Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Naturgas Energía sign another duo

Despite already signing Noel Gil, Bernat Font and Óscar González de Campo this off-season, the Fundación Euskadi's sub-23 team Naturgas Energía are not done shopping. According to BiciCiclismo, another new pair have put pen to paper with the red and whites.

The youngsters who are reported to have signed are Aitor Morales (pictured to the left) and Luis Alberto Barrón. The former, a native of Álava, joins from Zirauna Irurribero, and has just completed a solid season in the junior ranks. Among other top results, he took out the Premio Sallurtegi in April (pictured), as well as the Mendatako Udala Sari Nagusia in September and grabbed bronze in the Euskadi time trial champs for juniors.

Barrón, of Bizkaia, comes over from Asfaltos Olarra, Koplad Uni2's junior team. Barrón took an impressive solo triumph in August's Premio Ayto Zaratomo, as well as coming third in the Premio Ciudad de Orduña in May.

Photo: El Correo

Zuazubiskar picked for Spain

First-year Orbea pro Illart Zuazubiskar has been picked to join Spain's track squad for an upcoming training camp ahead of the second round of the World Cup in Glasgow, Scotland.

The time trial specialist, a signing from Seguros Bilbao this time last year, claimed two medals at the national track champs in early October, and has now been rewarded for his efforts. He'll team up with fellow Basques Unai Elorriaga and Asier Maeztu, 24-year-old Sebastián Mora and 29-year-old David Muntaner, as well as Navarra-native sprinters Juan Peralta and Hodei Mazkiarán, 18-year-old wonderkid José Moreno and ladies Tania Calvo and Helena Casas at the Palma Arena stadium in the town of the same name on the island of Mallorca.

The riders will stay in Palma from the fifth to the 13th of November, reports the Spanish Cycling Federation on its website. The Glasgow World Cup runs from the 16th to the 18th.

Photo: 200 Pulsaciones

Monday, October 29, 2012

Euskaltel confirmed for the 2013 World Tour

The unpopular foreign signings by Euskaltel have proven to do the trick as the UCI have confirmed that Euskaltel are one of the top 15 teams on sporting value, which give them an automatic spot in the World Tour for next season.

Euskaltel was able to slip into the top 15 with the signing of 11 new riders, including 9 non-Basque riders, a first for the squad, that had a large amount of UCI points to their names. According to Biciciclismo, Euskaltel will still have to see the UCI Licensing Committee so that they can have their license renewed through 2016. With a guaranteed license, the team will be able to bring more Basque riders back into the fold in the coming years.

Schulze: "It's an honour to be here"

The soon-to-be 38-year-old André Schulze will be the veteran rider on Euskaltel next year as he joins from NetApp. The German was brought in partly to help the Basque sprinters on the team, but claims he still holds ambitions for himself as far as obtaining victories goes. Speaking to BiciCiclismo, the native of Görlitz in the east of Germany spoke of his 2013 aspirations.

"It's a great honour for me to be part of this team with such a great history and tradition", he said. "I'm motivated to achieve success for the team in the shape of, obviously, good results, but also in the shape of educating the young sprinters. It's very important to me to work with young talents, and I'd like to offer them advice and to share my knowledge with them. We can create a very good group of sprinters with the experienced and the young talented ones here. Helping the younger ones was one of the reasons Igor González de Galdeano brought me to this team - like I did this year at NetApp. Not only the state of form is important to sprinters, it's also about experience, putting yourself out there and believing in yourself. That's what I can help transmit to the younger ones. I was young once, and I know what's going through their heads. I can help them grow - that's what I like doing.

"(As for the upcoming season), I want to be in good shape right from the start of the year to win races and obtain top results for the team. I like all kinds of races as long as they're flat."

As one of nine mainly unpopular foreign signings, at least with the fans, Schulze has his work cut out for him if he wants to become a fans' favourite during what is considered to be a one-year stay in orange. Fortunately, though, he's aware of the team's unique history.

"Euskaltel Euskadi is a team with a family touch to it that works very seriously, as they've shown the last few years. I know their philosophy is to support the young Basque riders and Basque cycling in general. To do this, they've only signed Basques up until this year."

Schulze won't be the only German on the team next year as he's taking with him fellow speedster Steffen Radochla. The signing of Radochla baffled some, but Schulze is adamant they'll prove a success.

"We've been on the same teams in the past, and we've shown we can work together in an excellent way. That's important to me. In this day and age, you can't only have one sprinter in your ranks: you need one sprinter and one lead-out man. All sprinters need good riders to help them."


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hernández gets mud-fest revenge

Having finished second to Javier Ruíz de Larrinaga twice in little over a week, Aitor Hernández finally bested the MMR-Spiuk rider in Sunday's XX Ciclocross in Karrantza, Bizkaia.

