Monday, August 13, 2012

Astarloza: "I'm at 80 percent"

While Euskaltel fans are still debating whether welcoming Mikel Astarloza back into the fold after his suspension for doping was the right thing to do, he's likely to be given a hero's welcome as he toes the start line of the Clásica San Sebastián on Tuesday. The 32-year-old hails from Donostia, as San Sebastián is called in Basque, and is naturally eagerly anticipating getting to compete right next to his home. After crashing out of the Tour de France last month, though, he admits he's far from at his best at the moment.

"I'm in good shape, but I don't have the form I had at the Tour", he told el Diario Vasco. "But the three weeks of training I've been through have made me improve, allowing me to be at 80 percent of my peak form. I'd say I'm feeling similar to what I did before the Tour de France.

"I didn't lose all my form, though, as I was on the rollers again within for days of the abandonment. It's not the same to ride with a splint in my elbow and on the rollers, normally I would have climbed the mountains and done riding behind a motorbike, but, hey, it could have been worse. I'm pleased with how things have gone."

Astarloza was forced to throw in the towel in France after the mass crash that occurred 25 kilometres from the line in Metz during the Tour's sixth stage. His elbow required surgery, despite not being broken in the crash, but changing the set-up of his bike allowed him a swift return to training.

"I had a cast on my elbow for three days, and then the team decided to get rid of it. A splint was put in, and I was able to train on the rollers the week after the accident. Two weeks after abandoning I put on a time trial bar on my bike, meaning I could train on the road with by elbow supported. I could go out and train every day. I could ride without the splint in week three, and in week four I did the Vuelta a Burgos. I asked to do that race in order to get back into the swing of competition. I still can't bend it as I normally can, nor stretch it out fully, but I'm not complaining."

Astarloza will line up in the Vuelta a España on Saturday, hoping to assist the team's main GC card Igor Antón, and is naturally looking forward to the start of the race in Pamplona.

"I won't be at the start at 100 percent, but he race starts in Pamplona and then goes on to the Arrate. It's a start I love, as it's all on home roads".

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