Monday, May 31, 2010

Piti ban causes confusion

Now that Alejandro 'Piti' Valverde finally has been handed a world-wide ban from racing, Euskaltel might just become even more successful. Valverde beat Samu to the Vuelta a España crown last year, as you all know, and he so annoyingly pipped Igor to the line on Romandie's concluding stage this year. If I've got it right, it seems he won't be stripped of his wins dating back to before January 1 this year, meaning he'll keep hold of his Vuelta win. That's a disgrace I reckon, what's the logic? But anyway, it seems he at least will have to relinquish his wins this year, meaning Igor should be declared the winner of that Romandie stage. That's some consolation, but still it doesn't come close to actually winning a race there and then. What do you guys think of all this mess?

Orbea struggle in Gironde

Orbea took part in the three-day Tour de Gironde in France which ended yesterday. The squad of six, comprising of Mikel Ilundain, Adrián Sáez de Arregi, Joseba Larralde, Beñat Urain, Noel Martín and Andoni Blázquez, struggled throughout the three stages and didn't really succeed in coming to grips with the hard racing. None of the guys recorded any top-30 results on stages as far as I'm aware, and the GC thus turned out to be dismal reading: Larralde 44th, Ilundain 59th, Urain 72nd, Blázquez 73rd and Martín 88th, while Adrián stepped off after the second day. Not impressive, but at this stage of their careers it's more about learning than winning.

Pello Bilbao continues hot streak

Pello Bilbao put on a blistering show yesterday to win the Lehendakari Txapelketa race in Merkina by a whopping two minutes. The young climber from Gernika took off quite early in the race, but despite a strong Seguros Bilbao outfit doing their utmost to catch him, he was never to be seen again and went on to claim a big scalp. Ramón Domene of Seguros Bilbao now leads this particular competition overall after finishing the race in fifth place.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Alvaro pleased with Bayern performance

Euskaltel came away from the Bayern Rundfahrt with a stage-win, two days in the leader's jersey and ninth and tenth overall. Not too bad according to director Alvaro González de Galdeano: "I'm very pleased with our performance in this race. The team as a unit worked well, everyone did their part, and to top it off we got a win and got to spend two days in the leader's jersey. And it's important to remember that it's the most important German stage-race now, and it was a high level of competition. We have been one of the most active teams and we achieved our goal of a stage-win. In addition, Igor and Romain ended up among the ten best overall. The sole negative has been Koldo's fall on day one, but we kept going".

Bayern Rundfahrt stage 5

The Bayern Rundfahrt concluded today with a flat stage to Fürstenfeldbruck. Euskaltel didn't manage to fight for the win today, but they still came away with a decent result after Javier grabbed 12th in the sprint. The rest of the guys came in with the pack, which leaves us with the following, final GC: Igor 9th, Romain 10th, Rubén 17th, Pablo 41st, Javier 54th and Daniel 87th.

Rubén loses lead in time trial

Rubén lost his grip on the yellow leader's jersey on Bayern's penultimate stage yesterday, a hilly 27,8 kilometre time trial. Rubén placed an okay 34th, a full 1:53 down on winner Monfort. Igor and Romain saved the day for the team though, taking 13th and 14th respectively both 1:09 down. That's not too bad, and leaves them in 9th and 10th overall ahead of today's final, flat stage. Pablo was 59th, 2:25 down, Daniel 70th at 2:54 and Javier 95ht at 4:23.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Koldo out of hospital

After being under observation for 24 hours, Koldo was today discharged from the hospital he was admitted into after crashing yesterday. Koldo is recuperating well and joined his team-mates in Germany at their hotel earlier today.

Rubén back in yellow

An impressive and concerted team effort brought Rubén back into the yellow leader's jersey on today's third stage of the Bayern Rundfahrt. The queen-stage of the race saw Igor Antón set a furious pace at the day's big climb with something like 3o clicks to go. Igor managed to shed a heap of riders out the back, including overall leader Howard, and due to impressive riding at the front from Romain as well, only 39 riders made it to the line with the first pack. Among those was Ciolek who sprinted to glory, while Rubén sprinted himself into the lead and a fourth place on the stage. Despite working their socks off for their captain, Igor and Romain both managed to come in with that first group. Daniel, Javier and Pablo came in with the next group 3:21 down. With two stages to go, tomorrow being a taxing ITT, Rubén is tied on time with Ciolek.

