Thursday, December 01, 2011

Young duo on favourite rides and riders

Two of Euskaltel's most promising riders of the last 10 years sat down with BiciCiclismo at the team's recent training camp in Derio to talk favourite riders and favourite races. Here's what featherweight climbing duo Mikel Landa and Peio Bilbao had to say:

"I've always admired Samuel", Landa said. "He's always been very professional and methodical in the way he handles himself. I've gotten the chance to get to know him, and he really is like that, so I've learned a lot from him. There are also other runners I've become acquainted with and been impressed by, like Astarloza, Rubén Pérez and Koldo Fernández. Riders like that mean a lot to us young ones."

"I've never had one, big hero", Bilbao admitted. "I've always been a fan of the team and all its riders. Now that I'm here, the guys who've been most helpful and perhaps stand out as leaders the most, would have to be Iñaki Isasi and Mikel Astarloza. Simply because of the calmness they spread; it's not that they give you a lot of concrete advice, it's more that they know how to handle a rider like me, young and somewhat lost in all this."

Naturally, most riders dream of the biggest race out there at a young age: the Tour de France. For the 21 - and 22-year-old, that's not the case.

"I've always looked to the Basque Country and the Euskal Bizikleta in particular. The latter race was still on-going when I was young, and it used to have a stage finish at the Santuario de Oro every other year", Landa explained. "As I lived nearby, that's a race I always loved. And the Subida a Urkiola as well, which I was fortunate enough to race when with Orbea. I would love to fight it out for the win at the Urkiola if the race gets back on the calendar sometime. These races, along with the Vuelta al País Vasco, have been my dream since I was a kid."

Peio Bilbao's answer was perhaps more intriguing, revealing a fascination for the cobbled classics.

"I've always been a fan of the Grand Tours, but I'm especially fond of the one-day races. I would love to ride the cobbled classics sometime, even though I'm hardly cut out for it. Perhaps the Ardennes Classics are better suited to me. Anyway, the Classics are cycling at its biggest and where I'd like to excel in the future. Of the GTs, the Giro d'Italia has always been attractive to me. The Tour is of course the bigger race, but the passion of the Italian tifosi makes the Giro more enjoyable".

Landa hardly disagreed with his team-mate, saying "the Giro would be my favourite too - it's spectacular. I'd love to ride a three-week race next year, but it depends on the team. They're bringing a clear leader and a strong team of riders to back that leader up to the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta, so I don't know if they have place for a guy like me. But it would be an important step in my progression!".

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