Saturday, March 31, 2012

Landa pipped in GP Induráin

Mikel Landa narrowly missed out on what would have been the biggest victory of his career earlier today in the Gran Premio Miguel Induráin. The young climber lost out to Katusha's expert escalador Daniel Moreno by a mere two seconds.

The steep and punishing ramps leading up to the Puy basilica in the finale once again decided the outcome of the 1.HC-race. Euskaltel had controlled the race right from the start to the bottom of the climb to set up Landa or Igor Antón for a shot at the win, and Landa paid his team-mates back with an impressive performance.

Speaking to the team's website post-race, the 22-year-old was keen to highlight the work done by his companions. "The team did a great job, and we came close to winning", he said. "It turned into a really hard race, and it's always important to be up there and fight for the top prize. It's an important race for the team, and I think we did ourselves proud, working at the head of the pack every single kilometre. It's very difficult to win though, so I think we should appreciate the fact that we were in contention 'till the very end. It was a crazy, all-action ending to the race, and eventually Dani Moreno came out tops. Now I'll rest and gear up for the Clásica Amorebieta - also a big race for the team. I like Amorebieta, and I'll do my best".

Igor Antón couldn't quite hold the pace on the climb and crossed the line in 22nd place, a rather big 39 seconds adrift. Samuel Sánchez meanwhile was even further back, but had pledged beforehand that he was present to help out Antón and Landa. The Olympic champ, who won last year's edition, came home 2:03 back in 41st place alongside Mikel Astarloza. Preparing for Monday's Vuelta al País Vasco was more important though - and DS Gorka Gerrikagoitia thinks his charges are on the right track.

"I'm very pleased with out performance, both when it comes to the team as a whole and Mikel Landa's second place. We were strong and managed to control a traditionally nervous and tough race. Mikel Landa was our bet and he came oh so close. He showed he's worth the trust we put in him. Speaking of País Vasco, we're in high spirits".

Euskaltel results:
  • (1, Dani Moreno, Katusha)
  • 2, Mikel Landa, 0:02
  • 22, Igor Antón, 0:39
  • 41, Samuel Sánchez, 2:03
  • 42, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 51, Egoi Martínez, 5:17
  • 58, Gorka Verdugo, 5:37
  • DNF: Jorge Azanza, Juan José Oroz, Gorka Izagirre, Jon Izagirre
Egoi Martínez made sure Euskaltel didn't go home empty handed - he won the best rider from Navarra category.

As for Orbea, Haritz Orbe got the team some exposure by forming part of the race's main break. The break was of course reeled in well before the end, but his plucky effort wasn't wasted though as he triumphed in the sprints especiales-competition. The young squad didn't have a big say in deciding the winner though - Mikel Bizkarra was their top finisher in 54th.

Orbea results:
  • 54, Mikel Bizkarra, 5:17
  • 59, Carlos Barbero, 5:37
  • 68, Haritz Orbe, 10:08
  • 70, Aritz Bagües, s.t.
  • 73, Xabier Zabalo, s.t.
  • 74, Aritz Etxebarria, s.t.
  • 78, Igor Merino, s.t.
  • DNF: Illart Zuazubiskar, Jon Aberasturi, Omar Fraile

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bib numbers for GP Induráin

Euskaltel and Orbea's back numbers for today's GP Miguel Induráin:

  • 1 - Samuel Sánchez
  • 2 - Mikel Landa
  • 3 - Gorka Izagirre
  • 4 - Jon Izagirre
  • 5 - Jorge Azanza
  • 6 - Mikel Astarloza
  • 7 - Igor Antón
  • 8 - Egoi Martínez
  • 9 - Gorka Verdugo
  • 10 - Juan José Oroz
  • 71 - Xabier Zabalo
  • 72 - Aritz Etxebarria
  • 73 - Mikel Bizkarra
  • 74 - Aritz Bagües
  • 75 - Omar Fraile
  • 76 - Illart Zuazubiskar
  • 77 - Igor Merino
  • 78 - Carlos Barbero
  • 79 - Haritz Orbe
  • 80 - Jon Aberasturi

Astarloza gets off cheap

Mikel Astarloza has got his fine for doping at the 2009 Tour de France reduced, El País reports.

The winner of that year's stage 16 to Bourg-Saint-Maurice was originally handed a huge 267 000-euro fine by the UCI - in keeping with the governing body's rules that stipulate a sanctioned rider must pay back 70 percent of a year's salary. The Spanish Cycling Federation was kinder on the Pasajes-native however, saying 154 ooo euros would do it. The Court of Arbitration for Sport yesterday confirmed that Astarloza would have to pay 154 ooo euros, not 267 000.

The CAS highlighted a professional cyclist's high tax rate as the main reason his fine was slashed.

Naturgas set for weekend of racing

Naturgas Energía will face a tricky double-header this weekend with a Copa de España-race on Saturday and a Torneo Lehendakari-race the day after.

On Saturday, the team will field a strong seven-man squad in the Memorial Balenciaga in Eibar - one of the most esteemed races on the national amateur calendar. Current Euskaltel riders Victor Cabedo and Mikel Nieve have both triumphed at the event (in 2010 and 2007 respectively), while greats like Óscar Freire, Unai Osa, Joaquim Rodríguez and Julián Gorospe have also come out tops in the past. In-form riders Víctor Etxeberria, Loic Chetout and Jon Larrinaga will all be present, while Karl Baudron, Pablo Comins, Mikel Iturria and Damien García round out the team.

"The Memorial Balenciaga is a very important race in the whole of Spain, both for its parcours and for its history", DS Iñigo Urretxua told the team's website. "The winner of the race often turns professional, so we'll try to do well right from the start. It's not unthinkable we'll be in contention towards the end".

On Sunday, it's back to the Torneo Lehendakari and Amorebieta. A quintet will represent the red squad in Beñat Intxausti's home town: Imanol Estévez, Alain González, Javier Martín, Oier Sánchez and Alain Santamaría. Jon Lazkano is set to direct the team from the car.

(Not quite sure who this Lazkano is - never seen him mentioned as a Naturgas DS before. But I seem to recall a Debabarrena rider a few years back with the same name, so perhaps that's him)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Izagirre out of Flanders; set for GP Induráin

Jon Izagirre, so impressive last week in Gent-Wevelgem, will surprisingly not line up in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

The team's own website today writes that Izagirre will instead participate in Saturday's Vuelta al País Vasco tune-up race, the Gran Premio Miguel Induráin. No reason was given for the change. Romain Sicard, who was originally set to take part in the GP Induráin, will now forego the race.

The roster for Saturday now reads: Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón, Egoi Martínez, Juan José Oroz, Gorka Verdugo, Mikel Astarloza, Gorka Izagirre, Jon Izagirre, Jorge Azanza and Mikel Landa.

Peio Bilbao comes in for Jon Izagirre and completes the eight-man team for both Flanders and Paris-Roubaix: Alán Pérez, Rubén Pérez, Adrián Sáez, Pablo Urtasun, Pierre Cazaux, Miguel Minguez, Ricardo García and Peio Bilbao.

I'm loathe to speculate on Izagirre's change of schedule, but, whisper it quietly, perhaps his strong form has propelled him into País Vasco-contention.

Intxausti doubtful for País Vasco

One of the biggest outsiders for the overall crown at the upcoming Vuelta al País Vasco might be forced out of the event. Beñat Inxtausti is struggling with fever and flu-like symptoms and hasn't trained for 11 days, Deia reports this morning.

The former Euskaltel prodigy, third in the 2010 edition and fourth in 2011, hasn't been out on the bike since completing the Tirreno-Adriatico, and is almost certain to miss his home race. The 26-year-old will have a medical check-up today, but is unlikely to line up on Monday in Güeñes no matter the outcome.

His absence will come as another tough blow for his team, as leader Alejandro Valverde is also expected to miss out due to illness.

Euskaltel and Orbea allowed in same races

It was reported last week that the UCI would not allow Euskaltel and Orbea to participate in the same races any more as Orbea was allegedly 'supported' by their WorldTour colleagues. This has now been denied.

The website that carried the news, Velofutur, today writes that the UCI have corrected the 'mistake', and that the two teams are free to compete in the same races. The governing body deemed the two to be 'independent', and as such not in violation of the current rules.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"It was really bad"

Jon Izagirre is right now gearing up for a tilt at the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, fresh off a blistering start to the year. The 23-year-old finished third last in 2011 and describes the experience as 'agony' - but he's still looking forward to the Monument.

