Thursday, July 31, 2008

Koldo just misses out... again

Koldo once again missed out on victory today when he came second in the Cicuito de Getxo. Koldo was, very surprisingly, beaten by some guy called Reinier Honig from the P3 Transfer-Batavus team. Though a 2nd place is a great acheivement, it must have been terribly disappointing for him. I don't really understand how a guy as fast as Koldo can be beaten by that rider, but that's cycling I guess, and it sucks so bad. Euskaltel must have racked up a scaringly high number of runner-up spots this year.... The rest of the team were very active and did their best to set up Koldo for the win. Alán formed part of the 7-man break today and looked to be in good shape; a good sign for Saturday's big race. Eventhough Alán was in the break, the team reeled the break back in. A flurry of attacks started, Alán once again among them, but it came down to a sprint between 12 riders, with a second group coming home 2 seconds back. How that sprint unfolded I'm not sure, but the result of it is quite strange. First of all, of course, this Honig guy took his first win of his career by beating one of the fastest men around. And JJ Rojas, a reknown sprinter, ended dead last in that 12-man sprint. And another fast guy, Manuel Vázquez, ended up in 7th behind a bunch of also-rans. Weird... The rest of the guys did okay. Markel and Aitor H came in with this small second group, while Alán and Javier came in with the next big group 1:45 adrift. Lander came home with the gruppetto in 91st place at 7:20. The rest of the guys, Dioni, Beñat, Antton and Andoni, all abandoned.

Aketza Peña cleared of doping

Yes, that's rigth; Aketza has been cleared of any wrondoing in relation to his positive test for nandrolone at last year's Giro di Trentino. The A-sample came back positive, and allegedly contained 5 times the allowed limit for the drug. He subsequently had to leave the Giro d'Italia he was contesting at the time, and immediately asked for the counter-analysis. In august that same year he was suspended for two years, eventhough the Spanish Cycling Federation wasn't made aware of the B-sample result until January. Aketza didn't say why CAS decided to clear him, he'll leave that to his lawyer. He's been training all this time, competing in mountain bikes events, to keep in shape. What the future now holds for Aketza is unclear, but I'm really glad to see him cleared of doping. Euskaltel were forced to fire him due to the Code of Ethics, but Miguel Madariaga told El Correo: "Inside the team we supported him. And now it's clear that he hasn't done anything wrong." This news is good for everyone I reckon; for Euskaltel, for himself and for us, his fans.

Tour riders line up for San Sebastián

Euskaltel will aim for the win in the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday. The Pro Tour one-day race will see six of the Tour riders take part, namely Samu, Haimar, Mikel, Gorka, Egoi and Rubén, along with Alán and Iván. It's definetely a strong line-up, so I really expect the team to be in the thick of the action. This year's route, which features a short climb and decent right before the finish-line, suits Samu's characteristics to perfection, so he should be at the very front. I also think Gorka, who recovered from a crash in the Tour and returned to his old self towards the end of the race, will post a good result.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Several riders face the axe

According to Miguel Madariaga in today's El Correo, and some personal sources, 6 or 7 riders will have to leave the team by the end of the season. Due to the limited budget, which remains at 6 million euro, and the uncertainty over next year's calendar, it's a step the team is forced to take. Rumours are already circulating on who those 6 or 7 might be, but it's hard to tell. I'm afraid Lander, Andoni, Beñat, Jorge, Dioni and Antton are among those, though I, to be honest, have no idea whatsoever. These are just my thoughts... All 6 of them have struggled, for various reasons, to fulfill their obvious talent this year. I'd be really saddened to see some of them go, especially Antton, who's been going through hell lately due to personal reasons. It's also always been clear that he's got what it takes to make it on the big stage and, as he's my favourite Euskaltel rider, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for him. There's still many races left for the riders to make an impression this year, though, so hopefully they'll grab the opportunities as they present themselves.

Koldo to lead Getxo charge

Koldo will lead the team in Thursdays Circuito de Getxo - Memorial Ricardo Otxoa one-day race. Aitor Galdos naturally had to drop out due to his crash in training, but Koldo will still see 9 riders line up alongside him under the guidance of Jon Odriozola. The team: Koldo, Antton, Alán, Beñat, Javier, Aitor H, Markel, Andoni, Dioni and Lander. It's not unlikely that the race will be decided in a sprint, so Koldo certainly is one of the biggest pre-race favourites.