The Orbea rider was beaten by the resurgent Larrinaga in Lezama yesterday and in Medina de Pomar last weekend, but proved quickest on the finishing straight to take a richly-deserved win. The duo was in a class of their own throughout, quickly distancing the rest on the terribly muddy circuit and putting over a minute into number three, 21-year-old Frenchman Flavien Dassonville.

"It was a very technical and complicated circuit, as well as hard and heavy", the former Euskaltel climber told the Basque Cycling Federation's website afterwards. "I'm strong, but technically I was about to lose yet another race. But I was able to remove the "thorn" from Lezama", he concluded, referring to Saturday's race.

Results, elites and sub-23:
  • 1, Aitor Hernández (Ermua Orbea), 57:59
  • 2, Javier Ruíz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spiuk), s.t.
  • 3, Flavien Dassonville (Auber 93), 1:16 - sub-23 winner
  • 4, José Antonio Díez Arriola (Tus Bicis Maglia Sport), 1:40
  • 5, Yorben van Tichelt (Sunweb-Revor), 1:45
  • 6, Ismael Félix Barba (EnBici-Stevens), 1:58
  • 7, Iñigo Gómez (BioRace-Caravanas Erandio), 2:23
  • 8, Jon Gómez (BioRace-Caravanas Erandio), 2:30
  • 9, Agustín Navarro (Ciudad de Oviedo), s.t.
  • 10, Jaime Juncal (Aquagest), 2:41
Sub-23: Flavier Dassonville. Junior: Alex Aramburu. Cadete: Jon Gil. Women elite and sub-23: Lucía González. Women junior: Alicia González. Women cadete: Lidia Barba.

The Basque cyclo-cross season continues next weekend with races in Llodio, Álava, and Muskiz, Bizkaia.

As for the strongest Basque cyclo-cross rider at the moment, Egoitz Murgoitio, he continued his World Cup campaign with an encouraging 15th place in today's race in Plzen, Czech Republic. Arguably one of his strongest ever performances on the international scene takes him up to 24th overall.

As for sub-23 hopeful Jonathan Lastra, the race in Plzen didn't go according to plan. The youngster crossed the line over seven minutes in arrears in 34th.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

The riders' words to Miguel Madariaga

As alma mater of both the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi and the Euskaltel Euskadi professional cycling team ever since their inceptions almost two decades ago, Miguel Madariaga has been an integral and invaluable part of Basque cycling's rich history. As the telephone company is set to take complete control of the team from next year and onwards, though, he'll officially not be a part of País Vasco's foremost cycling team anymore. Fittingly, the riders in orange paid tribute to the 68-year-old during yesterday's annual Fiesta de la Bici through handing over a signed photo, a txapela (Basque for beret) reading "17th of June 1993 - 2012 - Thank you Miguel!" and a few words of gratefulness. Here's what 'The Carrots' had to say:

Hi Miguel:

First of all, a big hug from all of us who have been, and always will be, your cyclists.

Your dedication to this project has been absolute. Beyond the victories and the successes, you've won our respect and admiration.

Thanks to you, to your effort, we were able to realize a dream. We are the examples and the results of your work, children who grew up with the bike as a toy and, after being part of the Fundación, were given the opportunity to turn professionals and continue to grow as individuals.

Through trial and error, you've always kept to your word. That shows the true greatness of a person.

Dedication, hard work and promise are values we associate with your commitment to the project that is the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi. You managed to bring us to the Tour de France. You succeeded in getting us into the WorldTour, the top league of cycling.

Without you, this wouldn't have been possible. We know you'll continue to work with the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi, but you will be greatly missed. Thank you for everything!

From your Euskaltel-Euskadi riders of 2012. 

(Photo: Deia)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lobato: "It's a dream come true"

The arrival of young sprinter Juan José Lobato was one of the few arrivals, if not the only one, that was met with some kind of approval by Euskaltel fans last Saturday. The 23-year-old, who took his biggest win to date last year in the Basque Country at the Circuito de Getxo, signed a two-year deal, and was allowed to join the orange team for free despite having several years left on his contract with Andalucía - Caja Granada.

Writing on his Facebook account, the Trebejuena-born prodigy sounded keen to get started.

"My first message is one of gratefulness towards Andalucía for giving me this opportunity. And especially to Antonio Cabello, a man who's always trusted me", he wrote. "I only hope the team will continue next year - cycling needs it and they deserve it. As for Euskaltel, there's not much to say: it's a dream come true.

"Now I need to work harder than ever not to disappoint. I'm not a pure sprinter, and my biggest wins as an amateur and as a pro have come on the constantly up-and-down terrain of Euskadi. The challenge of riding in the WorldTour is a big one, but it's what every cyclist dream of. Hopefully I won't disappoint the Basque fans".

If you feel like listening on in a recent interview he did with Radio Euskadi, click here.