Euskaltel ready for Luxembourg

Euskaltel will, for the first time I reckon, take part in the Tour de Luxembourg. The five-day stage-race will start on the coming Wednesday, and will see Miguel, Rubén, Jonathan, both Aitors, Gorka Izagirre, Sergio and Mikel line-up to defend the team colours. Josu Larrazabal will be the one calling the shots in the team car.

Urkiola called off

To my great dismay, this year's Subida a Urkiola has been put off due to financial problems. The race, which was the scene of Igor's only win last year and Ibán's great triumph four years ago, is usually held in August and is one of my favourite races on the calendar. Such a shame that, like a host of other races, it has to be cancelled, but let's hope the find the money to stage it again next year.

Koldo crashes badly; Rubén 7th

After getting a fantastic start to the race yesterday, the team was quickly brought back down to earth today with Koldo crashing badly in a mass pile-up with 200 metres to go and Rubén losing his overall lead. The break had been caught and the sprint was just about to get started for real when somebody touched wheels and brought with them a host of riders. I didn't get to see the crash myself, but I heard several Euskaltel riders hit the tarmac. Worst off though was no doubt Koldo who, after crossing the line, was taken to hospital where he'll stay overnight. Allegedly his head took a severe beating, so here's to a quick recovery! As mentioned, Rubén lost his overall lead to Leigh Howard and is now second overall. But Rubén didn't give it away without a fight; he finished a creditable seventh in the sprint chaos. The rest of the guys, except for Daniel who came in 4:44 down, rolled in with the pack.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rubén takes first pro win in Bayern

Rubén finally grabbed his much longed-for first win as a pro in the Bayern Rundfahrt opener today. The speedy 29-year-old has impressed during his five-year spell with the team but had never, until today, scored that elusive win, so it was no doubt a well deserved victory for the affable Zaldibar native. The win came courtesy of some brilliant team work. First of all Daniel Sesma got into the break of the day and thus relieved the team of pace-setting duties back in the bunch. Naturally the break he had gotten into got swallowed up with six clicks or something thereabouts to go. Milram tried to set it up for their designated sprinter, Gerald Ciolek, but they were totally dominated by a magnificent Euskaltel train. Rubén beat Leigh Howard with something to spare as he raised his arms in jubilation, while Pablo came in an excellent third to cap off a truly awesome day. Koldo, Javier, Igor and Romain all came in with the pack as well, while Daniel in the end paid for his day-long effort and came in 4:18 back. "The truth is that it's been a perfect day, a day I will remember for the rest of my life", an ecstatic Rubén said after the finish. "We put on a great performance. Daniel Sesma got into the break of the day, and that allowed the rest of us to stay together for big parts of the stage. On the climb with 28 kilometres to go Igor Antón controlled affairs and we could relax a little on the descent. In the final stages there was a climb I managed to get over quite far ahead in the pack. I felt good, and in the sprint we took the win. I go to most races to support Samu, Koldo or Fuji, so when an opportunity presents itself it's important to take advantage of it. Right now I'm not thinking of the GC. Now I'm just enjoying my win."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Naturgas line-up for Navarra

Naturgas have named the seven riders that will take on the five-day Vuelta a Navarra starting tomorrow. Representing the red team will be Aitor Ocampos (pictured above), Álex Bilbao, Mikel Bizkarra, Alfonso Sáiz, Andoni Sánchez, Urtzi Legarra and David Hidalgo. "We expect a high level of competition", chief Arberas said. "Elites will take part. It'll be five hard days, especially so the queen-stage that ends atop the Alto de Perdón. Look out for strong rides by Bizkarra, Hidalgo and Ocampos in particular.

La Fundación to pay tribute to Moreno

The Fundación Euskadi will through it's three teams Euskaltel, Orbea and Naturgas Energía take part in the Memorial Gregorio Moreno De Ciclosturismo and pay tribute to the late Gregorio Moreno. For those of you thinking "Moreno who?", Gregorio was the man in charge of the Vuelta a Burgos for 28 consecutive years, and was as well a leader and member of many other cycling organisations, be it for organising races or fighting doping. The great man passed away on the 10th of September 2008, and on Saturday the second race in his name will be held. The participating riders will take on Moreno's favourite training ride, starting and ending in Oña after going over taxing climbs like La Varga, La Mazorra and the Alto de Portillo.