Aitor Galdos crashes in training

Aitor Galdos sadly hit the ground head-first in training yesterday. The team which will contest Thursday's Circuito de Getxo, which Aitor himself of course is no longer a part of, was out training when the bad crash occured. The rider was immediately sent to the hospital in nearby Cruces, and spent the night there. He's back home now, already, and he's doing fine considering the circumstances. Aitor was luckily wearing a helmet at the time, something which, according to the team's website, might have saved his life. Man, cycling can be dangerous. I wish him a speedy recovery....

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nieve set to join team

24-year-old Mikel Nieve Iturlade of Orbea-Oreka SDA will join Euskaltel next year. The hotly-tipped transfer of the talented climber was today revealed in Basque daily El Correo. Mikel has impressed greatly this year, especially on the climbs, so I'm looking forward to seing him around next year. Though, he's not really that young any more, so I'm curious to see how good this guy will actually be. But if the past two year's results are anything to go by, we're in for a treat...

Madariaga pleased with Tour performance

Miguel Madariaga, head chief of the Fundacion Euskadi Ciclista, was suprisingly up-beat about the team's recent showing in France. He spoke at length to DEIA yesterday, saying: "It's a pain that we didn't succeed in winning a stage, but there's no way we can complain about it. The ruling's a good one, I can't see how it can't be. Every Tour is different from the last one, but we've reached the level we hoped we would. We've come 2nd on the two most important stages in the mountains, and Samu has ended up 7th overall. Perhaps some doesn't value Samu's performance, but if you look at the final GC, and the riders he's in front of, it's obvious that his overall placing is important for him as well as the team. And, I guess most people don't know this, but it's also the first time all 9 riders on the team have reached the finish-line. I'm personally proud of that. I'm also proud of our 4th place in the team rankings in the hardest race on earth. If you look at what team's are behind us in the standings, it's impressive. Of course we've reflected on the fact that we didn't win a stage, but we're only one out of 12(!) teams who haven't won one. If we look at those teams' potential, both economically and from a sporting perspective, and we compare it to our philosophy, I can't see how I can complain. I'm actually proud, really proud, of what we've done in this race. Of course it was extremely annoying when Egoi went so close, but we've analyzed the whole thing so that it won't happen again. But sometimes riders commit errors. They're only human beings after all. We told him as the stage progressed that it'd be wise to save something for later, and we also warned him of Gerrans, who's a good rider. We trusted each other. It's clear that the Australian told Egoi that he felt bad and that he wouldn't contest the sprint for the win, but you can't believe in those thing nowadays. Egoi was simply too honest."

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I've once again been forced to take a break from blogging. I'm really sorry, but I'll try to blog more consistently in the near future. The Tour came to a close today, and the team once again ended up without a win to show for their efforts. That was a shame, as they thouroughly deserved one, but life goes on. All in all an okay Tour. Samu's 7th place was very good, so too Mikel's aggressive riding, but Haimar sadly failed to deliver. A 4th in the team ranking is not to be sniffed at, but sadly a 4th place is a very long way from 1st. A solid, yet unspectacular, Tour de France 2008 for the team. Final GC:

  • 7th, Samuel Sánchez, 6:25
  • 16th, Mikel Astarloza, 23:40
  • 45th, Haimar Zubeldia, 1:27:00
  • 50th, Egoi Martínez, 1:37:00
  • 52nd, Amets Txurruka, 1:41:59
  • 73rd, Gorka Verdugo, 2:08:23
  • 91st, Rubén Pérez, 2:33:55
  • 103rd, Juan José Oroz, 2:56:12
  • 104th, Iñaki Isasi, 2:57:44

Great to see every single rider finish the race, that's always pleasing. The team also took part in the GP Villafranca Ordizia on Saturday, but that wasn't a big success. Iñigo got a 12th place, which isn't bad, but I'm afraid to say the others ended up way back. Strength in numbers will always be a challenge for the team, and to me it looks like that's what's missing this year...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ups and downs

Being a cycling fan is hard; you mostly get disappointed. I was shattered when Egoi missed out on what would, and should, have been a very deserved win here the other day. That's cycling, that's just so cruel. He was obviously the strongest, Gerrans gave him his word on not attacking him, Pate disgraced himself and his team by not pulling at all... It was so unfair, but there's nothing I can do about it, except trying to forget it... Samu's been brilliant this last week, and he must be left thinking what might have been had he started the race a bit stronger. He always seems to get stronger as the races unfold, no exception. But he's been magnificent, hats off to him! The neverending quest for a stage-win continues tomorrow in what is likely to be the team's last chance of winning a stage. I expect an "all-out" approach from the team; it's now or never.

