win case in court?

If you were to judge it, then indeed he would win it. An overwhelming 65 % think that Iban will win or, more rightly, the UCI lose, the upcoming case in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. I feel it's quite obvious he will, if it could just get underway...


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