"It's a very hard and complicated race", he told Prensa Cigesma. "I did it last year and barely managed to complete it. I still remember how bad it was, the agony... But I also look back at it fondly. In Belgium it's like a national holiday - it's an impressive sight. It'll be different this year though - I know the route better and I'm in better shape. But as I've said, it'll be hard. But I'll do my utmost."

Gorka's younger brother was a standout performer in Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem, what with forming part of the break of the day and going on to finish 15th. He says Rojas' quite inexplicable crash in the sprint probably robbed him of an even better result.

"We were caught inside the last 15 kilometres, and a sprint would decide the outcome. However, Rojas's fall hampered me and made me finish a few places behind what I've might have achieved if he hadn't crashed. Even though we eventually got caught, I always harboured hope of going all the way. To begin with, I didn't feel too good though. But as the climbs approached I started feeling better, and, along with fellow escapist Anders Lund, I decided to up the pace. We cooperated well and I started feeling really sharp."

The punchy rider will head on to Paris-Roubaix after Flanders. The 'Hell of the North' will close out his first half of the season, before he'll start preparing for the Giro d'Italia - his maiden Grand Tour.

"I'll turn my attention to the Giro after Roubaix. It'll be my first three-week race, and I'm looking forward to it big time!"

Monday, March 26, 2012

UCI WorldTour-rankings

Euskaltel collected their very first WorldTour-points of the year this weekend courtesy of Samuel Sánchez's stage win and overall podium in the Volta a Catalunya.

Samu's strong ride brought him straight up to a lofty 10th in the individual rankings. He's currently on 88 points, while leader Gerrans is on 210.

As a team, Euskaltel is placed 12th. At the time being, the team is ahead of big-hitters like Lampre, BMC, Saxo Bank and Rabobank to name but a few.

For a complete overview, click this link.

Samu secures second in Volta

Samuel Sánchez never had any trouble in hanging onto his second place overall in the Volta a Catalunya finale today - and even came close to repeating yesterday's feat.

The Euskaltel leader took off five clicks from the line in search of another stage win, but couldn't open up a decent gap and was rather quickly caught by a peloton keen to see the sprinters duke it out between them. Julien Simon blasted his way to win number two this week, while Samu finished a comfortable 16th.

Upon finishing the race, Samu spoke of the importance of getting some UCI points onboard.

"It's vital that we've started gathering points. The Volta is a very prestigious race, and it's positive we accumulated some points. My team-mates have worked ever so well throughout this race, and the four riders still left in the race did a great job today. I'm grateful for what they've done for me. For sure we'll go back home satisfied", Samu told the team's website.

Stage seven results:
  • (1, Julien Simon, Saur-Sojasun)
  • 16, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 21, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 59, Iván Velasco, 0:25
  • 105, Jorge Azanza, 8:34
  • 113, Victor Cabedo, 12:41
Final general classification:
  • (1, Michael Albasini, GreenEdge)
  • 2, Samuel Sánchez, 1:30
  • 28, Miguel Mínguez, 8:06
  • 45, Iván Velasco, 13:26
  • 87, Jorge Azanza, 36:32
  • 109, Victor Cabedo, 51:20
Euskaltel finished the race ranked 11th.

Naturgas close in Gorla

2Santiago Ramírez of Lizarte took the biggest win of his young career today as he climbed to glory in the Subida a Gorla - one of the biggest Basque amateur races on the calendar.

Ramírez totally detonated the field with his attack on the second and last time up the climb, winning by a huge 40-second margin from team-mate Antonio Pedrero. Aitor González of Debabarrena, who's been prominent on the front all season, grabbed the last podium spot, just ahead of impressive Naturgas Energía leader Jon Larrinaga.

Larrinaga was sixth yesterday in Laukiz, and showed his versatility with another strong ride today. Victor Etxeberria has made quite an impact with Naturgas since joining in the off-season, and he continued his good start to 2012 with fifth. Loic Chetout, who spent large portions off the day in a break along with Alain González, went one better than yesterday, taking eighth.

  • (1, Santiago Ramírez, Lizarte)
  • 4, Jon Larrinaga, 0:40
  • 5, Victor Etxeberria, s.t.
  • 8, Loic Chetout, 0:56
  • 22, Damien García, 2:14
  • 28, Mikel Iturria, 3:09
  • 44, Imanol Estévez, 4:40
  • 47, Alain González, s.t.
  • 51, Karl Baudron, 6:15
  • 91, Francisco Javier Martín, 13:20
  • 97, Pablo Comins, 14:10
The team finished second in the team rankings, while Alain González was second in the mountains classification.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Izagirre steals the show in Gent-Wevelgem

Jon Izagirre put in one of Euskaltel's best ever performances in Gent-Wevelgem today.

The youngest of the brothers made it into the break of the day, left them for dead along with Saxo Bank's Lund on the first time up the Kemmelberg, stayed away 'till only 16 kilometres remained and hung on to claim a highly creditable 15th. It was a tour de force from the 23-year-old, who seems to be going well on every terrain these days. No wonder DS Iñaki Isasi was happy with his ever-aggressive charge.

"Jon did a great race", the former sprinter told "In a type of race we always struggle to impress in, I'm delighted with the whole team. In addition to Jon, Rubén (Pérez) and Gorka (Izagirre) also did well."

Aside from Jon, his brother Gorka, Rubén Pérez, Juan José Oroz and Pablo Urtasun finished 10 minutes down. Oroz, who was active early on, hit the deck with some 30 clicks left to go, but luckily got back up. García and Sáez abandoned.

  • (1, Tom Boonen, Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
  • 15, Jon Izagirre, 0:04
  • 82, Rubén Pérez, 10:01
  • 84, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 89, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
  • 144, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.

Antón shows form in Crit. Int-finale

Igor Antón displayed promising early-season form in the Critérium International finale earlier today. The 29-year-old climber to seventh on the summit finish of the Col de l'Ospedale.

The team's intentions were clear from the outset: Antón was aiming for the stage win. Antón was expertly marshaled by Egoi Martínez and Gorka Verdugo as the deciding climb came closer, and once on the ramps of the Ospedale, Antón was in his element. After digs from Martínez and as well Mikel Landa, Antón gave it a go. Evans was right on his wheel though and the move came to nothing, but the Galdakao native still had enough in the tank to grab seventh both on the stage and on GC, while Landa also did well with a decent 17th place. Astarloza wasn't far behind in 23rd to close out a good day for the team. Alán Pérez failed to complete his first race of the year as he abandoned underway.

The stage eventually went to Pierrick Fedrigo, while the overall went to Cadel Evans.

"I'm very pleased with the riders' performances", DS Álvaro González de Galdeano told "As a team we worked well - everyone did their job. Egoi and Gorka especially so. Igor Antón was in his element and showed his form is good. We'll be ready for the Vuelta al País Vasco."

Stage three results:
  • (1, Pierrick Fedrigo, FDJ-Big Mat)
  • 7, Igor Antón, 0:08
  • 17, Mikel Landa, 0:48
  • 23, Mikel Astarloza, 2:19
  • 41, Gorka Verdugo, 3:45
  • 46, Peio Bilbao, 4:34
  • 54, Egoi Martínez, 6:58
  • 71, Romain Sicard, 9:50
Final general classification:
  • (1, Cadel Evans, BMC)
  • 7, Igor Antón, 0:38
  • 23, Mikel Astarloza, 3:21
  • 39, Gorka Verdugo, 4:55
  • 42, Peio Bilbao, 5:43
  • 47, Mikel Landa, 7:35
  • 53, Egoi Martínez, 8:20
  • 90, Romain Sicard, 16:18
Euskaltel finished fourth in the teams classification.

Aberasturi pipped in Alentejo

Jon Aberasturi went agonizingly close to a win on the fourth and final stage of the Volta ao Alentejo earlier on Sunday. The former Naturgas product was only bested by Efapel's Filipe Cardoso in the mass sprint in Grândola.

The 23-year-old ended up fourth on GC, having finished top ten on every single stage. The team's next best rider was Carlos Barbero in 29th, but perhaps of greater importance was the fact that Xabier Zabalo got through all four stages in one piece. The likeable 24-year-old finished the race ranked 117th.