Pello Bilbao goes close again

19-year-old climber Pello Bilbao continued his fine run of form by taking second in Sunday's under-23 race in Bergara. "Pello Bilbao was simply spectacular", bragged sports director Aritz Arberas. "After a long and hard battle he managed to grab second." Pello was also in the thick of the action in Saturday's race in Beasain, grabbing 10th place while Igor Merino was just ahead in 8th.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Díaz responds to Isard performance

Head of Continental team Orbea, Álex Díaz, yesterday evaluated the team's performance in the four-stage Ronde de L'Isard which ended on Sunday. Though the team failed to live up to it's excellent showing in '09, with Mikel Landa unsuprisingly scoring the best results with a fifth on stage 4 and 10th overall, Díaz was a pleased man. "We picked up after experiencing problems the first two days", he said. "The riders learned how to lead the pack and learned how to lead the team. I'm very pleased with the performance. It's important to value the exceptional attitude of the riders. In the last stage they were all splendid. The only negative thing was Ricardo García's fall, but fortunately he's only bruised and OK."

March Cicloturista Ibán Mayo held today

The annual March Cicloturista Ibán Mayo was held today. The fifth edition of the race organised by his own fan club will have taken keen riders and Ibán fans on a 111-kilometre course from Igorre, his home town, over the Alto de Morga, the Alto de Astorkigana, the Balcón de Bizkaia and finally the mighty Urkiola before going back to Igorre. Certainly a tough route, especially considering it's only for fun. More on the race tomorrow!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Big fine for Astarloza

Disgraced ex-Euskaltel rider Mikel Astarloza not only faces another year on the sidelines, he also has to pay a fine worthy of the 'hefty' tag, it was announced today by the UCI. 154 570 euros is the price he's got to pay for cheating. Don't know why the fine is so much bigger than normal in Mikel's case, but, considering the damage done to the sport and his team, I think it's fair.

Naturgas look to continue winning streak

Naturgas will look to keep their good form going for this weekends two races in Beasain and Bergara. Igor Merino, Pello Bilbao, Unai Martínez, Mikel Martioda, David Hidalgo, Jon Larriñaga, Carlos Barbero, Efrén Carazo, Álex Bilbao, Rory Martínez, Alberto Guinea and overall Torneo Lehendakari leader Fernando Grijalba will line up. Young Efrén Carazo will take part in his first race of the year, having finally recovered from a knee injury. "Efrén will make his debut in the amateur category after his knee injury has kept him out of action until now. He's fully recovered now though, so he'll be eager to do a good race", chief Aritz Arberas said.

Strong Euskaltel for Bayer

Euskaltel will send a strong-looking seven-man team to the German five-day race Bayer Rundfahrt, starting on May 26. Igor will lead the team in his last race before he takes an extended break and closes his first part of the season, while on-form sprinters Koldo and Pablo will also line up. So too will Romain, Rubén, Javier and Daniel, so they should be equipped to fight for stage-wins as well as the overall.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jon Izagirre picked for Spain

Jon Izagirre of Orbea, Gorka's younger brother, has been chosen by Spain Under-23 coach José Luis De Santos to participate in a four-day training camp in Segovia starting the coming Monday. Jon's been in impressive form all year, so it's no surprise to see him selected.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Athletic Bilbao take on the Urkiola

Euskaltel's footballing equivalent, Primera Divisíon side Athletic Bilbao, today took on the mythical Urkiola climb by bike. The Subida a Urkiola is a mountainous one-day race held near Durango in the Basque Country every summer, won last year by our own Igor Antón. And of course Ibán won it four years ago. The Fundación Euskadi supplied the team with bikes, helmets and jerseys, and clad in orange the footballers fought it out on Urkiola's unimaginably steep ramps. Eneko Bobeda 'won' the race, while legendary Bilbao winger Joseba Etxebarria, who retired at the end of the recently-concluded season, got to wear the rainbow yersey. A nice tribute to a great player.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Orbea good to go for Ronde de l'Isard

Orbea have announced the six riders that will take part in the prestigious four-day Ronde de l'Isard starting this Thursday. The hilly stage-race in the the Pyrenees will see Mikel Landa, Jon Izagirre, Aritz Etxebarria, Ricardo García, Noel Martín and Jon Aberasturi fight to emulate last year's heroics, when Jonathan Castroviejo and Romain Sicard both grabbed a stage each. "Because of the parcours, it's a very hard race", Álex Díaz said. "In addition it'll be a new experience for us as it'll be the first time we'll ride without ear-pieces. We'll try to take control of the peloton and take our chances. We've got two strong climbers, Jon Izagirre and Mikel Landa, and both of them will have to take advantage of their good form. We'll do our best".