Fundación to pay tribute to Cabedo

The Fundación Ciclista Euskadi's annual Fiesta de la Bici on Sunday will be distinctly different from the editions of the past years, as fallen rider Víctor Cabedo will be paid homage to.

The day of celebrating everything bike related in Derio, Bizkaia, will see riders from all three of the Fundación's teams, Euskaltel, Orbea and Naturgas Energía, line up en mass. Paralympic champion cyclist Alfonso Cabello will also be honoured, and the Fundación will also take the opportunity to show their support for a pair of local children (six and eight years old) suffering from rare diseases.

As ever though, the Fiesta will be mainly about promoting the use of the bike, president Miguel Madariaga said.

"Our main objective is that the families get to enjoy a nice day and that we promote the use of the bike for the smallest ones."

Photo: El Periodico Mediterraneo

Larrinaga lands Basque opener

Javier Ruíz de Larrinaga continued his flawless start to the season by taking out Saturday's Basque cyclo-cross opener in Lezama, Bizkaia.

The MMR-Spiuk rider took his fourth consecutive triumph after previous successes in Llanes, Medina de Pomar and Villarcayo, and finally looks to be close to his form of old that brought his three Spanish titles in a row between 2009 and 2011.

In pouring rain in Lezama, according to BiciCiclismo, the 32-year-old first kept the impressive Erlantz Uriarte under control in the opening part before dispatching of Orbea's Aitor Hernández in the finale to be beat the former Euskaltel climber into second once again.

In Karrantza on Sunday, Larrinaga will hope to go one better than last year when he was beaten to the top step by Hirumet-Taldea's Egoitz Murgoitio.

Results, elite:
  • 1, Javier Ruíz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spiuk), 1:00:18
  • 2, Aitor Hernández (Ermua Orbea), 0:11
  • 3, Erlantz Uriarte (Garaje Paco), 1:47
  • 4, José Antonio Díez Arriola (Tus Bicis Maglia Sport), 2:30
  • 5, Asier Arregi (, 2:42
Sub-23: Ismael Félix (EnBici-Stevens). Juniors: Alex Aranburu. Women: María Mercé Pacios.

Photo: Deia

Cazaux learnt of release "through the press"

Despite showing promising signs of form in the late-season, Pierre Cazaux was one of four riders to not get his contract prolonged after the season. Contrary to the other three though, he's yet to find an employer for 2013. Amets Txurruka and Iván Velasco have both put pen to paper on deals with Caja Rural, while Alan Pérez has of course quit his professional cycling career. He had offers from top French teams though, but declined them thinking he was safe in orange.

"I like this team. There's a good spirit here", he told French newspaper Sud Ouest after completing the Giro d'Italia in the spring. "I help my leaders, and sometimes I get a free card to play".

Thinking he was a trusted member of the team since he hadn't heard otherwise, the 28-year-old said "thanks, but no thanks" to former employer Francaise des Jeux and Cofidis in the summer. He was forced to regret that decision though, as he soon learnt through reports in the press that he didn't figure in the team's plans. The reason? No UCI points.

Thierry Elissalde, who was the first Frenchman ever on Euskaltel and spent his only two professional years with the team, is currently keeping watch on the French-Basque youth scene for the Fundación Euskadi Ciclista, and appears to be distraught by the team's new direction.

"A page turns, but also a book closes", he stated philosophically to the same paper. "Euskaltel represented the dream of turning pro for the people here. That was the case for Romain Sicard and Pierre Cazaux. Romain is staying, but Pierre didn't deserve to be ousted the way he was".

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lejarreta considering change of discipline in the wake of Orbea folding

Sponsors are not only abandoning Lance Armstrong and road racing these days: news of long-time sponsor Orbea pulling the plug on its top-tier team at the end of the year has shook the mountain bike community and left quality riders on the street. Spanish cross-country star Iñaki Lejarreta is one of those. As a rider with an international reputation and solid track record, he's still holding out hope someone will come in for him - but he's also considering changing his knobby tires for slightly slicker ones if that fails to materialize, he tells Basque Cycling News.

"I'm sad the team is folding", he told us. "I've been with Orbea since I was 18 years old, which is my entire career on the bike. And I'm somewhat surprised. Everybody knows the global economy isn't in its best state and we thus expected lower salaries, but in September we were informed the team was going to stop. Orbea dissolving is terrible news for the discipline. Firstly, international races lose one of the biggest teams. Secondly, it might force other sponsors into a rethink of the whole situation, which might result in them not wanting to put more money into the teams. It's all bad news for us riders - our salaries are going down.

"Right now I haven't got a team for next season. I'm speaking with some, but it's not easy. Hopefully I'll know some more in the next few weeks, but at the moment I'm a bit pessimistic about my future", he admits.