Stage results:
  • (1, Filipe Cardoso, Efapel)
  • 2, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 30, Aritz Etxebarria, s.t.
  • 32, Carlos Barbero, s.t.
  • 52, Aritz Bagües, 0:07
  • 56, Illar Zuazubiskar, s.t.
  • 77, Omar Fraile, 0:50
  • 100, Xabier Zabalo, 3:18
  • 101, Haritz Orbe, 3:18
Final general classification:
  • (1, Alexey Kunshin, Lokosphinx)
  • 4, Jon Aberasturi, 0:08
  • 29, Carlos Barbero, 1:21
  • 44, Aritz Bagües, 2:09
  • 89, Illart Zuazubiskar, 14:57
  • 91, Aritz Etxebarria, 16:22
  • 95, Haritz Orbe, 18:38
  • 116, Omar Fraile, 28:31
  • 117, Xabier Zabalo, 28:48

Larrinaga lands Lehendakari-lead

Jon Larrinaga moved into the lead of the Torneo Lehendakari-series yesterday with a sixth place in Laukiz.

The 100km Basque race was hugely successful for the new-look sub-23 team. While the win went (once again) to Caja Rural and Carlos Jiménez in a sprint from a 30-something group, Naturgas Energía placed three riders in the top ten, took the overall lead, won the team ranking, the mountains classification and Metas Volantes classification.

  • (1, Carlos Jiménez, Caja Rural)
  • 6, Jon Larrinaga, s.t.
  • 7, Imanol Estévez, s.t.
  • 9, Loic Chetout
Estévez was king of the Metas Volantes, whilst Chetout came out tops in the KOM competition.

"He's like an airplane"

Gorka Gerrikagoitia had only praise for Samuel Sánchez after his canny late-race move secured the team its first win of the season in the Volta a Catalunya yesterday. The DS likened his team leader to a machine.

"Everyone on the team knows he's like a motorcycle", the man known as 'Gerri' told el Correo. "He's like a plane. Before the race he was nervous, but that's always a good sign. That means he'll give it a go."

Like Samu himself, Gerrikagoitia would be pleased with second place overall as there seems to be no beating Michael Albasini.

"Samu's strong, so if he finishes second in this race that would be great. Albasini has been strong and impossible to wrestle the lead from. We'll hunt the win again the Vuelta al País Vasco, but we know it'll be hard", he told BiciCiclismo.

Speaking of the start to the season, the former rider was pleased to get a win onboard - but says this year has been no different to previous ones.

"We're a modest team, and it's always hard for us to win early on. 2012 has been no different in that regard. Both the team and Samu were strong yesterday. Samu winning sends a signal to the rest of the peloton that we're doing well".

"This will give the team a break"

Samu Sánchez's classy solo win in the Volta a Catalunya on Saturday was the team's very first victory of the 2012 season. Speaking post-race, the team captain was happy to finally have ended the barren spell.

"The WorldTour is becoming more and more demanding, and for our team it's increasingly hard to win. Hopefully this win will give the team a break ahead of the Vuelta al País Vasco", he told

"The last climb did more damage than expected. At times it was crazy out there, and nobody were able to organize a train for the sprint. I went for broke on the descent and risked more than I had planned in order to come home first. In the end I succeeded though, and I bagged an emotional triumph."

Samu experienced what he calls his "biggest fall ever" on day three as he ran into a car, but has since then gradually crept up the GC ladder. Ahead of Sunday's final stage into Barcelona, he's second. Going for the win though is out of the question.

"I'll try to defend my overall placing tomorrow", he stated. "Winning the race outright is impossible, and a lot of riders will be aiming to move up on GC.

Perfect ten for GP Induráin

Euskaltel will field a powerful ten-man team for the GP Miguel Induráin. The 1.HC race will be held the coming Saturday - as usual two days before the Vuelta al País Vasco kicks off. Samuel Sánchez took out the win last year and will be back to defend his title alongside the likes of Antón, G Izagirre, Verdugo and Landa, reports.

Full team: Samuel Sánchez, Mikel Landa, Gorka Izagirre, Romain Sicard, Jorge Azanza, Mikel Astarloza, Juan José Oroz, Egoi Martínez, Gorka Verdugo and Igor Antón.

Orbea will also send ten riders to the prestigious event: Jon Aberasturi, Xabier Zabalo, Carlos Barbero, Haritz Orbe, Illar Zuazubiskar, Mikel Bizkarra, Aritz Bagües, Aritz Etxebarria, Omar Fraile and Igor Merino.

Aberasturi 10th in Alentejo day three

A win continues to elude young sprinter Jon Aberasturi in the Volta ao Alentejo. The Orbea rider placed fourth and fifth on the first two days, and in today's penultimate leg he finished up 10th. Sergey Shilov grabbed the win in a mass sprint.

Carlos Barbero was the only other rider in blue to finish inside the peloton on the 168,6km trek from Odemira to Ourique.

Stage three results:
  • (1, Sergey Shilov, Lokosphinx)
  • 10, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 44, Carlos Barbero, s.t.
  • 75, Aritz Bagües, 1:31
  • 76, Aritz Etxebarria, s.t.
  • 92, Illart Zuazubiskar, 6:59
  • 93, Haritz Orbe, s.t.
  • 117, Omar Fraile, 9:00
  • 118, Xabier Zabalo, s.t.

Crit. International day 1

True to form, day one of the Critérium International consisted of an early morning road stage and an afternoon individual time trial. Ahead of tomorrow's decider to the top of the Ospedale, Igor Antón looks to be Euskaltel's sole hope of GC glory.

The 89,5km road stage in Porto-Vecchio saw Florian Vachon come out tops in a crash-marred field sprint. Surprisingly, only Antón was in that first group. Potential overall candidates Astarloza, Verdugo and Martínez all ceded 49 seconds and with it any hopes of glory in the general classification. Alán Pérez placed 108th in his season debut.

Stage 1 results:
  • (1, Florian Vachon, Bretagne-Schuller)
  • 20, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 45, Mikel Astarloza, 0:49
  • 66, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 70, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 71, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
  • 108, Alán Pérez, 6:06
  • 110, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 116, Romain Sicard, s.t.
Astarloza was as anticipated the team's top finisher in the 6,5km TT. The Pasajes native finished up 24th at 13 seconds, while Antón ended up half a minute in arrears. Of note was young Peio Bilbao's ride to 44th - despite being a young, Basque specialist climber, the 22-year-old time and again shows he's got a talent in the discipline.

Stage 2 results:
  • (1, Cadel Evans, BMC)
  • 24, Mikel Astarloza, 0:13
  • 44, Peio Bilbao, 0:20
  • 46, Gorka Verdugo, 0:21
  • 47, Romain Sicard, 0:22
  • 72, Igor Antón, 0:30
  • 81, Egoi Martínez, 0:33
  • 96, Mikel Landa, 0:41
  • 120, Alán Pérez, 1:21
Tomorrow's queen-stage to the feared Col de l'Ospedale will separate the overall candidates, and at just 30 seconds from overall leader Evans, Antón is one of approximately 40 riders still in with a chance to grab the coveted title.

General classification:
  • (1, Cadel Evans, BMC)
  • 33, Igor Antón, 0:30
  • 55, Mikel Astarloza, 1:02
  • 62, Peio Bilbao, 1:09
  • 64, Gorka Verdugo, 1:10
  • 76, Egoi Martínez, 1:22
  • 100, Romain Sicard, 6:28
  • 109, Mikel Landa, 6:47
  • 118, Alán Pérez, 7:27

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Samu secures first win of 2012

Samuel Sánchez soloed to his and the team's maiden win of the season in today's penultimate stage of the Volta a Catalunya.

Samu left the peloton for dead in Cancellara-like style inside the last two clicks to win stage six between Sant Fruitós de Bages to Badalona in emphatic fashion. He eventually finished up two seconds ahead of the field, advancing to second on GC in the process. Ahead of tomorrow's concluding stage into Barcelona, he's 1:30 down on Albasini and two seconds ahead of Van den Broeck in third.

Reactions and reflections to come later tonight.