Bilbao ready for exams

19-year-old Naturgas Energía climber Pello Bilbao spoke to DEIA yesterday about his recent win, his season as a whole, and the unenviable task of combining a cycling career with studies and exams. Here's what the Gernika native had to say: "So far this year I'm pleased with my results. But before Sunday I hadn't won in a very long time. Although not all the races have gone to plan, I've been feeling good all year and been very consistent in all the races I've taken part in. I hope to continue this way. I feel liberated by the win on Sunday. Especially after what happened in Gorla. (Where Jesus Herrada was adjugded to have crossed the line ahead of Bilbao, though it was widely recognised Pello was the first man across the line) In general I see myself as a climber. I haven't done that many time trials, so I don't know how I'd do in them, and I haven't done any long stage-races either. But going uphill is what I do best. I used to play football when I was younger, but my friends convinced me to start riding a bike instead. Right now I'm not thinking too much about turning pro. At the time being I'm focused on my studies and combining those with my training as best I can. Though I'd like to give it a shot someday."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pello Bilbao takes another for Naturgas

Pello Bilbao pulled off a superb performance to win yesterday's race in Natxitua, the San Isidro Sari Nagusia. The talented youngster successfully held off the impressive Aritz Bagües of Bidelan-Kirolgi and Omar Fraile from Castroviejo's and Intxausti's old team, Seguros Bilbao. More later.

Koldo 2nd on stage and overall in Picardie

Koldo proved me wrong my sprinting to a strong second place, and an even stronger second overall, in today's last stage in Picardie. Yesterday I wrote something along the lines of "Koldo showed he's far from top form", but obviously I was mistaken. Koldo came into the stage in seventh place but, due to winning an intermediate sprint and the bonus seconds that comes with second place, he jumped up to second overall just seven seconds back on overall winner Ben Swift. Great ride. The only rider capable of out-kicking Koldo today was the ever-impressive Jimmy Casper. The rest of the guys all ended up way back after giving it their all for Koldo's cause, and a strong Jorge Azanza even had to abandon underway, but only after being instrumental in setting up Koldo for the intermediate sprint. "The truth is I'm pleased with my performance in Picarde", Koldo told reporters afterwards. "I hope this is the first of many good results to come. I've been feeling good all three days, so a second place overall is positive."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Naturgas line-ups

Naturgas will field the following riders for tomorrow's race is Natxitxua, the last race of this year's Torneo Sub23: overall series leader Fernando Grijalba, Pello Bilbao, Igor Merino, Mikel Bizkarra, David Hidalgo, Alfonso Saiz, Carlos Barbero, Jon Larriñaga, Alberto Guinea, Rory Martínez, Aitor Ocampos and Urtzi Legarra.

The team will earlier today have taken part in a tough and hilly race in Berriatua. More on that tomorrow.

Koldo 7th in Picardie

Koldo showed he's still far from his best by grabbing seventh in a rather low-quality field of sprinters in today's second stage of the Tour de Picardie. Finishing behind riders like Pichot, Khalilov and De La Fuente is not customary for a sprinter of Koldo's calibre. But he still beat some fast guys, like JJ Rojas and Borut Bozic for example, so it's not all bad. Given a split in the field inside the last few kilometres, he's now ranked sixth overall, 16 seconds back, going into tomorrow's last stage. Koldo and eight other riders finished some seconds ahead of the rest of the pack, hence the good GC placing. Jorge, Jonathan and Pablo all finished 15 seconds down, while Miguel Miniguez was 36 seconds down, Aitor H 2:16, Gorka Verdugo 4:14 and Sergio 5:37. Here's for an eagerly-anticipated win tomorrow!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Astarloza responds to suspension

After his two-year suspension from racing was confirmed today by the Spanish Cycling Federation, Mikel once again stood by his claim of innocence. "I keep reiterating I'm innocent and therefore I don't agree with the suspension handed out. I'll appeal. I hope I'll be able to prove my innocence and I hope to return to racing as soon as possible." According to my local sources in San Sebastián, his home-town, he's been training like never before in the hope of returning to competition. Far too few details of this allegedly 'special' case have been disclosed to the public, so I'm not exactly sure what makes this case so 'special' and why Euskaltel are still standing by him. The B-sample came back positive just like the first, so I can't see why the team don't just let it go. It's over.

Official press release from Euskaltel

Euskaltel today posted the following press release on it's homepage: "After the Spanish Cycling Federation confirmed the positive test of cyclist Mikel Astarloza, the team wants to make it absolutely clear that it will follow the UCI's regulations for cases like this. After this inconclusive decision, we've supported the rider for a long time in the hope that he could prove his innocence. After he's completed his suspension, which ends on the 26th of June 2011, we hope that the cyclist can return to competition."