The team's been competing in the Vuelta a Madrid as well where, disappointingly, the team didn't manage to clock up a win. Koldo came second on the last stage though, while Josu showed strength in the ITT, Iñigo looked good in 6th overall and Javier was "best young rider". Not a bad return, but a win would be nice.

The team will field Josu, Lander, Dioni, Jon, Iñigo, the Aitors, Igor, Javier and Iván in the Prueba Villafranca-Clásica de Ordizia tomorrow. My main hope for success is Iñigo due to his good showing in Madrid.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I know I couldn't possibly have timed it any worse, but I'll likely not be able to update the blog for a few days. I'm going to Italy (no, not to see the Prato Nevoso stage) on vacation, but I'll be back by Thursday. There's supposed to be a wireless internett connection where we'll stay, but I can't guarantee it'll work. Maybe I'll update it, maybe not. I'll be doing it if I can though rest assured. If not, see you all on Thursday!

Juanjo gives it a go

Juanjo tried his luck today on the 12th stage. He joined the breakaway duo with something like 50 kilometres to go, but they were all reeled back in with less than 10 clicks to go. A good try though; he's finding his feet nicely at his first Tour. It came down to the anticipated mass-sprint, in which no Euskaltel rider got in the mix. Everyone but Amets and Gorka, who's still suffering and came in dead last, rolled in with the pack. Due to Ricco's exclusion, Mikel is now 9th while Samu is 11th overall. Juanjo spoke to the team's website after his breakaway attempt: "I'm finding my feet little by little. I knew it'd be hard to stay away today, the sprinters' teams were in control all day, but it was worth a shot. It was very windy and you never know what might happen. This is my first Tour, and what I did today gives me confidence. There are still stages left to be raced, and we'll continue to try".

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Euskaltel go missing

Euskaltel sadly failed to include one of their riders in today's big break which, as predicted, made it all the way to the line. Iñaki, Juanjo and Rubén were, to their credit, aggressive to begin with, but missed out on the important break. Then it was just a case of staying out of danger, something they managed. All riders, except for Iñaki and Gorka, came in with the main pack, 14:51 down. The pair came in with the next group at more than 22 minutes. No major changes to the overall standings today. Gorka continues to struggle with injuries he sustained on Sunday, something he talked about afterwards: "It was really hard for me today. I didn't train yesterday (on the rest-day) so that the wounds would heal, but I'm still badly bruised. When I take a deep breath my ribs hurt. After yesterday's halt I knew it'd be hard today. It's annoying that this has happened to me as I was so motivated for this race. I'm enjoying a pretty good season, so it feels bad not to be able to show what I'm made of here. But, still, I'll carry on and help the team the best I can".

Euskaltel head for Madrid

Euskaltel will, for the first time I know of, ride the Vuelta a Madrid. The 2.1 three-stage race commences in two days, and will see Koldo, Iñigo, Javier, Jon, Aitor H, Iván, Alán and Josu do their utomost to secure a win or two for the team. The competition will not be the stiffest, so perhaps Koldo can add to his palmarès

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Press conference

Euskaltel held a press conference at today's rest-day. Samu, Mikel and Haimar were all present to speak their mind on the Tour so far. Here's what they said:
  • Samu: I'm convinced that I can manage to stay with the best ones soon. I ascended the Hautacam only 16 seconds slower than Piepoli, I posted the 6th best time up that mountain. Those numbers indicate my form is good. I got dropped on the Tourmalet and I had to pay for it. But there are still several stages left, and the objective of winning a stage remains intact.
  • Mikel: I'm pleased with my efforts in the Pyrenees. We've just done two important stages and I'm well placed overall, better than I thought I would be actually. The race is still very open, so we'll continue to fight for a stage-win. To win a stage is really hard in the Tour, but that was our objective and we stand by it.
  • Haimar: The race has been hard on me. The last two days have been difficult; this was not what I hoped for. The team will be lead by Mikel and Samu, and I will support them. In addition I'll hunt for stage-wins as I'm likely to be given a bit more leeway than in years past. I feel that my form is good in this Tour, and a stage-win would be the best way to finish it.