Stage results:
  • 1, Samuel Sánchez, 4:04:50
  • 53, Miguel Mínguez, 0:02
  • 61, Iván Velasco, 0:16
  • 79, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 98, Victor Cabedo, 1:37
  • (1, Michael Albasini, GreenEdge)
  • 2, Samuel Sánchez, 1:30
  • 30, Miguel Mínguez, 8:06
  • 48, Iván Velasco, 13:01
  • 78, Jorge Azanza, 27:58
  • 103, Victor Cabedo, 38:39

No more Euskaltel and Orbea in same race

According to Velofutur, Euskaltel and Orbea will no longer be able to participate in the same races.

The trustworthy website claims to have exclusive access to a UCI document stating that no WorldTour-team (Euskaltel) can take part in a race in which a team supported by the WorldTour team (Orbea) is taking part.

Over the years, the two teams have participated in numerous tests on the Spanish calendar side by side.

Iban Mayo Blog will have more on this story tomorrow as it develops.

Bib numbers for Crit International

Euskaltel's back numbers for this weekend's Critérium International:

  • 71, Igor Antón
  • 72, Mikel Astarloza
  • 73, Peio Bilbao
  • 74, Mikel Landa
  • 75, Egoi Martínez
  • 76, Alán Pérez
  • 77, Romain Sicard
  • 78, Gorka Verdugo

Friday, March 23, 2012

Volta a Catalunya stage 5

Samuel Sánchez added further proof of his burgeoning form by placing fourth on today's stage in the Volta a Catalunya and rising to the same place on GC.

The Euskaltel captain even came close to a spectacular solo win as he tried his luck some 12 kilometres out - only to be reeled in five clicks later. In the 26-rider sprint for the win, Julien Simon of Saur-Sojasun took a somewhat surprising victory ahead of Urán, Szmyd and Sánchez. Samu didn't have much help in the finale though, as no other Euskaltel rider made the front group. The closest was Miguel Mínguez five minutes down in 34th place.

On a bad note, Mikel Nieve opted to abandon. The climber, who'll make a tilt at the overall in the Giro come May, crashed on day two and had to give in to the pain in his right leg.

Stage 5 results:
  • (1, Julien Simon, Saur-Sojasun)
  • 4, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 34, Miguel Mínguez, 4:59
  • 69, Iván Velasco, 8:28
  • 95, Jorge Azanza, 12:46
  • 123, Victor Cabedo, 21:04

Aberasturi to the fore in Portugal

Away from the grandeur of WorldTour racing in Belgium and the upcoming Vuelta al País Vasco on home soil, Orbea are taking part in the four-day Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal. Two days in, sprinter Jon Aberasturi has already notched two top 5s - and Xabier Zabalo has made his long-awaited return to competition following his potentially career-ending injury last year.

The race got underway yesterday, and the following eight riders lined up: Aberasturi, Bagües, Barbero, Orbe, Zuazubiskar, Zabalo, Fraile and Etxebarria.

On day one, a 165,8km trek from Castelo de Vide to Redondo, Aberasturi just missed out on the podium as Montenegro, Caldeira and Goncalves, in that order, proved too fast.

Stage 1 results:
  • (1, Jorge Martín Montenegro, Louletano)
  • 4, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 49, Aritz Bagües, s.t.
  • 57, Carlos Barbero, 0:48
  • 71, Haritz Orbe, 1:49
  • 81, Illart Zuazubiskar, 3:45
  • 128, Xabier Zabalo, 13:17
  • 133, Omar Fraile, 14:36
  • 134, Aritz Etxebarria, s.t.
On day two, Aberasturi placed fifth as Alexey Kunshin won the 191,3km stage from Portel to Santiago do Cacém. The young Basque is ranked tenth overall halfway through the race.

Stage 2 results:
  • (1, Alexey Kunshin, Lokosphinx)
  • 5, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 44, Aritz Etxebarria, s.t.
  • 54, Aritz Bagües, 0:18
  • 63, Carlos Barbero, 0:28
  • 110, Xabier Zabalo, 3:08
  • 119, Illar Zuazubiskar, 4:01
  • 120, Omar Fraile, s.t.
  • 131, Haritz Orbe, 6:29
Prior to the race, Zabalo talked briefly to about what it feels like to be back. Read it here.

The race concludes on Sunday.

Izagirre impresses at E3 Prijs

Gorka Izagirre showed his pedigree on the cobbles earlier today at the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke. The 24-year-old stayed close to the front of the peloton throughout the demanding one-day race and crossed the line inside the first group in 30th place. As his team-mates don't seem to be up to much on the cobblestones, Izagirre's strong ride gives the team a decent hope of some sort of presence in Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem and next weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

The only other Euskaltel riders to complete the race were Ricardo García and Gorka's brother Jon. The duo came in 9:16 adrift in 83rd and 91st respectively. Oroz, R Pérez, Sáez and Urtasun all posted DNFs.

Bib numbers for E3 Prijs

Euskaltel's back numbers for tomorrow's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke:

  • 62, Ricardo García
  • 63, Gorka Izagirre
  • 64, Jon Izagirre
  • 65, Juan José Oroz
  • 66, Rubén Pérez
  • 67, Adrián Sáez
  • 68, Pablo Urtasun
For complete start list, click here.

For race details, click here.

Volta a Catalunya stage 4

Samuel Sánchez fired a warning shot to his rivals for the Vuelta al País Vasco with arguably his strongest ride of the year on today's fourth stage in Catalunya. The Olympic champ placed sixth on the stage and advanced to fifth overall.

After the day's early break had been caught, a select group of six formed over the last climb. Sánchez crested the summit of the cat. 2 Coll de Paumeres first, and put in several digs on the descent to the line. Despite the group holding a sizeable gap on the run-in, they were caught by the peloton inside the last 500 metres. Rigoberto Urán claimed the win, while Samu held tough to claim sixth on the stage on the same time as the Colombian. Because of his strong ride, the 34-year-old now sits fifth on GC, 1:32 down on runaway-leader Albasini. With three stages left to ride though, Samu's most definitely in contention for a final podium place. No more than 11 days before the grand kick-off in País Vasco, Samu looks to be reaching top form just in time.

Another one who had a solid day in the saddle was Miguel Mínguez. The feathery climber crossed the line inside the second group at just 44 seconds, while Mikel Nieve continues to struggle with the injuries sustained in a crash on day two.

Samu, himself a victim of a crash only yesterday, was eyeing a top three finish when speaking to Euskaltel's website post-stage.

"There are still a few tough stages to come and we're in the fight for the podium. Today's stage was hard. Yesterday's tumble affected my performance, but luckily I was still able to ride strongly and fight for the victory."

"Looking towards País Vasco, we're getting closer and closer to top form. That motivates us".

Stage results:
  • (1, Rigoberto Urán, Team Sky)
  • 6, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 29, Miguel Mínguez, 0:44
  • 65, Iván Velasco, 1:56
  • 66, Victor Cabedo, s.t.
  • 83, Jorge Azanza, 6:35
  • 94, Mikel Nieve, 16:32
General classification:
  • (1, Michael Albasini, GreenEdge)
  • 5, Samuel Sánchez, 1:32
  • 24, Miguel Mínguez, 3:07
  • 37, Iván Velasco, 4:19
  • 80, Jorge Azanza, 14:58
  • 83, Victor Cabedo, 16:00
  • 125, Mikel Nieve, 28:21

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Logo war heading for peace

The unique tussle between Euskaltel and the Basque government over the green 'Euskadi'-logo on the team's shirts and shorts may be heading for a solution, el Diario Vasco today reports.

The Basque newspaper writes that Fundación Euskadi president Miguel Madariaga and two representatives from the government met yesterday to discuss the matter. According to Madariaga, the meeting was a good one.

"The meeting was quite contructive", he said. "We got together to try and reach an agreement. I told them we can't possibly do what they've asked of us this year - we can't replace the jerseys, cars and buses. The cost would be too big"

As reported earlier, kit manufacturer Moa would have to come up with 225 ooo euros and casual wear manufacturer Astore 115 ooo euros - in addition to the 125 ooo euros it would take to change the logos on the cars and buses.

Changing the logo for the Vuelta a España and a selection of other races was discussed though.

"We agreed they'd send us a proposal in writing", Madariaga stated.

The team is already lacking 475 000 euros to cover this year's budget. If the Basque government was to pull the plug on their backing, it would leave the team in search of approximately 900 000 euros.