As well as excelling on the mud, Lejarreta continuously pops up with good results on the road whenever he feels like it. This spring, by way of example, he won a Torneo Euskaldun race in Lazkao, and switching disciplines more permanently is something he's contemplating.

"Switching to the road is an alternative that's on my mind", he says. "I'm also looking for a spot on road teams but, like the cross-country ones, many of them are filled up. It's been difficult trying to find a team. But I love road riding just as I love mountain biking. I remember watching my uncle Marino Lejarreta winning Tour and Giro stages, and I've always felt my characteristics as a bike rider are more suited to the road - I'm a climber and have to work a lot on the technical aspects in mountain biking".

The 29-year-old has no cyclo-cross races planned this winter, opting instead for a "normal and quiet winter". Looking back at the season that just finished, the gangly Berriz-born rider describes it in negative terms. Injuries plagued him throughout the year and put paid to his biggest goal: the London Olympics.

"Uff, it think it was my worst season yet. I had a lot of problems, and it was hard to focus on training and racing. At the start of the season, when I was fighting for an Olympic Games spot, I suffered a bad crash training on the Nove Mesto World Cup circuit. I broke a rib and dislocated my shoulder. Two days later I started the World Cup race and could only finish 44th. I did the same seven days later at the La Bresse World Cup, but I couldn't complete the race due to the pain. The pain was terrible in these two races; they were the two hardest races of my life. And as if the physical pain wasn't enough, I lost my Olympic place because of these two bad results.

"Then, back home and recovering, I had another bad crash in training. Once I had fully recovered, I trained hard in order to have a good end to the season, but it wasn't easy with the doubts surrounding the team and the consequently bad atmosphere. Still, though, I'm happy, as even after all the suffering this year, I finished third in the national championships and 20th at the Worlds, where I started way back. All in all, relativization and to think with another mindset has been important this year. I've learnt a lot!"


Samu still undecided over Tour participation

Samuel Sánchez was naturally present at the unveiling of the 2013 Tour de France parcours today in Paris and, pretty much like everyone else, seemed to like what was presented. He was reticent on if he was going to ride the race though, seeing as a Giro-Vuelta double is an option for him next year - not to mention that his "new" team needs to be sorted out before he can make any plans for the coming campaign.

"It's a balanced route", he told reporters. "There's many climbs, many time trial kilometres, stages with mythical mountains, some untested summit finishes... It's a different Tour to this year's. The truth is though that I don't know if I'll even be there next year. The team has been built pretty much from scratch and right now we have other priorities. We have two months to plan everything, and things will be decided in due course.

"The Tour is the best race in the world and everyone wants to shine there, but we have to to consider the needs of the team and the options offered by the calendar. Facing 2013, we still don't know what we'll do".

And when might we know what he's up to next year? "We'll make a decision on what races to do once the Vuelta is unveiled".

Galdeano explains himself

Having finally decided to grant interviews after staying quiet through the team's recruitment process, incoming Euskaltel Euskadi General Manager Igor González de Galdeano sat down with Deia for an extensive interview. Here are the most relevant questions and answers, including his take on the new signings, the team's new philosophy, his reaction to that letter, etc. If you want to read the entire interview, click this link.

Question: What will it be like to present the new Euskaltel to the UCI?

Answer: The truth is that when I was presented with the opportunity to lead this team, I always said we couldn't be sure of being in the WorldTour. You can't buy your way into the WorldTour, it's not something you can be no matter what. I told them (the sponsors) that we might be in the WorldTour or we might not, but we have to go for it. If you don't go for it, you're not going to be there. To this day I believe we did what was needed, but it doesn't depend on me. I believe the list of the teams that are granted a licence will be released this week or the 1st of November, and one team will be left out. We strongly believe we're not that team.

Q: What arguments will you present to the Licencing Committee?

A: They seek a global sport, and we've now taken a step towards that. Our leaders are Basque - we will not budge on that, and I think the UCI understands that. Those are our roots, but they want teams to become more competitive in all races. Therefore, we've taken the initial step of signing nine non-Basque riders, riders who can help us improve on our weakness in one-day races.

Q: Is the price to pay for being in the WorldTour to high?

A: When Lotto was born, they wanted a team for Belgian cycling. They realized that with only Belgians, they weren't going to be able to be in the WorldTour, and therefore had to sign other riders. It's the same thing with Orica. We are the only team that, thanks to Miguel Madariaga's work, have Basque leaders. But we have to adhere to the regulations in place. It's not about whether the price to pay is high or low. It is what it is. If you want to be in the WorldTour, you have to meet certain standards.

Q: What's it been like for you personally to take such an unpopular decision?

A: It was a hard decision to make, seeing as everything is reflected in me. It seems that Igor is the one who made this decision. I take responsibility for it, but it hasn't been Igor's decision. It was the decision of all the sponsors who wanted to be in the best league. Euskadi want to be represented as a brand on a global level and want to stay there. I asked them if we could adapt to this situation and work towards an increasingly Basque team in the future. Our sponsors wanted the team to remain exclusively Basque, but the regulations in place prevent us from doing that.

