Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Txurruka conundrum

There's no one quite like Amets Txurruka.

Fabulously entertaining and divinely talented, he's one of that rare breed of riders able to get people out of their seats every time he graces the screen. The kind of rider that every fan, be it of Euskaltel or of any other team, roots for. Yet you sense there's something unfulfilled about him. Desperately out of luck and hopelessly ineffective, there's no hiding Txurruka continuously flatters to deceive. Struggling to build on his seemingly unquestionable promise, he confounds like no other rider with his less-than-stellar performances. So how good is he really?

Amets Txurruka is the best climber in the world never to have won a bike race. Fact. Exactly how he has failed to win a single race is beyond me though. With all his elegance and prowess on the climbs - coupled with that uniquely smooth pedal stroke - Txurruka should have had quite a healthy palmarès by now. Yet he doesn't seem like a better bike rider than he was four years ago.

Four years ago was of course the year he broke through so spectacularly at the Tour. His all-out attacks in the mountains were refreshing and marked him out as a potential heir to the King of the Mountains-throne vacated by Virenque a few years earlier. Some even touted him as a future GC rider as he placed an impressive 23rd overall in his maiden Grand Tour. Then nothing happened.

'Nothing' may be an exaggeration. He's performed solidly overall and he's not a shoo-in at the biggest races for Euskaltel for nothing. But his results make for dire reading: his seventh place on the Vuelta's 11th stage here the other day was easily his best result of the year. And better than anything he came up with the year prior. 2009 was his best year results-wise with his second place on a stage of the Tour and fourth on stage five in the Vuelta a Asturias. Yet it's hardly results worthy of the talent he possesses. Some will claim, and maybe rightly so, that injuries are to blame. A nasty streak of collarbone fractures have put him out of the biggest races and robbed him of some of his best form the last couple of years. But blaming it exclusively on injuries would be too easy.

Txurruka has the ability to shine when you least expect it. On six-hour stages in the Alps and Pyrenees he might spend half of that on the front setting a furious tempo, showing the world what he's capable of. He can be absolutely brilliant. On the next day he might lose ten minutes on a perfectly flat stage. Saying he's eccentric would be an understatement. Saying he's hard to pigeon-hole is not. Every rider has his 'place' in the peloton. You're either an excellent climber, a good climber, an average climber or a bad climber. Where to place Txurruka no one knows. He's none and everyone of those at the same time. That bothers us. When you expect him to shine, he might. Or he might not. God knows. In that sense he's the most perplex of cyclists. Reminiscent of a certain Ibán Mayo and, more recently, the eternal son that is Beñat Intxausti. From time to time showing glimpses of what he's made of but more often than not being pretty average. Sometimes up there with the very best, sometimes everything but.

Txurruka at his best - gritty, brave and dancing up those mountains - is Euskaltel at its purest. Irrepressible, enigmatic and seemingly born to ride a bike, he's Amets. He might not become what everyone expected of him, or then again he just might, but does it really matter? For better or for worse, he really is one of a kind.


Stephen said...

Brilliant Magnus, simply brilliant!

Txurruka is without doubt the one rider I always look out for, never mind Samu, Anton etc, I always want to know what has happened to Amets - and I know I always will.

kKDu said...

Well said.

Txurruka was and is my favorite rider and I'm still happy with this :)

His performance at the País Vasco was fantastic last year, to bad he crashed out.

For the 10 minutes he looses constantly on flat stages: why not? The GC is not the goal, so why not spare your power?

Kristof said...

Great, I know Amets has a few big fans. When he crashed in TDF last year I decided to write him a mail, Unfortunately he never answered:-) TDF 2007 was amazing with Amets but also Verdugo and Ruben Perez showing their talents for the first time. I think all his injuries and crashes are the main reason he don't reach the 2007 level anymore. I also remember his second place in 2009,Haussler was not human that day, Amets was a brilliant second one. Sadly he crashed some days later, 2009/2010/2011 three years he had to leave the TDF as cause of a crash. No one deserves that. I hope one day we'll see a big win for Amets. Wednesday I was disappointed in his seventh place, in good shape he would have been within the three best in that lead group. As I said before, the whole Euskaltel team has not his normal level in this Vuelta. It was a mistake letting Cazaux and Isasi start while Landa and Castro (again) had to stay at home.

Kristof said...

Today, our hero had a good day:-) Once again he proved to be, together with the fantastic Gorka Verdugo, one of the most important Euskaltels.

JBuehner said...

Great write ups is why I check this blog every day. Splendid story on out AMETS! I'm forever grateful I got to snap a quick pic and conversion with him before the start of stage 1 at this year's Euskal Herriko Itzulia! TXUUUUUUU


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