Mikel praises "best fans in the world"

Mikel, ever the fans' favourite, heaped praise on the team's fans yesterday. The Basque fans, who are known to come out in numbers in the Pyrenees and make the climbs all orange, were present this year as well. Mikel was only too happy to see them out there again: "I want to honour the fans, they've been really impressive. The've again demonstrated they're the best fans in the world". 'Nuff said.

Monday, July 14, 2008

No success at home

It was an okay day for the team today in the Pyrenees. Mikel did well to claim 14th on the steep climbs of the Hautacam, while Samu finished right behind in 16th place. This leaves the pair in 11th and 13th respectively. Amets did well to come home 33rd, while Haimar decided to chill out and lose more time to the leaders. Not a bad choice, as he might be given freedom to attack later on in the Alps. Gorka continued to struggle due to his injuries sustained yesterday. He came in with the gruppetto. Except from that, not much to write about. Results:

  • 14th, Mikel Astarloza, 3:58
  • 16th, Samuel Sánchez, 5:22
  • 33rd, Amets Txurruka, 10:39
  • 67th, Egoi Martínez, 24:28
  • 71st, Haimar Zubeldia, s.t.
  • 73rd, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 94th, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 111th, Iñaki Isasi, 33:14
  • 144th, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.


  • 11th, Mikel Astarloza, 3:51
  • 13th, Samuel Sánchez, 4:26
  • 46th, Haimar Zubeldia, 33:52
  • 67th, Egoi Martínez, 49:42
  • 78th, Amets Txurruka, 57:33
  • 84th, Gorka Verdugo, 1:05:55
  • 108th, Rubén Pérez, 1:16:22
  • 109th, Iñaki Isasi, 1:16:30
  • 110th, Juan José Oroz, 1:16:44

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Good effort; no result

The team tried today, they really did, but it was to no avail in the end. The first stage in the Pyrenees was not a big success for the team, but no disaster either. After missing the break of the day, the team set about reducing the gap at the front of the peloton. The whole team, all nine of them, were at the front for most of the stage riding tempo. It was awesome to watch, especially for all the Basques who'd come out to watch their heroes live today. And it was fruitful too; the team did a great job in keeping the break's advantage down. Especially Amets was amazing to watch, even on the climbs he was at the very front doing it for the cause. Gorka hit the deck pretty badly about halfway through, hurting his elbow, shoulder and knee. He managed to finish though, all banged up. But the team continued to pull, but sadly it didn't lead to any results. Haimar had a horrible day. He suffered already on the Peyresourde, and at the end of the day conceded more than 9 minutes. His GC aspirations no longer exists, so he'll target stages instead I'm sure. Mikel and Samu both looked pretty good in the high mountains. They both tried their luck two or three times each, but the pack wasn't about to let them go. Samu advanced to 9th overall though, Mikel to 16th, so it wasn't all for nothing luckily. They both came in with the main group of favourites 1:17 down on Ricco`. Haimar was naturally disappointed afterwards: "I came to the Tour with big aspirations", he said, "but now I'm just ashamed of myself. I felt bad already on the Peyresourde; my body didn't react well to the constant change of rhytm. At the Aspin I was distanced; I saw I couldn't keep up with the best. Now I'll change my goals and instead work for Samu and Mikel, who both came in with the first group. And, as I'm way back on GC, I might get more freedom to look for stage-wins. I've climbed well all year, but this is what it's at right now. I was a little ill after the Dauphiné, but I don't want to use that as an excuse. A different Tour is ahead of me now; I've always had my eyes on the overall, but now I've got other objectives." Samu and Mikel really didn't say anything of special interest, so I won't translate all that. Basically they both said that they were really happy with the team today, and that they're both happy with the outcome of the day. They should be, they did really well. Here's the results:

  • 24th, Mikel Astarloza, 1:17
  • 35th, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 63rd, Egoi Martínez, 9:o4
  • 72nd, Haimar Zubeldia, s.t.
  • 87th, Amets Txurruka, 16:27
  • 123rd, Rubén Pérez, 24:02
  • 124th, Gorka Verdugo, 24:2o
  • 137th, Iñaki Isasi, 28:11
  • 143rd, Juan José Oroz, s.t.

Iban facing criminal charges

I was stunned to read Eurosport today and find out that Iban, along with Vinokourov and Moreni, is probably facing criminal charges. Iban is facing charges of "acquiring and possession of doping substances". I guess that won't materialize if he's cleared by CAS, but if he's not, he's in deep trouble. These rumours stem from the French Sud Ouest newspaper, and the city prosecutor of Pau, Erick Maurel, would neither confirm nor deny it. I have no idea what the possible consequences might be, but it sure doesn't sound to good...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Amets is back!