Q: Is the team's philosophy abandoned?

A: We're adapting our philosophy to the UCI's rules. We don't have 29 Basque riders that would make us part of the WorldTour, so we have to adapt.

Q: But it's a big change after 18 years.

A: Yes, but it wasn't our decision. They warned us we would have problems (with the licence) in the future - every year we had less points and the other teams more.

Q: Does the ex-Euskaltel riders' letter mirror this divide ('divide' is related to an earlier question not included here)?

A: I think it's a letter against me under the guise of the team's philosophy. It's a letter to Igor; it's got nothing to do with the team. I reflected on whether they're all members of the Fundación, members of Euskaltel, tax payers in Euskadi... I've thought about it a lot. Here we're all Basques. I respect the letter, I don't agree with it and everyone should be responsible for their own actions.

Q: How do you rate your team?

A: We continue with a basis of Basque riders, with a view to the future and to the present, and they're joined by two experienced Germans - something I also looked for in Óscar Freire. They're veterans, they know what it's all about. They've given a very good impression. I told them we're not looking for them to grow as riders, but that they're here to help the young riders and keep the team in the WorldTour. I tried to sign riders who could help us in one-day races. Jure Kocjan is motivated for the Classics. Serebryakov is the one I've seen with the biggest ambitions. Vrecer and Tamouridis are two veterans who are great at time trialling, national champions, who'll solidify this project.

Subida a Orozketa back for round two

Just like last year, the Basque road season will conclude with the semi-serious Subida a Orozketa in Iurreta, close to Durango, in early November.

The race, featuring a host of the local stars, was first staged last year, with then-reigning Vuelta a España victor Juan José Cobo emerging victorious at the end of the very short, if steep, race. Many of the riders who participated last year will be back, making for an impressive end-of-season roll call: Koldo Fernández, Beñat Intxausti, Jonathan Castroviejo, Markel Irizar, Haimar Zubeldia, Rubén Pérez, Peio Bilbao, Mikel Landa, Jorge Azanza, Igor Antón, Egoitz García, Amets Txurruka, Iván Velasco, Mikel Bizkarra and Aitor Galdós, to name but a few.

Koldo Fernández, one of the riders who came up with the idea last year, told El Pedal de Frodo that "it's all a bit of fun after a season of training and looking after yourself. It's a good time. People don't expect to see a professional bike race as it's outside our season, and people come to have fun".

New for this year is a short criterium, the 'Criterium Altar de Santapolonia', to be held after the first race. What's more, former greats Marino Lejarreta (former Vuelta a España winner and winner of stages in all three Grand Tours) and Julián Gorospe (two-time Vuelta al País Vasco champ and former Euskaltel DS of coure) are set to be on site, but perhaps in slightly different outfits than the ones on the picture above.

As far as I can tell by the pair's jerseys, this pic has to be from the 1983 edition of the Vuelta a España. Lejarreta, riding in the characteristic blue of Alfa Lum, finished second to Bernard Hinault in that race, and took out three stages along the way. This one, I reckon, is the marathon-like stage six, taking in 235 kilometres from La Pobla de Lillet to Viella. As you can see, Lejarreta pipped Gorospe, and the not too unfamiliar Perico Delgado came in three seconds further back to round off the podium.

Have a few spare minutes? You could do worse than check out the YouTube recap of the stage below:


Monday, October 22, 2012

Sánchez continues to support Lance

Euskaltel Euskadi leader Samuel Sánchez has once again voiced his support for fallen Tour de France king Lance Armstrong. According to the Olympic champion, "there's no need to sanction him as he's never tested positive".

Samu drew criticism for expressing similar sentiments during the Tour of Beijing, saying then "he remains innocent until the opposite is proved". Yet despite the fact that he has now been officially stripped off all his titles and given a lifetime ban by the sport's governing body, the 34-year-old still says it's everything but fair.

"I don't feel it's right", he said to radio station La Sexta after the UCI's stance was confirmed, according to BiciCiclismo. "I think there should be a fair trial. You can't sanction a rider solely based on verbal accusations.

"I don't think Lance has ever tested positive in his sporting career, so we can't sanction him. And now, right now, in cycling, we see that that's all that matters. One person accuses you and your career is over".

While I'll refrain to comment on it, seeing as it's too embarrassing and Samu clearly hasn't read USADA's report, suffice to say there's no wonder Spain suffers from a bad reputation.

"This is the best motor for Basque cycling"

Clearly intent on defending his much-criticized new philosophy, or lack thereof perhaps, Igor González de Galdeano put on a brave defence for the way Euskaltel Euskadi are headed on a press conference today. As well as saying that the foreign signings were vital for the team to remain competitive, he said the "new Euskaltel" is the best way to promote cycling in the Euskal Herria.