Weekend line-ups

Euskaltel will embark on the dreaded Belgian classics this weekend with the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke on Friday and Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. The team's hard-guys, Rubén Pérez, Juanjo Oroz, Pablo Urtasun and Gorka Izagirre, will take to the start along with some of the younger ones both days.

Full team: Jon and Gorka Izagirre, Ricardo García, Juan José Oroz, Adrián Sáez, Rubén Pérez and Pablo Urtasun.

A team full of possible overall contenders, among them Antón, Astarloza and Sicard, will represent the team in this weekend's three-stage, two-day Critérium International. Alán Pérez will clock his first racing kilometres this season after an injury-plagued start to 2012.

Full team: Igor Antón, Mikel Astarloza, Gorka Verdugo, Peio Bilbao, Egoi Martínez, Mikel Landa and Alán Pérez.


Volta a Catalunya stage 3

Torrential rain and snow caused today's third stage of the Volta a Catalunya to be shortened and time gaps nullified.

The bad weather forced the organizers to cut what was supposed to be the queen-stage from 210,9km to 155. The big climbs were also taken out of the race, and a host of riders called it quits underway. Valverde was the most high-profile DNF, while Euskaltel's Amets Txurruka and Pierre Cazaux both threw in the towel. Samuel Sánchez hit the deck only five kilometres in, the team's website reports, but soldiered on in the ghastly weather to complete the stage. Also Mikel Nieve, who himself took a tumble yesterday, came through the day.

The stage was won by Janez Brajkovic, the Slovenian proving the strongest from a day-long break. As mentioned above though, today's time will not count towards the GC, so Michael Albasini is still in possession of the leader's jersey.

Iván Velasco completed the stage, but was quick to deem it "the worst day ever on a bike" on Twitter afterwards. Another frequent 'tweeter', Mikel Astarloza, informed he'd opted to train on the boards today instead of going for a ride on the slippery roads. Victor Cabedo summed it up nicely: "A day to remember, but not to repeat. Let's hope the sun comes out tomorrow!"

Tomorrow's stage will take the riders 199km from Tremp to Ascó.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Volta a Catalunya stage 2

Things took a turn for the worse for Euskaltel in today's second Volta a Catalunya stage. Mikel Nieve crashed, and only Samuel Sánchez was able to stay with the strongest riders.

The 161km day two, starting and finishing in Girona, saw a trio break clear early on. The demanding nature of the course didn't leave the breakaway much chance of staying away though, and they were duly reeled in with reasonable ease. A dangerous-looking group consisting of Daniel Martin, Damiano Cunego and Matteo Carrara tried their luck late on, but it all came down to a sprint from an elite 31-man group. Yesterday's victor, Michael Albasini, amazingly went back to back with an impressive surge, while Samu finished safely inside the group in 20th place. The other riders in orange went missing though, with Minguez and Velasco at 51 seconds being the closest. Mikel Nieve took a tumble and hit his thigh - team doctors are hoping he'll be ready to race tomorrow though, the team's website reports.

Stage results:
  • (1, Michael Albasini, GreenEdge)
  • 20, Samuel Sánchez, s.t
  • 42, Miguel Mínguez, 0:51
  • 45, Iván Velasco, s.t.
  • 103, Amets Txurruka, 3:19
  • 136, Jorge Azanza, 6:51
  • 140, Pierre Cazaux, s.t.
  • 156, Mikel Nieve, 10:17
  • 157, Victor Cabedo, 11:54
Ahead of tomorrow's etapa reina to Port-Ainé, Samu is 14th overall.

Monday, March 19, 2012

225 000 euros for logo change

As reported some ten days ago, the Basque government's Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism is threatening to pull its 475 ooo euros-a year sponsorship of the team unless the 'Euskadi'-logo on the team's attire (picture above) is changed into white. How much that would cost the manufacturer? 225 000 euros.

El Diario Vasco claims to know that Moa, the company that makes the team's apparel, will have to cough up the huge sum mentioned above to satisfy the Ministry. In addition, Astore, manufacturer of the team's leisure wear, will have to come up with up to 150 000. Of all the team's sponsors though, the Ministry appears to be the only one to have an issue with the 'Euskadi'-logo.

The newspaper claims that the sponsors got together for a meeting after Euskaltel's presentation in late January. Of the ones present, that being the delegations of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Álava, Skoda, Orbea, Euskaltel and the Basque government, only the latter had an issue with the logo. Why the Ministry suddenly felt the urge to request a change is not known - but it certainly couldn't have come at a worse time for the already cash-strapped outfit.

Volta a Catalunya stage 1

Euskaltel missed out on the winning break in today's Volta a Catalunya opener. A five-man group got away and made it all the way to the line, with Michael Albasini taking a commanding solo win.

None riders in orange were present in the break, but they all made it to the line comfortably inside the peloton. All except for Victor Cabedo, who crossed the line 2:10 adrift.

Stage result:
  • (1, Michael Albasini, GreenEdge)
  • 37, Iván Velasco, 1:32
  • 48, Miguel Minguez, s.t.
  • 52, Amets Txurruka, s.t.
  • 64, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 81, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 136, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 155, Pierre Cazaux, s.t.
  • 172, Victor Cabedo, 2:10

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bib numbers for Catalunya

Euskaltel's back numbers for the Volta a Catalunya starting tomorrow:
  • 31 - Samuel Sánchez
  • 32 - Mikel Nieve
  • 33 - Miguel Mínguez
  • 34 - Jorge Azanza
  • 35 - Victor Cabedo
  • 36 - Pierre Cazaux
  • 37 - Iván Velasco
  • 38 - Amets Txurruka
DS: Gorka Gerrikagoitia.

For complete start list, click here.

For stage details, click here.

Durán crushes field in Estella

If ever the word 'crush' is justifiable to use in cycling journalism, this is it. Arkaitz Durán won today's Torneo Euskaltel race solo - by five minutes.

The former pro, now riding for Azysa-Telco'm Conor, did it all on his own in the second race in the Euskaldun-series over 133 flat kilometres in Estella, Navarra. With a quartet up the road in a dangerous-looking escape, the 25-year-old took off from the peloton, caught up with the break, left them for dead and crossed the line first atop the El Puy sanctuary. Second, at a full 5:16, was his team-mate Borja Abásolo, who now leads the series overall. Joseba del Barrio from Bidelan-Kirolgi closed out the podium a further two seconds back.

Durán is aiming to use this season among the amateurs to catapult him back into the professional peloton. Performances like this will do his chances no harm.

Contrary to previous reports on this site, Naturgas Energía did not take the start.

Milan-San Remo round-up

Euskaltel added colour to yesterday's Milan-San Remo through active riding right from the off.

Juan José Oroz, seemingly always adept in the Monuments, spent large portions of the day up ahead in the main break alongside eight other riders. The nine got away after approximately 20 clicks and were only reeled in with 40 to go. Oroz holds the distinction of being the sole professional cyclist between October 2007 and April 2008 to have finished all five Monuments, and made his mark on the big stage once again with a combative display. For the record though, he failed to finish the race.

Egoi Martínez and Gorka Verdugo both had strong rides to finish in the first main chase group 20 seconds in arrears, in 34th and 37th respectively. The former, who lost a Tour de France stage win in 2008 to yesterday's winner Gerrans after an alleged broken promise, and the latter looked strong on the Cipressa, but weren't able to stay with the very strongest over the Poggio.

The crash that took Philippe Gilbert out of contention with 22 kilometres left to ride also saw an Euskaltel rider hit the deck. It was hard to identify the Euskatel man, but it did look like Jon Izagirre. More on that later.

  • (1, Simon Gerrans, GreenEdge)
  • 34, Egoi Martínez, 0:20
  • 37, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 85, Jon Izagirre, 7:43
  • 132, Pablo Urtasun, 20:18
  • 133, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 134, Rubén Pérez, s.t.

Villatuerta results

Naturgas Energía placed three riders in the top 10 of yesterday's race in Villatuerta, Navarra. The 106,4km Torneo Lehendakari-race, often blighted by strong winds, ended with a mass sprint finish in which Caja Rural riders Rubén Fernández and Fernando Grijalba took first and second respectively. Imanol Estévez sprinted to a creditable fifth, while Francisco Javier Martín and Loic Chetout closed out a good day for the team with eighth and tenth.

