Sunday, August 12, 2012

Who's in and who shouldn't be in

The confusion surrounding who'll make up the Euskaltel roster from next year and onwards, who's set to stay and who's set to go, seems to be palpable, so I'll try to make it clear.

As far as I know, nine riders are now formally tied up for 2013. These nine are:
  • Igor Antón
  • Mikel Astarloza
  • Peio Bilbao
  • Omar Fraile
  • Gorka Izagirre
  • Ion Izagirre
  • Mikel Landa
  • Mikel Nieve
  • Romain Sicard
Omar Fraile penned a two-year deal running from 2013 before joining Orbea this term, meaning he should, contractually, join up ahead of next season. He hasn't enjoyed the stellar season at Orbea many might have expected so far, but at least he hasn't been off the pace and has looked quite solid at Conti level.

As for Sicard, he signed a deal keeping him at Euskaltel to the end of the current season, but with an option to prolong it for another couple of seasons - I might well be wrong, but I seem to recall that was the case. There's been no official word from the team saying that's option has been exercised, but judging by the team heads' comments in the press, he's set to ride in orange next year as well despite rumours linking him back home over the border.

Samu will also stay on, no doubt about that, but as far as I know no new deal has been signed as of yet. It's surely only a matter of time though, but per today only nine riders seem to have contracts in place.

What'll be interesting to see, though, is of course who the team decide to recruit. Of non-Basques, riders like Carlos Barredo, Daniel Navarro and Benjamin Novál, to name but a few, have been linked to the team, while home riders David López, Haimar Zubeldia, Markel Irizar and even good old Iker Camaño have been rumoured to be alternatives for Galdeano et al.

While signing non-Basques might be needed at the end of the season to keep the team among the 15 best teams in the WorldTour based on points, it also comes with a considerable risk. When Madariaga, Galdeano and co. meet up with the UCI's Licence Commission every year to line out why exactly they should receive a licence, playing the "unique team"-card seems to do the trick every year with the UCI. If the team opts away from the one thing that separates them from all the other teams in the peloton, i.e. a roster exclusively made up of locals, Euskaltel will be treated just like every other team. That means being judged on sporting merit and a sound economy alone. That puts a team like Euskaltel, below average results-wise and not exactly Sky in financial terms, at a considerable disadvantage. As it stands now, Euskaltel is something completely different from the likes of Rabobank and Europcar. And I thoroughly believe that's the team's best card.

Signing non-Basques like Navarro and Barredo might make the team a little bit less mediocre, but then again they're no Luis León Sánchez or Alberto Contador. Make no mistake, Navarro and Barredo are top-quality riders most teams would be glad to have in their ranks, but it's not like they would give Euskaltel a Tour victory and put them up there with the very best teams in the business. They might inch Euskaltel a wee bit closer to the SKYs and the BMCs of this world, but then Euskaltel would be just like every other team out there: average, almost exclusively reliant on results and everything but unique. That's not the way to go.


Nick said...

Did David Herrero have a complete falling out with the team (and the sport fir that matter). He seemed to have completely disappeared, but was quite solid still in the 09 vuelta.

Holden Caulfield said...

Nick, David Herrero retired after season 09. Tendinitis and Spanish cycling crisis left Herrero with no offer to keep on riding a bike. Last time he was on the media, he said that he would try cycling track but it seems that he finally didn't make it. Now he has his own company. They offer coaching and medical planning for amateur and professional riders.

Kristof said...

Now you mention Herrero, someone knows whatever happened to Anton Luengo? Why did he stop? He was pretty good...
If it was up to me no new riders at all, or it should be someone as Castro, Intxausti or Erviti.

Magnus said...

That's right Holden, think he's running "David Herrero Biomecánica y Entreamiento" or something. Talented he was, too bad he had that falling out with the team bosses and got injured at the wrong time. Ion Izagirre reminds me of him - quick, punchy, good climber, good time triallist...

As for Antton Luengo, he retired for "family reasons" back in 2008 (I seem to recall someone close to him passed away, but I won't say that for sure). He was a very decent climber, much like, say, Gorka Verdugo.

Holden Caulfield said...

You're right, Magnus. His father passed away after a long disease. For some five months he gave up training and when he was back he was pretty sincere and he told the bosses that he wasn't in the mood to keep trying. He was pretty talented and it seems that he was smart and honest. He was one of the reasons why Iban Mayo won in Urkiola and only Cioni was able to stop him from earning his first victory. He retired being 27 and I think that he had better years ahead. As for David Herrero, he was really good. I don't really know what happened to him. I remember reading on newspapers how he was training on his own with state-of-the-art technology but it never seemed to work out. He was a winner and I always thought he could have won even more. If only he hadn't slipped on that wet crosswalk in Euskal Bizikleta 2008.

Magnus said...

I talked to Antton some time afterwards, asking him if he wanted to answer some questions about why he quit. He was very kind and said he'd answer all my questions, but he never replied. Guess he forgot...


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