"We've all been through the fight of getting into the WorldTour before", he said, according to BiciCiclismo. "That has made me think that it'll be increasingly difficult to be a part of this league if we can't improve and perform at a higher level - and to deserve it, not based on the value. We have to be there. And there's no use wasting time criticizing the situation, the team, its decision and the sport's governing bodies.

"The goal was clear from the beginning: to be a Basque team in the best league in the world. Honestly, we think it's the best motor for Basque cycling. To be competitive at the top level is what motivates us each day to give more, to strive to improve, to be role models. We don't think getting too comfortable and complacent is the right way to go if you want to be at the top in any way of life. Out of respect for our own history and our sponsors, we want to be a project of a leading country", he stated.

If you want to hear it on audio and watch a few photos from the rueda de prensa, click this link provided by BiciCiclismo. 

With many seeing the hiring of non-Basques, not to mention the Fundación Euskadi's sub-23 outfit Naturgas Energía's increasing reliance on riders from outside País Vasco, as a serious threat to the regional youth scene, Galdeano wants to see a strengthening of the work in the cantera.

"It's important that we're able to make internal reflections, be self-critical and to build, without a break", he said. "If we want to be in the WorldTour we need to work with the base (...). We have to work together, help and encourage cycling at the grassroots level. We make public this commitment, just as we have done the last two decades. But we all have to pull in the same direction. It's a grassroots sport that has been the referring point not only in Spain, but also worldwide. This is the secret. Without this work, our project will encounter tougher and tougher times. To be critical and to build - that's the only way that this team, in a short space of time, can be back at the elite level again with only Basques. I'm committed to that, we all are".

It's not Rutkiewicz, it's Chaoufi!

Euskaltel's ninth and final foreign rider in 2013 will be Moroccan Tarik Chaoufi, not Marek Rutkiewicz as was anticipated. The 26-year-old national champion is the UCI's number one ranked African cyclist this year.

Chaoufi's signing was unveiled today alongside the confirmation of Greek Ioannis Tamouridis. Hailing from Azor, Chaoufi has taken a total of six wins this year, among them a stage at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo and a bunch of domestic races. With this signing, Euskaltel are done shopping this year and will count on 29 riders in 2013.

While many say, perhaps rightly so, that these nine foreigners are signed only to keep Euskaltel at cycling's top table and not for their athletic ability, General Manager Igor González de Galdeano insists on the opposite.

"The objective with signing these foreigners is based on a strategic commitment to make Euskaltel Euskadi stronger and more complete", he said at a press conference. "They're riders with UCI points, but they complement the other riders on the team and meet the urgent needs we've observed lately. The signings will bring quality to some of our weaknesses: classics and sprint finishes. The classics are getting more important on the world calendar - and they're races we haven't been able to get good results in. As such, we're missing out on a lot of big races and a lot of points. This is what we want to change in 2013".

Galdeano, who hasn't spoke publicly in quite a while as he focussed on getting the team set for the new season, is now likely to face a whole bunch of critical questions by journalists enraged at his decision to part with the team's unique philosophy. He argues, though, that the difference won't be all that great compared to this season, as next year's roster will include 20 Basques compared to 23 this year.

"Reality has forced us to sign riders who complement and strengthen the current roster in certain sections. Still, we've got 20 Basques against the 23 this year. We have more Basque cyclists in the team than in all other WorldTour teams combined. And we'd like to increase the number of Basques in the future. But if that is to happen, we need a team that wins more. And, in this regard, the new riders will come in handy. They're ambitious, they've got a winning mentality, and I want the local riders to learn this from them. These signings will make us more competitive and give us experience in disciplines and races we're not all that good at. Cycling continues to evolve, and we must aspire to stay at the elite level".


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tamouridis teams up

According to numerous websites and sources, among them El Diario Vasco, 32-year-old Greek Ioannis Tamouridis is one of the two riders that will be presented by Galdeano and co. tomorrow.

Seven riders, Jure Kocja, Robert Vrecer, André Schulze, Steffen Radochla, Alexandre Serebryakov, Ricardo Mestre and Juan José Lobato, were unveiled on Friday, and another two are set to be unveiled tomorrow. It's a badly-kept secret that Pole Marek Rutkiewicz is one of them, and it now appears that we know who the other one is as well.

Tamouridis, representing home team SP Tableware, is a six-time national time trial champ and three-time road race champ, and has 16 wins to his name. A sextet of those came this season, though they were all distinctively low-profile (three stages of the Romanian Cycling Tour, the Circuit d'Alger, Tour of Szekerland and the time trial crown). Though I'll refrain from trying to calculate his Rider Value points, I think somewhere in the 30s or 40s shouldn't be too far off.