XXI Trofeo Suministros Monjardín results:
  • (1, Rubén Fernández, Caja Rural)
  • 5, Imanol Estévez, s.t.
  • 8, Francisco Javier Martín, s.t.
  • 10, Loic Chetout, s.t.
Full results yet to come.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Briefs: Volta, Antón, Naturgas, VPV route

  • Here's Euskaltel's team for the Volta a Catalunya starting this Monday: Samuel Sánchez, Mikel Nieve, Amets Txurruka, Miguel Minguez, Victor Cabedo, Jorge Azanza, Pierre Cazaux and Iván Velasco. Source:
  • As reported earlier this week, an Euskaltel quintet yesterday checked out the likely decisive fourth stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco. Antón, Astarloza, Azanza, Sicard and G Izagirre rode the last 70 kilometres of the stage. The stage finishes atop the feared Ibardin, and Antón believes the climb will go a long way in deciding the overall standings. "It'll be a very demanding day", the Galdakao native told "In addition to the tough route, the roads are narrow and we will have done the stage to Arrate the day before. It'll be two difficult days, and the Ibardin might separate the favourites for the GC. The last stretches of the climb are very steep - all favourites can lose time there".
  • Changes have been made to the Vuelta al País Vasco's first stage, DEIA reports this morning. The 400-metre wall that is the Goikouria, which takes in ramps up to a vicious 20 %, will not feature on the stage to Gueñes as the organizers deemed it too narrow and too steep. The climb was set to be tackled some three kilometres from the line.
  • Naturgas Energía was presented to the public earlier today at a ceremony in Vitoria-Gasteiz. For pictures of the event, click here. For complete roster, click this link.
  • Naturgas team for Saturday's Torneo Lehendakari-race in Villatuerta: Karl Baudron, Loic Chetout, Pablo Comins, Imanol Estévez, Victor Etxeberria, Damien García, Alain González, Mikel Iturria, Jon Larrinaga, Javier Martín and Oier Sánchez. DS: Iñigo Urretxua. Source:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gerri explains slow start

As we write March the 15th, Euskaltel is still to taste success this year. Much has been made of the team's failure to land a victory in the young season, but the main players are seemingly unperturbed. On Wednesday Samuel Sánchez said a win is just around the corner. Yesterday, directeur sportif Gorka Gerrikagoitia said there's plenty of positives to take from the last couple of races.

"When it comes to Paris-Nice, I'm pleased with Romain Sicard's ride. He's improved, and showed to be in good form after having missed out on almost a year of competition. I guess you could say that was the only positive in France, but in Tirreno, Jon did well. Especially so considering the level of competition at that race. I'm really pleased with him. But also the team spirit, showcased by Urtasun and Martínez in the breaks, deserve to be highlighted", the former rider told BiciCiclismo.

He admitted though that the results haven't really been up to expectations, saying the lack of racing in February punished the riders.

"We're basically a bit short on riders. Our roster only counts 23 riders, and now that Alán Pérez is out injured, we're only 22. Last month we competed too little - the other teams were racing in San Luis, Qatar and Oman. We staged some team camps, but it's not the same as racing. The key, I think, is the lack of racing in February."

"We struggle when we have to split the team in order to compete in several races at the same time. We've got a bigger chance of success when we field our best team, like we'll do in the Vuelta al País Vasco."

Looking ahead to País Vasco and the other races coming up, the veteran DS is optimistic.

"In Catalunya we'll have a strong team with Samuel racing, and we'll be strong in the Critérium International as well with Antón and Astarloza. In short, I'm looking forward to April with País Vasco, the hilly classics and Romandie."

Izagirre already set for 2013 Tirreno

Jon Izagirre added further proof of his potential with a creditable 16th place overall at Tirreno-Adriatico recently. The 23-year-old loved every minute of the race - and is already looking forward to next year's edition.

"I really liked Tirreno-Adriatico", he told El Diario Vasco. "It had long climbs, short climbs, hard climbs, long stages, circuit races, time trials... I love that kind of race. I was planning on being in good shape and I achieved that. I'm looking forward to returning next year", he enthused.

Despite looking adept at the climbs and relatively comfy on his time trial bike, the Ormaiztegi native admitted he's still not at the peak of his powers.

"I'm feeling good coming out of this race, but perhaps I'm missing some racing kilometres to be in even better shape. I'm happy with how I fared, but I always want more"

The youngster eventually finished up 3:01 down on overall winner Vincenzo Nibali. He ceded 1:25 in the opening day team time trial, but is reluctant to dwell on what might have been.

"Speculation like that doesn't help - we knew that stage was on the program. The best thing was that I felt much better than I did at this time in 2011, even though I can still improve on the ascents. I'm motivated for the upcoming Milan-San Remo; I'm keen to do well there".

Izagirre will line up at la Classicissima on Saturday in the company of Txurruka, Martínez, Urtasun, Verdugo, Oroz, R Pérez and Landa. The classic is the longest professional one-day race on the calendar, but Izagirre is not fazed.

"Worried? I just did a 250km stage in Tirreno-Adriatico. We'll see how it goes, but I spent seven and a half hours in the saddle one day in Tirreno. The favourite? That'll have to be Cavendish - he's looking stronger than last year".

Next up for Izagirre post-San Remo is the cobbled classics. The GP E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix all figure on his calendar, while he'll later prepare for his maiden GT, the Giro d'Italia, by taking part in the Vuelta a Castilla y León.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Samu not worried by 'lazy start'

Despite Euskaltel having failed to pick up a single win so far this season, team captain Samuel Sánchez is everything but worried. According to the Olympic champ, this is the way it's always been - and a win is just around the corner.

"The results will come. We normally bag out first victory at around this time. April is our month", he told BiciCiclismo.

"I'm feeling good, and we shouldn't let the fact that the results aren't going our way get to us. We've always been a bit 'lazy' like that. Maybe it's down to the climate; in the north we don't usually get the sun we get in the south or the east."

Sánchez will spearhead the team's charge in the upcoming Volta a Catalunya and at the País Vasco in early April. He's finished on the podium three times and taken five stages over the years, and sees no reason he won't be up there in this year's edition.

"In País Vasco it's always hard to perform as it's our home race. But if my form is at the level it's been the last years, I think I'll be up there challenging for the win. The two stages to finish at altitude, the stages to Arrate and to the Ibardin, will separate the riders in the race for the overall, and the tough time trial on the last stage will decide the race."

The race organizer's much-publicized economic travails threatened the staging of the race until Basque bank group Sabadell Guipuzcoano stepped in with the necessary cash. If they hadn't done so, it would have been a big loss according to the 34-year-old.

"It's a classic race with the best fans, so it would have been serious if it has disappeared off the calendar".

To get ready for the Vuelta al País Vasco, five of the team's riders will recon the last part of the decisive stage to the Ibardin tomorrow, reports. Antón, Astarloza, Azanza, G Izagirre and Sicard will check out the last 70 kilometres, including the climbs of Aritxulegi, Agina and the Ibardin.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"It's not for specialists"

Yesterday it was confirmed by BiciCiclismo that both Igor Antón and Samuel Sánchez will take part in this year's Vuelta al País Vasco. The duo, along with Jorge Azanza, Gorka Izagirre, Mikel Nieve, Iván Velasco and Mikel Astarloza, reconned the race's concluding time trial on Tuesday - and said it's hard enough to create big gaps among the favourites.

"It's a very demanding parcours", Antón told "It's not one for the specialists, it's more suited to whoever is strongest on the day. The start, with it's climbs and steep descents, is tough. Afterwards, on the flatter stretches, it'll be important to get up to speed before another climb comes towards the end. It's a very demanding crono in which I think big gaps might develop".

Samuel Sánchez told the same website that the 19,2km test in Oñati reminded him of the time trial in Oiartzun in the 2007 edition - a time trial he won.

"The organizers have sought to create a spectacle, and I think they've succeeded. It's a very winding course with numerous curves and changes of pace. To a certain extent it reminds me of the Oiartzun time trial on the final day of the 2007 race. The characteristics are very similar. I think it suits us, and we'll give it our all on the day".

In other news, Astore, the manufacturer of the team's casual clothes and tracksuits, today unveiled a new Euskaltel-line of clothes. Euskaltel polo shirts, bags, hats, shirts, tracksuits and sweatshirts can now be bought in Astore's outlets. The same seven riders that checked out the País Vasco time trial course were present in Arrasate earlier today to showcase the clothes, writes Click this link to check it out.