It was just like watching last year's race all over again today; Amets was at his aggressive best making us proud. I just love his attitude. But it's not just his attitude; this guy is quality. I guess that's no big surprise but, still, he's fabulous. He was part of a four-man break today, a break that looked doomed to fail all day. But with some 15 kilometres to go he jumped on the attack and only got Pineau for company. The two of them really made an effort and stayed away until 4 clicks to go. It was awesome stuff to see Amets never giving in, not even when the pack was, literally, a meter or two down the road. I love him, I know all you other Euskaltel fans do, and the Norwegian commentators certainly do. When Amets eventually was caught it was time to sprint. Rubén and Iñaki went for some kind of two-pronged attack and stayed close all the way. They both had top 10-finished in sight, but was blocked in of sorts inside the last 100. They eventually finished 13th and 14th respectively. Not bad! The rest of the guys finished inside the peloton safe and sound. As for tomorrow I've got one word for you: Samu!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Samu getting closer

I'll just state the obvious: it's a matter of when, rather than if, Samu will take a stage at this year's race. Today he placed 7th in a sprint of 23, who all came in 6 seconds adrift of breakaway-winner León Sánchez. The second group, containing Haimar and Mikel, came in 33 back, and thus lost more time to their fellow GC hopefulls. Samu though looks to be the team's best bet for overall and stage glory this year round. He's 11th overall, just 1:27 back, while Mikel is 18th, at 2:16, and Haimar is 29th at precisely 4 minutes. Mikel impressed on the cat.2 climb though, jumping clear of the pack in pursuit of the leading quartet. He really did well, but noticed it wouldn't be worthwhile so he sat up. But he looks really good, and that's the most important thing at this stage of the race. The team as a whole also impressed; the pack split in 2 when Cunego hit the deck hard after 60 kilometres. All Euskaltel riders were stuck in the wrong part but, together with Quick.Step and Lampre, pulled the first group back. Really important; great work! Stage results:
  • 7th, Samuel Sánchez, 0:06
  • 32nd, Mikel Astarloza, 0:33
  • 46th, Haimar Zubeldia, s.t.
  • 83rd, Iñaki Isasi, 4:36
  • 84th, Egoi Martínez, 7:24
  • 85th, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 126th, Rubén Pérez, 21:53
  • 132nd, Amets Txurruka, s.t.
  • 166th, Juan José Oroz, s.t.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mixed bag in the mountains

It was an okay day for the team today. The race's first mountain-top finish did not produce the expected fireworks, but that might have been just as well for Euskaltel. Samu looked good all day, and stayed with a chance of winning the stage until Schumacher, somehow, managed to take a tumble inside the last 1000 metres. Samu was right on his wheel at the time and just evaded hitting the deck himself. Samu had lost his chance, but still managed to finish 12th at only 12 seconds. He occupies 11th on GC. Mikel was the next Euskaltel rider to cross the line in 16th place, 23 back. He did well considering the steep final climb was not at all suited to his characteristics. He's 16th overall now. Haimar disappointed again I'm afraid. He lost contact on the last climb quite early, and had to make do with a 21st place, still, though, just 27 seconds back. He's 30th overall after today's stage. The rest of the squad did okay. Gorka looked awesome to be fair; he was on the attack several times. The same can be said of Amets and Egoi, who were both aggressive. Juanjo did really well I reckon to come home 71st, only 3:45 back. It's his first Tour, and he's finding his feet nicely. Iñaki took a tumble early on and hit his knee but, at the time of writing, it doesn't look like he's seriously injured. Speaking post-stage, Samu was a little annoyed about the fall of yellow yersey Schumacher. "The fall was a pity", he said. "It forced me to break and nearly stop, so I didn't stand a chance of getting back up to the front. I could have been fighting for the stage-win, but it didn't happen. There are several stages left to race, though, so I'll continue to give it a go." Haimar and Mikel also expressed themselves happy with their accomplishments today. Stage results:

  • 12th, Samuel Sánchez, 0:12
  • 16th, Mikel Astarloza, 0:23
  • 21st, Haimar Zubeldia, 0:27
  • 44th, Gorka Verdugo, 1:13
  • 71st, Juan José Oroz, 3:45
  • 83rd, Amets Txurruka, 4:48
  • 84th, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 99th, Egoi Martínez, 8:53
  • 100th, Iñaki Isasi, s.t.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The calm before the storm