As for other "signings", Euskaltel management are allegedly contemplating hiring swimming and triathlon coach Iñigo Mujika, writes El Diario Vasco. Mujika, who's got a PhD in Muscular Exercise Biology, would work with the riders' physical preparations as well as with material and clothing.

In further staff-related news, team doctor Raquel Ortolano has left for Astana, and Guillermo Cuesta will not stay on. In comes Eduardo González Salvador to join Sergio Quílez.

Photo: Wikipedia

Larrinaga continues hot streak

Javier Ruís de Larrinaga continued his rich vein of form by besting a high-level field of cyclo-crossers in Saturday's race in Medina de Pomar, Burgos.

The Amezaga-born soon-to-be 33-year-old attacked the lead group on the third lap, and held of Orbea's ever-consistent Aitor Hernández by 14 seconds and reigning national champ Isaac Suárez by a further 20 seconds. Himself a three-time Spanish champion, it was Larrinaga's second win in a week after last week's triumph in Llanes.

Though Spain's top senior, Egoitz Murgoitio, and sub-23, Jonathan Lastra, weren't present as they're set to line up in tomorrow's World Cup in Tabor, the Czech Republic, the line-up was still a healthy one by all accounts.

Iñigo Gómez was fifth and thus sub-23 champ, former controversial roadie and Clásica a San Sebastián champ Tino Zaballa was sixth, veteran road rider Josep Betalú was 12th, erstwhile Euskaltel rider Aketza Peña was 13th, while likeable former Cervélo rider Óscar Pujol, somehow out of a job, came in 20th as he continues to keep his shape reasonably good in the hope of a team coming in for him.

Results, elite & sub-23:
  1. Javier Ruís de Larrinaga (MMR Spiuk), 1:06:46
  2. Aitor Hernández (Orbea), 0:14
  3. Isaac Suárez (BioRace - Caravanas Erandio), 0:34
  4. José Antonio Díez Arriola (Tus Bicis Maglia Sport), 0:48
  5. Iñigo Gómez (BioRace - Caravanas Erandio), 0:52 - 1st sub-23 rider
  1. Rocío Gamonal (Orbea), 51:48
  2. Olatz Odriozola, 1:18
  3. Aida Nuño, 2:33
  1. Diego Pablo Sevilla
  2. Alexander Aramburu
  3. Víctor Aguado
For more elaborate results, check out BiciCiclismo at this link.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

The curious case of Steffen Radochla

The only slightly surprising signing announced yesterday by Euskaltel was that of Steffen Radochla. His performances the last few years seem to indicate the 33-year-old German sprinter's legs are tiring and fast, but what's more surprising is he doesn't seem to bring anything to the table as far as UCI points are concerned.

Now that's not entirely correct. The former Illes Balears rider has the grand total of one Rider Value point to his name - or two if you'd like, depending on your source of value calculations. So, Euskaltel release popular, solid home grown riders on the basis of a lack of points, then go hire comparatively old foreigners with none. That doesn't add up.

Spanish Rider Value points guru Fran Reyes speculates that the signing of Radochla might be a part of a package deal to bring 38-year-old fellow German André Schulze to the team. Now Schulze, with his 50 something points, makes sense as a deal, but if that included bringing along Radochla, not quite so much.

According to the same Reyes, Euskaltel's seven non-Basques bring 212 points, which allegedly puts them ahead of both Ag2r and Argos into 14th place - and thus they are secured a WorldTour licence. If these numbers are 100 percent trustworthy though remains to be seen.

Photo: Daily Peloton

7 non-Basques confirmed

Finally, after months of speculation, the names are here - and they're just who we expected them to be. BiciCiclismo released a list of seven riders signed by Euskaltel for 2013, with two more to be released on Monday the 22nd. Seven of the nine non-Basques are:
  • Jure Kocjan (Team Type 1)
  • Juan José Lobato (Andalucía-Caja Granada)
  • Ricardo Mestre (Carmin-Prio)
  • Steffen Radochla (Team NSP-Ghost)
  • André Schulze (Team NetApp)
  • Alexandre Serebryakov (Team Type 1)
  • Robert Vrecer (Vorarlberg)
All seven have been linked to the team for quite some time now, the only exception possibly being that of 33-year-old German Radochla. All have singed one-year deals with the team, a clear statement from the team management that they've just been brought in for the points, except for Cádiz-born 23-year-old Lobato who's been handed a two-year-deal. 

The final two riders, that will take the team's number of riders up to 29 for next season, will be revealed on Monday (as stated above), with Pole Marek Rutkiewicz highly believed to be one of them - he pretty much says as much in this interview. Carlos Barredo has long been linked, new signing Gari Bravo said he'd heard Barredo was as good as a done deal a month or so, but now that a disciplinary case has (finally) been opened against him, that's probably not going to happen. 