What?!? What's "inconclusive decision" supposed to mean? A return to competition will certainly not do Euskaltel's already-diminishing credibility any good.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Failure in Picardie opener

Euskaltel failed to capitalise on their good team-work today as Koldo got lost in the lead-up to the sprint. The team, Miguel, Sergio and Aitor H in particular, took control of the pack early on after the customary three-man break had got a big enough lead. They successfully reeled them in, but sadly Koldo and Pablo couldn't find their place in a hectic finale and subsequently rolled in mid-pack. Jorge, Gorka V and Jonathan came in with that same group, while the three early pace-setters Sergio, Miguel and Aitor H came in 2:39 back.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Giro return beckons for Euskaltel

Many Euskaltel fans are disappointed the team have decided against participating in the Giro d'Italia the last two years. I'm one of those who thinks it's a wise decision though, but Igor González de Galdeano has said the team WIL return to the race in the future. "This year's Giro would have been good for Igor Antón", Galdeano admitted. "But with the team we've got we're not capable of going to Italy and we had to decide not to race. But we'll be back. Igor Antón and Samuel Sánchez both want to do the race". Of the three GTs, the Giro looks to be the one best suited to Igor as the race regularly features lots of climbing and little time trialling.

Relive the victories

The last month or so has been good to Euskaltel. Five wins in something like five weeks isn't your average Euskaltel month. I just wanted to let you know that you can now easily relive those wins, and watch highlights from all of Euskaltel's races this year, on the team's official website. Some of you probably know that by now, but for those of you who don't, go to the front page, click on 'Zona de vídeos' at your right-hand menu and you'll be able to watch all the highs and lows on video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Outdated updates

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, but I've been suffering, along with a lot of Norwegians, from a bad internet connection the last few days. But finally it seems to be up and running again so here we go...

Dunkerque concluded on Sunday without any results of notice for the team. Disappointing race overall, but it's their first time in the race, so the most important thing is, I guess, to get accustumed to the style of racing in on the cobbles in the north of France. It'll be good for the team's future in those type of races. On GC, Rubén finished a respectable 27th overall, while Javier was equal on time in 30th place. Good ride by the pair. Mikel Nieve was 83rd, Koldo 94th and Daniel Sesma 103rd. 'Not good, but not horribly bad either' must be the conclusion.

Euskaltel are, as you'll have noticed, not racing in Italy these days, but they will be racing in France from Friday until Sunday in the Tour de Picardie. The hilly three-stage race will see Koldo, Jonathan, Aitor H, Sergio, Miguel, Pablo, Jorge and Gorka Verdugo line up. Alvaro will guide the team, and outlined the team's goals for the race: "Our objective in Picardie is to win a stage. We're bringing a team capable of achieving this goal. To win is always difficult, (...) but we'll go there really geared up and hope to come back having done a good race."

Naturgas enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular, Vuelta a Bidasoa last week. The prestigious four-day race saw Pello Bilbao placing a good seventh overall while the team placed third in the team rankins. On top of that Pello was best Basque, so a good race by him no doubt. Aritz Arberas, head of the under-23 team, was over the moon, saying: "We're very pleased with out participation. We've worked really hard, but it was worth it. We've been present in almost all the breaks, been very aggressive and Mikel Bizkarra, Igor Merino and Pello Bilbao finished high up on GC. The level has been very high in this race, with strong international teams, so we're very pleased".

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Dunkerque stage 4

It was yet another hard stage in Dunkerque today. The 181-kilometre trek from Merville to Cassel forced the two Aitors to adandon, and saw the rest of the guys struggling to keep up. Rubén did well though, being attentive and getting in to the main break of the day. The break naturally didn't stay away as several groups formed towards the finish. None of the guys managed to get into those select groups, but still Rubén, Koldo and Javier did reasonably well to come home with a group only 4:49 down in 26th, 29th and 33rd respectively. Daniel and Mikel struggled all day, eventually conceding a big 15:57 to stage-winner and overall leader Elmiger. With one stage to go the guys are all well out of contention for overall glory, but perhaps Koldo can pull it off it it comes down to a sprint.