It was an easy day in the saddle for the whole team today. No one in the breaks, no one in the mix and, luckily, no one in the crashes. Everyone came in with the leading pack. Iñaki gave it a go at the finish and claimed an okay 16th place. The first summit-finish is on the programme tomorrow, with the stage ending on the Super Besse. The first mountainous day is always exciting, and I have to admit I'm nervous. I think Haimar will be really up for it given his bad ITT yesterday, and hopefully we'll get to see Amets, Rubén or someone in the break. I expect a better showing from the whole team than the previous day's one.

Time trial disappointment

Today's individual time trial did not go to plan for the team. Samu did well to claim 21st place, but Mikel and Haimar did not live up to expectations. Mikel ended up 27th, at 1:42, while Haimar finished a lowly 100th, at more than 3 minutes. Not the best of days to say the least. Samu, though, was reasonably upbeat: "I'm pleased so far", he said. "I'm pleased 'cause I've improved my form markedly compared to my ITT in the Dauphiné. That kind of data is important to me. I cannot complain on the result, as this was a TT for the specialists. I'm improving little by little." Mikel was not so positive: "I thought I was going to do better. In the Dauphiné ITT, which was not really adapted to my characteristics, I did well and ended up 4th. Today's parcours was more suited to me, but it didn't go to well and I cannot be content. I had hoped to gain time on the climbers, but I haven't. There's many days left though, so we'll continue to fight." Haimar had this to say: "I didn't feel well right since the start. I know that I'll improve as the race unfolds. I've prepared especially for the mountains this year, as that's where I think the final outcome will be decided. I'm convinced the last ITT will work out better for me, as then it's all about the state of form." Stage results:

  • 21st, Samuel Sánchez, 1:31
  • 27th, Mikel Astarloza, 1:42
  • 72nd, Gorka Verdugo, 2:57
  • 100th, Haimar Zubeldia, 3:22
  • 113th, Egoi Martínez, 3:35
  • 114th, Juan José Oroz, 3:36
  • 124th, Iñaki Isasi, 3:45
  • 135th, Amets Txurruka, 3:54
  • 145th, Rubén Pérez, 4:08

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Still all good for Euskaltel

Today's third stage was another case of keeping out of trouble for the team. They all managed to do so nicely, with no one hitting the deck and only two of them, Gorka and Amets losing time. The field split into three pieces due to a fall some 30 kilometres out, and big-name riders like Menchov, Cobo and Ricco' all lost forty seconds. So too did Gorka, but he won't worry too much about that. Amets lost 2:52, but no big crisis there either. The riders were all saving forces for tomorrow's 29-kilometre ITT. It's the perfect course and length for Samu, so he'll be up there I think. The same goes for Mikel, who could really pull it off tomorrow. He needs to do well, as he's not among the top, top climbers. I am curious about what Haimar can muster, just like he said himself he is. He's not been going too well in TTs this year, but this man knows how to raise to the occasion. Looking forward to it...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Status quo in France

It's as you were in the Tour de France for Euskaltel. Not much to write about to be honest; Egoi had this little incident, but he's fine, Samu punctured with 50 to go but encountered no problems. All riders came in with the pack, so no change there. Samu's 16th overall, Mikel 19th and Haimar 40th, all at 7 seconds.

Euskaltel off to good start

Euskaltel enjoyed a fine start to the Tour de France yesterday. Rubén was in the break of the day looking good. Seems he's intent on being aggressive this year as well; greatb start for him. He managed to grab some points in the points competition, so well done Rubén. Valverde did as everyone espected of him and duly won the first stage. Euskaltel's main men, Samu, Mikel, Egoi and Haimar, all came in with most of the favourites 7 seconds down, while Gorka ended up 18 seconds back, Amets 39 back, Rubén 1:12 down, while Iñaki and Juanjo came in 2 minutes in arrears. Iñaki hit the tarmac, or rather some bushes alongside the tarmac, with 15 clicks to go, but luckily escaped uninjured. Rubén spoke to his team's website afterwards, saying: "I came to this Tour with a very clear goal; working for the team. Today I managed to do that by being a part of the break. I knew it would be really hard to succeed (reaching the line ahead of the pack), as it's the start of the Tour, no one's tired and the winner would get to be dressed in yellow. We worked well together almost 'till the end. But suddenly we stopped working together, and that was our downfall. We should have cooperated longer to stand a chance. I confront this Tour with desire to do well. I've got more experience, and that's always a good thing, but I'll just take it day by day, we've barely started. We'll have to continue this way so that we can do as well, or even better, than last year."

