Monday, July 23, 2012

What we learned from the Tour

While it's hard to rate a team bereft of its captain and three strongest climbers, Euskaltel's Tour performance still deserves an evaluation. There were plenty of positives over the three-weeks, but there's still quite a lot to work at in the upcoming editions.

Euskaltel should have brought a younger team.
The orange outfit was one of the oldest of the 22 participating teams, with only 24-year-old Gorka Izagirre under the age of 30. Jorge Azanza wasn't up to much and Pablo Urtasun found it tough after his near-miss on stage five. In a year in which several of the sport's future greats (Sagan, Pinot, Van Garderen, Rolland etc.) made names for themselves, you wonder if the likes of Sicard might have thrived as well. The team is right to field Landa in the Vuelta before sending him to France, but along with Sicard, Ion Izagirre and Peio Bilbao, he should be given a shot at the greatest race of all next July.

Gorka Izagirre is a star in the making.
Seemingly equally adept at all kinds of terrain, Ion's elder brother eventually came through with flying colours after some questionable performances in the Alps. He's already become a mainstay of the team in the biggest races, and his performances over the last few years bodes well for his own, not to mention his team's, future.

Egoi Martínez is everything but a spent force...
The 34-year-old stepped up to the plate and pulled out his best Tour performance ever when his team needed him the most. His 17th place overall showed he's still got a few years left in him at the top table,  and the former Tour de l'Avenir victor showed some of the form that attracted the mighty Discovery Channel back in the winter of 2005.

...yet Euskaltel remain, decidedly, a one-man show
While the team deserves the utmost praise for their aggressiveness and presence throughout, Euskaltel without Samu is a pretty toothless outfit. Not that that's anything new. Yet it's hard to see what the sporting directors can do differently. With only three (as of yet) real general classification riders in the squad, you can hardly field them all in the Tour and send reserve teams to the Giro and the Vuelta. Sending Nieve, Samu and Antón to one GT each is the only reasonable option, but it leaves the team in a perilous state if one of them falters or crashes out - as has been the case more often than not the last couple of years what with Antón's enforced DNFs over in Spain and now with Samu in France.

The team has grown up.
The way the team took care of Samu and kept him out of trouble expertly in the first week shows the progress that's been made under the tutelage of Gorka Gerrikagoitia and, earlier on, Igor González de Galdeano. While the orange jerseys were easily spotted towards the rear end of the pack in the days of Mayo, Zubeldia, Laiseka et al., Euskaltel look much more like a "proper" GT team nowadays.


Anonymous said...

Heres my view on things...

Someone needs to teach Mikel Nieve how to time trial. In fact the whole team needs it. Can you imagine the result they would have had in the Giro if the team time trial went better? Mikel is the future number 1 in the team.

Also the team needs to start looking at replacing a lot of the older riders. Yes they have served the team well but they arent gonna win any decent races unless they start giving leadership responsibilities to the likes of the Izigarries, Landa etc etc who are the future for the team. I am a huge fan of Samuel Sanchez but in two to three years he will not be contesting races as he is now or even still be with the team.

My last point is that the management need to sign a big name. Someone like Rodriguez, LL Sanchez. They may cost a huge amount in wages but they win, and winning means more sponsorship, more money, a more secure future and that younger riders with talent may want to stay with the team (Castroviejo, Inxtausti).


Stephen said...

I'm not sure about the signings as the purity of the team is one of its strengths but a bigger squad is vital so that they can prepare properly and not be committed to racing everywhere with the inevitable poor results.

kKDu said...

I don't see the need for signing any big names, Euskaltel is not Sky etc.

And I'm absolutely fine with someone like Cazaux or Azanza as a helper at a big tour. They have a clear defined role and didn't crash, which is already a big plus at Euskaltel (someone like Velasco, not that I'm not a fan of him, but he never will finish a three week race).

But I'm totally agree that they should include more young riders, for example replace Astarloza by Sicard.

Urtasun had done again a great tour in my opinion. He is a very well completion of the team and one of the few guys at Euskaltel who is able to win a flat stage from a break.

Magnus said...

I'd be a fan if that big signing was a Basque one, say Intxausti or Erviti, but no matter how muck I like Luisle Sánchez, it would be weird seeing him in an Euskaltel jersey.

I agree with you kKDu on your Urtasun-point. While I don't think he had his best Tour, it's still a mystery to me why it took so long to sign him!

Anonymous said...

I hope Euskaltel sign some great names, what about Contador and LLS :-)

Kristof said...

I think Urtasun is a pretty good rider, he did a nice TDF. So did Egoi and Gorka. Azanza I agree could be a nice help (he did his best), but Cazaux I have seen several times and to me he's not good enough for a Pro Tour team. He isn't even able to follow a sprinter on a climb. Ruben Perez had a very bad TDF, totally out of shape.

Astarloza they should kick out, there can be no place for doping riders who didn't even a confession. He's the only one in the team ever named in a doping case.

The big problem stays their clumsy bike handling. Velasco is the worst of all, I don't know how he does it, but he seems to crash everywhere he starts. But Amets, Anton and some others are not really better. It's not only their clumsiness, but also the fact they are so tin. Txurruka, Velasco, Verdugo, Anton; if these guys fall to the ground they immediately break something!

I'd prefer keeping the own talents instead of signing big names. Intxausti can stay where he is, He thinks he's the big star but it's not he has done such magnificent results. Castro, if they make it up, could return, I think he will have noticed by now the Movistar concurrention is hard.


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