Dunkerque stage 3

Euskaltel put on a decent showing in yesterday's third stage in Dunkerque. The stage was held over some of the Ghent-Wevelgem route and thus included some cobbled sections. The pack split up several times underway, and in the end three Euskaltel riders made it into the main pack. Rubén sprinted to a good 15th place, while Javier and Mikel Nieve also ended up in the main bunch. Javier looked good, trying to get away with five clicks to go, but sadly couldn't quite get the wished-for gap. Anyway a good ride by him. Daniel Sesma is slowly finding his feet again after his injury lay-off, coming in 10:07 back, while Koldo and the Aitors all ended up a massive 16:08 down.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

No-show in Dunkerque

Euskaltel did not succeed in either being in the break nor fighting for the win in today's second stage of Dunkerque. Koldo somehow failed to find his spot in the last kilometres and was never up there, rolling in mid-pack. That's disappointing, after all this isn't exactly the Tour or the Giro. But more disappointing though was the fact that Pablo had to abandon, as expected, after still suffering from a high fever today. As for the rest of the guys, they all came in with the peloton.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Koldo sixth in Dunkerque opener

The Quatre Jours de Dunkerque got off to an okay start for the team today with Koldo snatching sixth in the sprint for stage glory. Koldo's team-mates worked heroically in the closing stages of the race to make sure it came down to a sprint, but sadly he couldn't quite get up there. All the other guys came in with the pack though, except for Pablo who came in deal last, 5:31 back. He deserves immense credit though, as he woke up with a fever and still completed the stage. That's the spirit!

Gearing up for Bidasoa

Naturgas are all set for one of their most important and prestigious races of the year; the Vuelta a Bidasoa. The four-stage race has for years been an important race on the Spanish amateur calendar and boasts winners like Amador, Cabestany and Olano. With a line-up consisting of Pello Bilbao (pictured above), Alberto Guinea, Igor Merino, Carlos Barbero, Jon Larriñaga, Mikel Bizkarra and Rory Martínez, the team will be well equipped to fight for the overall win. "The riders are very motivated and we hope to be the protagonists in the race", said chief Aritz Arberas. Look out for strong overall performances from Igor Merino and Pello Bilbao in particular.

Galdeano: "It's gonna be madness"

Igor González de Galdeano spent yesterday checking out the cobbled sections of the Tour's fourth stage this year with Samu, Egoi and JJ. After seing the course, Igor wasn't particularly optimistic. "It's gonna me madness", he said. "You'll be riding on a big highway and then suddenly on a three times narrower one. And as always the wind will be strong. I've never done Paris-Roubaix, but I did the 2004 Tour (the last time the race took on the French cobbles). The important thing is the positioning, to be able to start and finish the cobbled parts in the same place in the pack. The first three sections are in Belgium, but the hard ones come in France. You have to be lucky, or at least not be unlucky. It'll be decisive. You wont win the race there, but you can loose it."

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


No, not Eva Longoria. Or, well, she's kinda hot too. But I'm talking about the bike. Cycling's equivalent to the Ferrari, Orbea, is all the rage right now, and take a look at that bike! If you want to be classy, go get your hands on an Orca. Euskaltel and Orbea's dream-machine totally out-shines Longoria on this picture. At least that's what I feel. Kinda.

Are you the next Ibán? Nr. 4: Jonathan Castroviejo

Candidate number 4 is perhaps not the most obvious one, but given that I've spoken highly of this rider for two years now I thought it adequate to give Jonathan Castroviejo a chance at being classed the next Ibán. Here's how he fared:

  • Basque? Si
  • Awesome climber? Not so much at this stage of his career. Has the potential though, but I see him more evolving into a Valverde, Cunego type of climber rather than a mountain-goat
  • Erratic? Hard to say so early on, but by the look of it I'd say no
  • Good in long time trials? Most definetely (This ain't going too well...)
  • Classy? Yep
  • Rock star looks? No
  • GT material? Maybe, but probably a rider more suited to one- and two-week stage-races
  • Fragile personality? Seems like a level-headed bloke, but can't tell for sure until he gets real successful
  • Cool sideburns and earrings? No
  • Verdict: Why did I even consider him? Clearly a talented rider, but aside from being Basque, riding for Euskaltel and climbing alright, he's got nothing in common. And his time trialling is way too good to be classed 'The new Ibán'. Reminds me more of Samu to be honest. Watch this space.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Correction on Dunkerque roster

Contrary to what other sources said, Romain and Gorka Izagirre will NOT take part in the upcoming Quatre Jours de Dunkerque. Aitor Hernández and Daniel Sesma, both returning from injury, will take their places on the roster.