Friday, July 04, 2008


I'm sorry for my unactivity these last few days. It's simple really; I've just been working ALL the time, and as a result I haven't been able to update the blog, let alone myself. I'll be very busy the next few days as well, but I'll do my utmost to keep you, at least, updated on the goings-on of the crazy world that is pro cycling.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Galdeano's verdict

Euskaltel head Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano spoke to DEIA yesterday about each and every rider on the Tour team. Here's his valuation:

  • Haimar Zubeldia: I know he's going to do well after his performance in the Dauphiné. We've always wanted him to be a bit more aggressive. If he can become that, he'll be a great rider.
  • Mikel Astarloza: He's a rider we really trust. We have confidence in him, and we all think he has the potential to be among the very best. We hope he can transform that potential to results while he's with us.
  • Samuel Sánchez: He's the one who sets the standard in the team. His whole season has been centred around the Tour, so I hope the Tour will work out for him this year. I hope that he'll win a stage, and if that happens, we'll take it from there.
  • Iñaki Isasi: He's got the experience. He's done the Tour several times already, so he'll have to share his knowledge and know-how with the rest of the guys. He'll have to help out the captains and, hopefully, use his end-speed to win a stage from a small breakaway.
  • Egoi Martínez: He's the man for the breakaways on tough and hilly terrain. That'll be his mission. He'll also be one to go into important breaks to help the team out. If he gets into one of those breaks, we hope he'll be able to give us that stage-win.
  • Gorka Verdugo: His objectives are similar to those of Egoi's. He's improved as a rider this year. If he's able to be a bit more aggressive and self-confident, he'll be a very good rider for us.
  • Amets Txurruka: He brings youth to the team. He represents the image of the team; effort and aggressiveness. I'm very confident in him when it comes to the breaks, and I believe he's capable of winning the "Most aggressive rider"-prize again.
  • Rubén Pérez: He is, perhaps, the youngest and best rider we have for the breaks. He's improving and I think that, just like last year, he'll prove valuable to Haimar, Mikel and Samuel.
  • Juan José Oroz: He's the newcomer and has earned the right to ride the Tour de France. He was the only Basque rider to finish each and every Classic this spring and, eventhough he hasn't done the Tour before, has the sufficient experience to do a good race. He's a team-rider.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Galdeano praises team

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano is confident his team will make him proud at the Tour de France. "It's the best team we've taken to the Tour since I joined the team", he said. "I want Haimar to be more aggressive. Last year he placed 5th overall due to a break. Mikel is a great rider. In the Vuelta al País Vasco he took a step forward. He has a lot of talent and will give us many happy memories in the future. Samu dropped the races in the spring to focus on the Tour. I know he's an incognito. But he's motivated, and when he says he's feeling good... He finished third at the 2007 Vuelta, but the Vuelta's not the Tour. We'll not worry too much about the GC to begin with, the most important thing now is to win a stage."

Ardanza looking for wins

Jose Antonio Ardanza, the president of Euskaltel, the telephone company that is, is hungry for stage-wins at this year's Tour. Here's what he had to say about the team four days prior to the start: "Euskaltel is already a classic in the Tour. We're welcome here, ASO appreciate our presence. I would like the team to repeat last year's performance, a performance marked by effort, by persistence. Last year we had two riders among the ten best ones overall. But now we want that stage-win." I couldn't agree more...

Mikel talkes Tour

Mikel yesterday spoke at length to El Diario Vasco about the upcoming Tour de France. It took me a lot of time to translate the whole thing, so you be better read it. Here it is:

