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.


Arnout said...

Nice overview of the riders, but you didn't mention Iñigo as a breakaway specialist. In my eyes he is for sure ;)

Anonymous said...

you forgot haimar as a tt

Magnus said...

Of course I should have mentioned Iñigo as one for the breaks, he's a real specialist. Oops... Haimar, though, is not that good in TTs anymore. He's kind of lost it there as, he said himself, his improved climbing has been on the expense of TT skills.

Arnout said...

But in 2003, he was a master in both...

Magnus said...



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