Euskaltel for Dunkerque

Euskaltel will take part in the always curiously-named Quatre Jours de Dunkerque starting this Wednesday. As usual the Four Days of Dunkerque will actually be five with the race ending on Sunday. Koldo, Aitor Galdós and recent winner Pablo Urtasun will all be there to form a powerful-looking trio for the sprint-finishes. So too will Gorka Izagirre, Romian, Rubén, Javier and Mikel Nieve. A strong team on paper, let's hope Koldo can kick-start his season with a win or two.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Igor pleased with form

Igor sounded surprisingly upbeat and happy after today's close shave in Romandie. Here's what 'Fuji' had to say: "The truth is I'm very pleased with my performances the last month. In Castilla y León I set myself the goal of winning on the Morredero, and in addition I finished second overall behind the best stage-race rider in the world. I came to the Classics to enjoy them and to get to know them. I'd never done them before. In Fléche I felt really good and I was fighting for the win, I was happy with my fourth place there. It's made me think that I can one day win the race. Liège was different, more tactical. I set out with the goal of finishing in the top 10 and I managed to do that. I was right in there and got seventh. And in Romandie it annoys me that there haven't been any summit finishes. Because on the climbs I felt really strong."

Igor misses out on the line

Igor came agonizingly close to a big win on today's last stage of the Tour de Romandie. Having shown to be among the very strongest, if not the strongest, on the day through some powerful attacks, Igor approached the '1 kilometre to go'-sign together with a lead group consisting of himself, Valverde, Menchov and Spilak. Knowing his chances would be close to zero in a dash for the line with Piti Valverde, Igor wisely gave it a last go with something like 700 metres to go. It looked to be the winning move, but the annoyingly good Valverde came back just in time to nip it on the line ahead of an obviously frustrated Igor. Losses like that are hard to take. I'm still pissed and it's been five hours. Wonder how Fuji's feeling... Anyway, great ride, of course. But second places are always hard to take. But thanks to his strong riding today, he ended up 10th overall. Not bad considering the race included a too long time trial for Igor's liking. Mikel Nieve was quite good today, coming home 36th at 6:03. Iñaki came in as number 65, a full 16:05 down, while JJ, Gorka and Alan were 70th, 71st and 72nd respectively, all 20:00 down. Final GC:
  • 10, Igor Antón
  • 42, Mikel Nieve
  • 56, Juan José Oroz
  • 57, Iñaki Isasi
  • 58, Gorka Verdugo
  • 69, Alan Pérez

Beñat third overall as Asturias ends

Beñat clung onto his place on the podium in today's concluding Vuelta a Asturias stage. The stage was of the 'very hilly' type, and as expected Beñat struggled to impose himself on the stage. Tino Zaballa (why can't these Puerto riders just bugger off?) escaped to win the stage and the overall, while Beñat did remarkably well to claim eighth place and hang onto a place on the podium, finishing a splendid third overall. Awesome! Romain was also in the mood today, finishing 20th after spending most of the day at the services of the young climber from Amorebieta. Sadly, Gorka, Javier and Jonathan all abandoned along with something like 30 others. That makes for the following final general classification:
  • 3, Benat Intxausti
  • 19, Romain Sicard
  • 38, Jorge Azanza
  • 53, Miguel Minguez

As for Orbea, Jon Izagirre was once again impressive with his 18th place on the stage just 2:51 down. Mikel Landa and Andoni Blázquez were both rather disappointing, finishing in 48th and 49th place respectively, both 16:36 down. All the other guys threw in the towel. That leaves us with Jon in 17th overall, Mikel Landa in 32nd place and Blázquez in 49th place.

Trio check out Tour cobbles

The trio of Samu, Egoi and JJ will travel to the north of France tomorrow to check out the cobbled sections that will feature in the Tour this year in stage three. The trio will test some equipment to get a feel of what's best as well as riding the exact course.

JJ active in Romandie

JJ Oroz put in yet another solid performance in yesterday's fourth stage of the Tour de Romandie. He got into the break of the day and attacked his breakaway companions with some 30 clicks to go. Sadly he couldn't stay away, but nonetheless a good try. Eventually he was reeled back in and had to do some work for Igor together with Gorka Verdugo. Igor came in with the main group of favourites, but the terrain was never challenging enough for Igor to put in a real dig. Perhaps today's stage will be better suited to him. Aitor Galdós threw in the towl today, but for what reason I don't know. Stage results:
  • 11, Igor Antón, 0:22
  • 32, Gorka Verdugo, 2:25
  • 33, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 61, Iñaki Isasi, 5:39
  • 62, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 97, Alan Pérez, 19:43
  • 127, Koldo Fernández, 20:48

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Beñat fails in Asturias defence