  • What's your physical and mental state like going into the Tour? "When it comes to preparation, I'm better equipped than ever. I've done mostly the same as last year. This year, though, I stayed in top form 'till the Tour de Romandie. Then at Dauphiné Libéré I was in quite good shape again."
  • You've caught the eye this year because of your consistency. How do you do it (staying consistent)? "I've finished inside the top 10 in every race I've done this year, except for the Vuelta a Murcia and the Tour Down Under. I've been consistent. How I do it? I'm the kind of rider who needs a lot of training to get into shape, so I started training in November. You get a moral boost when you see that it works out, and that helps when on the road."
  • But doesn't a season like this exhaust you? "It does, but I know I've got to train a lot. I'm going to the Tour in good shape and with many kilometres in my legs."
  • But aren't you afraid that you'll have to pay for such a strong start to the season, so loaded with races? "Not really. I'm going to Brest having done 48 days of competition. I've done 25 000 kilometres. That's more or less the same as last year, and it worked out well then. Though, I know I'll be very tired when the Tour comes to a close, just like last year. But then I kept my form for another week so that I could race the Clasica Sán Sebastián."
  • What do you plan to do after the Tour? "I don't know. First I'll have to finish the race, that's what's most important right now."
  • What's your objectives for the race? "To improve on what I did last year. That means to be higher up on GC, though the immediate goal will be to win a stage. I don't think that you have to sacrifice a good overall placing to be able to win a stage. That's my personal goal."
  • Why do you say that you are better than ever? "I've done the Tour five times. Last year I was ahead, close to the best. I've never been better physically. I have no right to be pessimistic. But I know the Tour is the hardest race there is."
  • You did your first Tour in 2003, the best year for Euskaltel when it comes to the Tour. What's changed since then? "I did the Tours de Armstrong. There was a clear favourite for the win back then. The race was controlled by Discovery Channel. They totoally controlled the race. This year round it'll be no control."
  • Will the level of racing be higher or lower than back then? "It's difficult to measure the levels of sport. There were more charismatic riders then (like Armstrong, Basso, Ullrich and Vinokourov). The names of Evans, Cunego and Menchov don't make the same impression. No offence though, they're all very good riders."
  • How do you see this year's race? "Much more open than in past years. There are 10 riders who can make the podium. Valverde, Fränk Schleck, Cunego, Evans, Menchov, Sastre, Moreau..."
  • If you had to name one, just one, top favourite, who would it be? "Cadel Evans. But it's impossible to predict the podium so close to the start of the race.
  • How would the race change if Alberto Contador were to start? " He would, as defending champion, take control of the race with his team. I suppose this task will be left to Evans' team now."
  • What will your weight be like on Saturday? "72 kilograms. I will also finish with that weight, as I'm not the kind of rider who loses kilos when competing. I know that's not normal, but that's the way it is."
  • What do you make of the parcours? "There are few TTs, and that's not a good thing for me. I can gain minutes in TTs. I've got a lot of respect for the Massif Central. I've never done well there, the climbs are all really explosive. The chances are greater for losing time than gaining time. I don't like that part of the Tour."
  • What do you prefer; the Alps or the Pyrenees? "The Pyrenees are not excessively hard this year, though it'll be important to do well there because of our fans. The Alps have always been good to me. I've done well there ever since I joined Ag2r. The three Alpine stages in this year's race are all really hard. The Tour will be decided there, so it's important to be ready for them and to not be totally exhausted when the last week comes.I'm a diesel rider, so I hope to benefit from that on the long climbs of the Alps"
  • What are the team's objectives for the race? "We've not spoken a lot about it. We'll try to win a stage and do well overall."
  • With who? "I just said we haven't talked a lot about it. I suppose we'll all arrive with the same options. I believe our Tour squad's never been stronger. Obviously we've had more solid leaders in the past, but we've now got a very complete team. Juanjo, Egoi, Amets, Gorka, Rubén and Iñaki are all quality riders. We won the teams classification in the Dauphiné recently, and we can do well overall in the Tour. I think every single rider is in great shape."
  • What kind of rider does this year's Tour favour? "It favours the climbers. There are less kilometres against the clock than on other occasions and, if we consider the last TT to be a test of strength, there's no doubt this Tour is one for the climbers. I don't really like the route all that well. I'd like more TT kilometres, more of the Pyrenees, less of the Massif Central and the same amount of the Alps. That's my dream Tour."
  • Why is it so important for the team to win a stage? "Because we lack stage-wins."
  • Are you eager to get going? "Yes, I can't wait. I've trained a lot and I'm excited. I've prepared well: before we went to the Dauphiné, we went to see the Pyrenees. After the race, we went to the Alps. The three Alpine stage are going to be very hard, especially the last one with the finish at the top of the L'Alpe d'Huez. That's the queen-stage. Everything will be decided in the last week."
  • With you in the thick of it? "When you're close to the best ones you always want to improve and finish higher."


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