Tirreno finale

Jon Izagirre ended the Tirreno-Adriatico on a high today as he clung onto his impressive 16th overall. The youngster finished a distant 51st on the 9,3km ITT, but did more than enough to hold off Daniel Moreno in 17th. Amets Txurruka also had enough in the tank to defend his decent 26th on GC, while Juan José Oroz finished up 33rd.

Stage results:
  • (1, Fabian Cancellara, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek)
  • 51, Jon Izagirre, 0:45
  • 77, Juan José Oroz, 1:01
  • 88, Pablo Urtasun, 1:04
  • 97, Gorka Verdugo, 1:09
  • 104, Egoi Martínez, 1:11
  • 107, Amets Txurruka, 1:12
  • 134, Mikel Landa, 1:40
Final general classification:
  • (1, Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas)
  • 16, Jon Izagirre, 3:01
  • 26, Amets Txurruka, 9:50
  • 33, Juan José Oroz, 13:22
  • 54, Egoi Martínez, 21:41
  • 80, Mikel Landa, 30:23
  • 90, Gorka Verdugo, 35:32
  • 99, Pablo Urtasun, 39:21
The seven riders who completed the race, and most likely also Rubén Pérez who abandoned yesterday, will represent Euskaltel at Milan-San Remo this coming Saturday.

Giro & País Vasco teams set

According to Biciciclismo, Euskaltel will send the following nine riders to the first GT of the year, the Giro d'Italia: Nieve, Velasco, Txurruka, Oroz, Mínguez, Cazaux, J Izagirre, Cabedo and Sáez. Mikel Nieve will of course lead the team's GC assault. The Spanish website doesn't state its source, but they're normally more than trustworthy. Of the long-list unveiled last month, Jorge Azanza and Ricardo García miss out on selection.

Azanza will likely do País Vasco though, as he's set to toe the start line alongside seven of the following eight riders: Antón, Sánchez, G Izagirre, Astarloza, Martínez, Verdugo, Oroz and Sicard. Fielding both Antón and Samu suggests, to state the obvious, that the team is fully focused on winning the overall this year. Samu has famously come close on several occasions but keeps falling short, while Antón is yet to taste success in the week-long stage race.

Euskaltel go missing in WorldTour-rankings

The UCI today released their updated WorldTour-rankings after the conclusion of the Paris-Nice. 44 riders have so far this year scored points - none of them from Euskaltel.

Alejandro Valverde naturally tops the standings after his blistering start to the campaign. The Movistar rider has already amassed 167 points.

In the team rankings, 16 teams have gathered points - again Euskaltel do not figure on the list. With the team not likely to score loads of points in the Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo or the cobbled classics, the pressure is on ahead of the Ardennes classics and the Spanish stage-races later this month and early the next.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Naturgas news

Despite being well into the season, Naturgas Energía will hold their annual team presentation this coming Friday. The team will be unveiled at 11:00 AM in the Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo in the Basque capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz, reports.

The following day the team will line up in Villatuerta for a Torneo Lehendakari-race. On Sunday they'll be present at the second round of the Torneo Euskaldun in Estella, site of the annual staging of the GP Miguel Induráin.

Looking back at the races this past weekend, DS Iñigo Urretxua was pleased with the team's performance. Victor Etxeberria finished fourth in Lizartza on Saturday, while Jon Larrinaga placed 21st in the Copa de España-race in Aiztondo the day after. "On Saturday we fought for the win, but in the end it eluded us. As a team we did well though. We were present in the breaks and were active throughout, showing our strength. We placed four riders among the first twelve - that shows the level of the team as a whole was high."

"On Sunday we had another goal: to learn how to ride at a higher level of competition", he told la Fundación Euskadi's website. "We were close to the front, positioned ourselves well and infiltrated the breaks".

Tirreno stage 6

Jon Izagirre once again showed prowess on hilly terrain beyond his young age to hold on to 16th overall going into tomorrow's final stage in the Tirreno-Adriatico.

The youngest of the Izagirres placed a highly creditable 24th in the first chase group 16 seconds down on winner Purito Rodríguez and the following ten riders. Amets Txurruka and Juan José Oroz also showed budding form with 34th and 36th respectively, just a further four seconds in arrears.

On a bad note, Rubén Pérez succumbed to the pain and posted a DNF. The 31-year-old has been suffering from pain in his right knee since he took a tumble on the fourth stage and was forced to throw in the towel.

Tomorrow's final stage will see the peloton duke it out for the overall with a pancake-flat 9,3km ITT in and around San Benedetto del Tronto.

Stage results:
  • (1, Joaquim Rodríguez, Katusha)
  • 24, Jon Izagirre, 0:16
  • 34, Amets Txurruka, 0:20
  • 36, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 55, Mikel Landa, 1:20
  • 62, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 90, Gorka Verdugo, 6:08
  • 91, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • DNF: Rubén Pérez
General classification:
  • (1, Chris Horner, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek)
  • 16, Jon Izagirre, 2:42
  • 26, Amets Txurruka, 9:06
  • 33, Juan José Oroz, 12:49
  • 55, Egoi Martínez, 20:58
  • 78, Mikel Landa, 29:11
  • 92, Gorka Verdugo, 34:51
  • 102, Pablo Urtasun, 38:45

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tirreno stage 5 & Paris-Nice finale

Egoi Martínez embarked on a trademark long-distance break on hilly terrain in today's fifth stage in the Tirreno-Adriatico, a 199km stage from Piano Roseto to the top of Prati di Tivo.

Martínez broke clear with Jens Debusschere of Lotto and Kristof Goddaert of Ag2r early on, and the trio opened up a big gap that stretched to a huge ten minutes at one point. The peloton gradually cut back on their lead in the lead-up to the final climb under the impetus of Liquigas, and with some 20 clicks to go they'd all been reeled in. Martínez was the last man standing in the break and showed encouraging signs of form ahead of next weekend's Milano-San Remo.

Another one who impressed was young hotshot Jon Izagirre. The Ormaiztegi native followed up his 16th place from yesterday with a strong ride to 13th today, distancing the likes of Peter Velits, Danilo Di Luca, Daniel Moreno and Steven Kruijswijk. With two stages to go, the youngster is 16th overall.

Stage results:
  • (1, Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas)
  • 13, Jon Izagirre, 1:11
  • 31, Amets Txurruka, 6:10
  • 46, Juan José Oroz, 10:36
  • 56, Egoi Martínez, 12:35
  • 76, Gorka Verdugo, 16:56
  • 91, Mikel Landa, 22:06
  • 140, Pablo Urtasun, 25:38
  • 152, Rubén Pérez, 27:01
Martínez and Izagirre are ranked second in the mountains and young rider classifications respectively.

The Paris-Nice came to a close today with a concluding hill time trial up the Col d'Eze. No Euskaltel riders were in contention for a top overall placing going into the stage, and Romain Sicard finished the race as the team's top ranked rider in 39th place. Igor Antón had a low-key ride to 36th on the day and 50th overall, while Mikel Astarloza couldn't quite get his tempo legs up to speed with a 57th place.

Stage results:
  • (1, Bradley Wiggins, Sky)
  • 36, Igor Antón, 1:52
  • 43, Romain Sicard, 2:03
  • 57, Mikel Astarloza, 2:31
  • 81, Gorka Izagirre, 3:04
  • 90, Pierre Cazaux, 3:21
  • 97, Ricardo García, 3:36
  • 117, Adrián Sáez, 4:06
Final general classification:
  • (1, Bradley Wiggins, Sky)
  • 39, Romain Sicard, 9:49
  • 42, Mikel Astarloza, 11:00
  • 50, Igor Antón, 14:38
  • 72, Gorka Izagirre, 22:43
  • 108, Ricardo García, 44:49
  • 126, Pierre Cazaux, 1:00:36
  • 129, Adrián Sáez, 1:03:43
Sicard showed he's perhaps approaching the form of old with third in the young riders classification, while Izagirre finished seventh and García 14th. As a team, Euskaltel ended up in 15th place.