Beñat failed to hold on to his yellow leader's jersey in today's summit-finish stage in the Vuelta a Asturias. Euskaltel, not too wisely I think, spent all their forces and support riders in chasing down a big 15-man break that broke clear early on. In the break, to his credit, was the ever-aggressive Jorge Azanza. Euskaltel managed to reel in the break, but all riders except for Beñat were naturally spent and left him totally alone on the last climb. I like the fact that the team put in a concerted effort to chase down the break. Naturally. But how wise was it to use that amount of energy to chase down a rather non-dangerous looking break instead of keeping some forces left for the final and deciding climb? Not wise in my opinion. Colombian due Duarte and Cano jumped out of the lead group on the last climb to win by a big margin and take the leader's jersey off of Beñat, who still did quite well to grab third on the day beating riders like Mosquera and Vicioso in the process. He now trails Duarte by 19 seconds going into tomorrow's concluding hilly stage, and has by all probability lost the race overall. Not good. Not good at all by a Pro Tour team like Euskaltel in a lower-ranked race like the Vuelta a Asturias. Obviously the guys did all they could, that was obvious for all to see as they chased down the break, and in the end that's all you can demand, to give it your all. But still you have to demand a certain level of performance. A race-leader from a Pro Tour team shouldn't be left exposed on the last climb in a race like this. Stage results:
  • 3rd, Beñat Intxausti, 1:10
  • 35th, Jorge Azanza, 6:29
  • 40th, Romain Sicard, 6:49
  • 87th, Javier Aramendía, 23:15
  • 89th, Gorka Izagirre, 24:14
  • 90th, Jonathan Castroviejo, s.t.
  • 91st, Miguel Minguez, s.t.

Narturgas ready for another weekend of races

The races are coming thick and fast for Naturgas these days. Today they will have taken part in local one-day race santikutz-Legazpi with a roster comprising of Jon Larriñaga, Aitor Ocampos, Mikel Bizkarra, Alberto Guinea, Rory Martinez, Fernando Grijalba and Urtzi Legarra. Stay tuned for results on Sunday. On Sunday a slightly different line-up consisting of Álex and Pello Bilbao, David Hidalgo, Igor Merino, Unai Martínez, Andoni Sánchez, Urtzi Legarra, Alfonso Saiz and Mikel Martioda will take on the prestigious (I've heard) Urraki Igoera-Azpeitia. Recent Tres Días de Álava stage-winner Carlos Barbero will not take part in either race as you can see, but look out for in-form riders Grijalba, Guinea, Bizkarra and Pello Bilbao.

"I'll always remember this day"

Beñat was clearly elated after taking his very first win in the pro ranks today. The precocious youngster had this to say afterwards: "I've always been good in the time trials, but one thing is to be good as an amateur, being good as a pro is a completely different thing. I've already done two good time trials this year with two fifth places in races of the level of the Critérium International and the Vuelta al País Vasco. I felt really good. The references I got from Castroviejo made me aware of what was to come at any given time, although the course wasn't really suited to me. But I still got a good time. To secure the lead in the overall has been a great joy. It's my first pro win and I'm very pleased. I'll always remember this day."

Beñat storms to ITT win and GC lead

Beñat took his very first win as a pro today in the Vuelta a Asturias to cap of an amazing April for the team. Beñat's resounding time trial win was Euskaltel's fifth of the month, and it was made even better by Jonathan Castroviejo's second place. Big ride from his as well, he's looking good in his first season with the team. The time trial distance was a rather short 14,3 kilometre trek in and around Piedras Blancas, but he still managed to win it by a big 17 seconds on number two Jonathan, and importantly 19 seconds ahead of GC danger-man Angel Vicioso. As a result he's four seconds ahead of Vicioso overall going in to tomorrow's mountain-top finish stage. The day's early road stage from Gijón to Avilés saw Gorka in the break, as usual, while Pablo grabbed a good 7th place in the dash for the line. Not bad. But the time trial performance was simply amazing. Beñat first, Jonathan second and Romain eighth. The future's looking bright. Let's hope Beñat can maintain his slender four-second lead tomorrow and as a result win the race overall. But it's far from a done deal mind you. Vicioso is looking superb these days and tomorrow's stage suit him perfectly. But it also suits Beñat, so hopefully he can keep Vicioso quiet. Here's the GC:
  • 1, Benat Intxausti
  • 27, Romain Sicard, 1:56
  • 46, Jorge Azanza, 3:43
  • 88, Javier Aramendía, 11:18
  • 95, Jonathan Castroviejo, 13:17
  • 96, Gorka Izagirre, 14:44
  • 98, Miguel Minguez, 17:03


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