Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How they rate 2011

It's been a year of great wins: from Zoncolan to Luz Ardiden, from Arrate to Lagunas de Neila, from Val di Fassa to Bilbao. By some, 2011 has been characterized as the team's finest - even better than the breakthrough season of 2003. Here's how a select few experts Iban Mayo Blog got in touch with rates the recently-concluded season:

Alain Laiseka (Spanish cycling expert and DEIA journalist):
This year's been awesome. It's not the best one if you judge it by the number of wins alone - the team won 17 races in 2010 compared to ten this year - but there's a vital difference: most of this year's wins have been in high-quality races. Two stages in the Giro, one in the Tour, the King of the Mountains Jersey in the same race, a stage in the Vuelta a España, a stage in País Vasco, a stage in Romandie... These are all big victories. Even more, those two stages in the Giro and standing atop the podium in Paris were historic achievements. Overall, I'd say 2011 is comparable to 2003, one of the most memorable years in the team's history: winning País Vasco, beating Armstrong to two stage-wins in the Dauphiné, winning at Alpe d'Huez...

There's been so many highs this year, but if I had to pick one win that ranks above the rest I'd say Antón's in Bilbao. That was the most emotional moment, for me anyway, this year. Why? Because of the Vuelta's return to the Basque Country and the rider who won the stage. It's up there with Roberto Laiseka's win at Luz Ardiden ten years ago! The image of Antón crossing the line alone on the Gran Vía in Bilbao, close to the Guggenheim museum, will forever stay in the minds of the fans. We will never forget that moment. I don't think Antón ever will either. That's the moment of the year.

Ole Kristian Stoltenberg (Norwegian Eurosport commentator):
It's been a good season for the team, but obviously it's hard to compare different seasons. On the positive side were the Grand Tour stage-wins and Samu's strong ride at the Tour. On the negative side was Antón's unsuccessful bid for the GC at the Vuelta. He looked ready to win the thing already last year but was well off the pace right from the off this time round. Considering the Vuelta was back in the Basque Country for the first time in a long, long time, that was a shame. That being said though, his win in Bilbao was a nice consolation. All in all a very good season - which makes it hard to comprehend why the sponsors seem so reluctant to stay on.

Unai Iraragorri (Spanish cycling journalist at www.biciciclismo.com):
It's been a very good year for Euskaltel. Winning stages in the Giro, Tour and Vuelta, all in the same year, is not easy. Even less so considering the team's budget and philosophy. Watching Antón beat Contador and Nibali at the Zoncolan was impressive. That's my highlight of the season.

Nacho Lebarga (Spanish cycling journalist at Marca):
The team won more races last year, but it's beyond doubt it's been a special season for the team. Grabbing wins in all three GTs is quite something. Samu was impressive at the Tour, winning one of the most prestigious stages and taking home the polkadot jersey. The one disappointment was Antón's failed Vuelta challenge - he was touted as one of the biggest favourites pre-race. He did succeed on the stage to Bilbao though. Mikel Nieve's good performances, which showed he's ready for more leadership duties, was another plus. On a scale from one to ten, I'd give Euskaltel an eight.

Samu standing atop the podium in Paris and Antón winning solo in Bilbao were the highlights. Both were sensational. The latter was so important for the Basques, but, frankly, Samu's achievements in the Tour were more important.


Bolsen3 said...

I really like this new feature in the blog: expert opinions and interviews! Good job!

Personally I'm a big fan of Stoltenberg's commentating! And he's always seemed like an Euskaltel-fan. I remember years ago on Eurosport he joked about how he looked in his Euskaltel-jersey with Steffen Kjærgård :P

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