Copa de España results

Jon Larrinaga continued his solid start to the season with a decent 21st-place finish in today's Cope de España-race in Aiztondo. Ibai Salas of Caja Rural, who Orbea should take a good look at ahead of next year, took an impressive solo victory ahead of Mike Terpstra of Azysa Telco'm Conor and Juan Ignacio Pérez from Diputacion de Avila. Larrinaga came in 18 seconds back, while Victor Etxeberria wasn't far back in 26th place at 33 seconds.

Full results:
  • (1, Ibai Salas, Caja Rural)
  • 21, Jon Larrinaga, 0:18
  • 26, Victor Etxeberria, 0:33
  • 59, Mikel Iturria, 2:27
  • 94, Karl Baudron, 6:32
  • 96, Loic Chetout, s.t.
  • 99, Alain González, 6:34
Naturgas Energía finished 10th in the team ranking.

Tirreno stage 4 & Paris-Nice stage 7 results

Euskaltel put riders in every interesting break in today's fourth leg of the Tirreno-Adriatico. Pablo Urtasun made good use of his rouleur capabilities in the break of the day, while Mikel Landa and Amets Txurruka were both seen on the attack in the latter stages of the race once the break had been reeled in. The 252km stage from Amelia to Chieti ended with a Peter Sagan triumph, while Jon Izagirre was the team's top representative in a strong 16th just 19 seconds down. Izagirre came in with a small group including the likes of Garzelli, Pozzovivo, Moreno, Rui Costa and Tiralongo, and thus showed his form is on the up. After four stages, Izagirre junior is also the team's top man in 38th.

Stage results:
  • (1, Peter Sagan, Liquigas)
  • 16, Jon Izagirre, 0:19
  • 43, Juan José Oroz, 0:57
  • 64, Egoi Martínez, 1:20
  • 69, Amets Txurruka, 1:40
  • 88, Mikel Landa, 3:28
  • 128, Rubén Pérez, 10:51
  • 130, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 135, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
In the Paris-Nice, luck was once again not on Euskaltel's side. Peio Bilbao was forced to pull out of today's seventh and penultimate stage from Sisteron to Nice because of his fall two days back, while Adrián Sáez got tangled up in one of Levi Leipheimer's numerous crashes - luckily he was able to get back up and finish the stage. Mikel Astarloza placed a decent 19th to show he's on track for a good showing in tomorrow's concluding Col d'Eze time trial.

Stage results:
  • (1, Thomas de Gendt, Vacansoleil)
  • 19, Mikel Astarloza, 9:24
  • 25, Ricardo García, s.t.
  • 60, Romain Sicard, s.t.
  • 80, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 105, Adrián Sáez, 12:42
  • 118, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
  • 130, Pierre Cazaux, 16:50
  • DNF: Peio Bilbao

Naturgas: Etxeberria 4th/line-up for Sunday

Naturgas Energía placed three riders inside the top 10 of today's Torneo Lehendakari-race in Lizartza. There was no beating Johan Van Zyl of Caja Rural who won solo, but new Naturgas rider Victor Etxeberria grabbed a mightily impressive fourth place, just 45 seconds back. Loic Chetout continued his strong start to the season with sixth, while Jon Larrinaga was ninth and Imanol Estevez 11th. Today's 104km race was the third of the year in the Torneo Lehendakari series.

Lizartza results:
  • (1, Johan Van Zyl, Caja Rural)
  • 4, Victor Etxeberria, 0:45
  • 6, Loic Chetout, 1:02
  • 9, Jon Larrinaga, 1:05
  • 11, Imanol Estevez, 1:22
  • 14, Alain González, s.t.
  • 21, Karl Baudron, s.t.
  • 24, Francisco Javier Martín, s.t.
  • 25, Pablo Comins, s.t.
  • 43, Damien García, s.t.
  • 52, Mikel Iturria, 1:33
  • 88, Oier Sánchez, 6:36
The red team finished third in the team rankings behind Caja Rural and Lizarte.

On Sunday, a select seven will take part in a Copa de España-race in Ariztondo. According to, the following riders will line up: Karl Baudron, Loic Chetout, Victor Etxeberria, Damien García, Alain González, Mikel Iturria and Jon Larrinaga.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Logo wrestling to jeopardize future?

Incredible as it may sound, the use of the word 'Euskadi' on Euskaltel's shirts and shorts may lead to the team losing 400 000 euros in sponsorship money.

El Diario Vasco reports that the Basque government's Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism is threatening to pull the plug on their sponsorship agreement effective immediately if the green 'Euskadi'-logo isn't substituted with the government's own white one. The green-lettered one, which has decorated the team's outfit ever since its inception, is la Fundación Euskadi's own, and differs slightly from the one the government uses to promote tourism.

Allegedly, the ministry requested in January that the logo be changed by April in time for the Vuelta al País Vasco. If not, the contract "would be terminated without the right of compensation". Miguel Madariaga responded by saying that the request was put forward too late.

"It's not that we can't do it, it's just that they asked us to do this in January", Madariaga is quoted as saying. "By then, everything had been manufactured, and thus we couldn't change it. Changing it now would require a substantial investment as we'd have to repaint 15 vehicles, including cars, buses, vans and trucks. If the government is willing to pay for it, we'll do it. It'll be between 90 000 and a 100 ooo euros."

Changing the logo to white isn't the only request the government has put forward though. The word 'Espagne' will have to be added to the 'Pays Basque'-logo on the back on the jerseys when the team races in France, and similarly 'Paese Baschi Spagna' when competing in Italy and 'Baskenland Spanien' in Germany. In all other countries, the logo should read 'Basque Country Spain' according to the government.

Madariaga and Euskaltel will meet up with the ministry on March 22 to discuss the matter.

Tirreno stage 3 & Paris-Nice stage 6

Tirreno-Adriatico, stage 3, 178 kilometres Indicatore-Terni:

  • (1, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky)
  • 58, Rubén Pérez, 0:03
  • 98, Jon Izagirre, s.t.
  • 109, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 112, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 116, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 120, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 139, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 141, Amets Txurruka, s.t.
GC: places 119 through 125, all at 1:28. Except for Mikel Landa, who's 138th at 2:49.

Paris-Nice, stage 6, 176,5 kilometres Suze-la-Rousse-Sisteron:
  • (1, Luis León Sánchez, Rabobank)
  • 12, Gorka Izagirre, 0:14
  • 23, Romain Sicard, s.t.
  • 39, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 51, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 109, Ricardo García, 4:57
  • 137, Adrián Sáez, 8:21
  • 149, Peio Bilbao, 18:18
  • 150, Pierre Cazaux, s.t.
  • (1, Bradley Wiggins, Sky)
  • 41, Romain Sicard, 7:46
  • 43, Mikel Astarloza, 8:29
  • 52, Igor Antón, 12:46
  • 67, Gorka Izagirre, 16:21
  • 126, Ricardo García, 41:13
  • 134, Pierre Cazaux, 49:49
  • 149, Adrián Sáez, 56:19
  • 153, Peio Bilbao, 1:01:22

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Tirreno stage 2 and Paris-Nice stage 5 results

Euskaltel came through a mass pile-up inside the last two kilometres of today's first stage proper of the Tirreno-Adriatico unscathed, with Rubén Pérez also securing the team a top finish with 10th in the sprint. Pérez thus grabbed his best placing of the young season. Everyone else on the team finished inside the peloton on a rather calm 230km day from San Vincenzo to Indicatore.

In Paris-Nice, the team is still searching for a result to 'save' their first European WorldTour event of 2012. Antón was never really in contention on today's fifth stage to Mende and finished 53 seconds down in 25th place, while Astarloza is still struggling after his crash earlier in the week. The Pasajes native came in 5:10 down in a lowly 81st. Sicard's form looks to be on the up though with a decent 53rd place, 2:06 in arrears. The Frenchman is the team's top rider on GC in 44th.

Stage results:
  • (1, Lieuwe Westra, Vacansoleil)
  • 25, Igor Antón, 0:53
  • 53, Romain Sicard, 2:06
  • 64, Gorka Izagirre, 2:52
  • 81, Mikel Astarloza, 5:10
  • 103, Pierre Cazaux, 7:40
  • 115, Adrián Sáez, 16:59
  • 121, Ricardo García, s.t.
  • 153, Peio Bilbao, 20:17
Sicard is ranked fifth in the young riders competition - Gorka Izagirre is eigtht.


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