According to BiciCiclismo, the nine non-Basques signed have taken out 35 triumphs this year alone - albeit at quite another level. The website further states that these nine will represent the team to a great extent in Germany, Holland, Belgium and France, four of the countries the team will be doing a lot more racing in next year, as well as one-day classics.

Here's a brief sum-up of the new riders. Click on their names for profiles:

Jure Kocjan turned 28 on Thursday, and has for the last two years been riding with Team Type 1. The Slovenian is a speedy finisher and decent Classics rider, and this year has two wins to his name: stages one and three of the Tour de Limousin. UCI Europe Tour ranking: 144th - 92 points.

Juan José Lobato, born in 1988, is no mean sprinter despite his age, claiming last year's Circuito de Getxo and two stages of the Vuelta a Chile and one at the Tour of Qinghai Lake this season. So far the team's sole Spanish signing. UCI Europe Tour ranking: 594th - 18 points.

Ricardo Mestre, a 29-year-old Portuguese, is a solid climber and all-rounder - showcased in some fashion last year when he took out his home tour. Despite his rather limited palmarès and virtually non-existent top level experience, he should add debt to Euskaltel's stage-racing department. UCI Europe Tour ranking: 277th - 53 points.

Steffen Radochla is 33 years old and is well-travelled among the continent's Pro Continental/Continental teams over the last few years. He stepped down to Continental level for the 2012 season with home team NSP-Ghost, but failed to win a single race. In fact, he's won just a pair of bike races over the last four years. A decent sprinter in his pomp in his first years in the peloton with the likes of Festina, Team Coast and Banesto. UCI Europe Tour ranking: 194th - 74 points.

André Schulze is German and a whopping 38 years old. Impressively, though, he still comes up with the goods on a regular basis. Has 37 victories to his name, three of which were taken last year. Has spent the last year at Team NetApp. UCI Europe Tour ranking: 11th - 332,75 points.

Alexandre Serebryakov is a 25-year-old Russian who, in view of his successes, surprisingly never has been affiliated with the RusVelo/Katusha program. Was Kocjan's team-mate at Type 1 last year, and brought in a handy quintet of wins - four of which from the Tour of China. UCI Europe Tour ranking: 486th - 27 points.

Robert Vrecer is a 32-year-old reigning Slovenian National Time Trial champion. Clocked seven triumphs in 2012 alone, and joins from Team Vorarlberg. Has, with 26 wins to his name in all, been due a shot at the big time for a while. UCI Europe Tour ranking: 14th - 291 points.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Orbea reflect on winless season

Despite coming off a season bereft of triumphs, facing down-sizing next year and losing its most prized asset to a rival team, Orbea Continental head Aritz Arberas finds plenty of positives in the season that recently came to a close over in France at the Tour du Gevaudan. The team's Tour of Portugal performance, the now-departed Omar Fraile's overall season, Haritz Orbe's Tour de l'Avenir participation and the promise shown in glimpses by speedy all-rounder Carlos Barbero stand out as the most obvious high points of 2012. Former rider Arberas seems to agree.

"Carlos Barbero took part in the European Championships, Omar Fraile finished 16th in the Volta a Portugal and rode the World Championships time trial. What's more, Illart Zuazubiskar was Euskadi sub-23 track champion and medalled at the national champs", he said at

"We wanted to get a win in this second part of the season, but we weren't able to. However, we've shown that, despite being young, we've been able to be in the fight for the win ten times and been disputing races 'till the very last moment seven times. That's noteworthy. What's more, physically they're better (after the second part of the year). They're more ambitious, we've fought, we've been close to the win and, therefore, we have to be more than pleased with the season as a whole. For example, in Portugal we were among the ten best on mountain stages, and Carlos Barbero was second and fifth on stages in the Gran Premio Torred Vedras."

Looking to the future, Arberas highlighted the need for "better positioning, work more as a team, do better as a unit and intensify the work of formation, one of the founding objectives of the team".

As mentioned briefly above and at length in other posts over the last week, 22-year-old prodigy Omar Fraile has left the team for pastures greener, literally, over at Caja Rural. Xabier Zabalo, Aritz Etxebarria and Andoni Blázquez will all leave the team, reportedly because of their age. The latter has decided to end his career, while there's been little info on the other two.

Jon Aberasturi will, as you'll know by now, 'graduate' to Euskaltel, while Naturgas Energía's Jon Larrinaga and Debabarrena's Mikel Aristi will join the blue squad. As the team is still holding out hope of attracting more sponsors, no limit is set on the number of riders for next year as of yet.

Arberas goes on to briefly comment on each rider's respective performances throughout the year, but as they're written in Basque they don't make much sense to me - and Google Translate certainly doesn't offer much help. If you feel like taking a crack at it, click this link.

Photo: El Pedal de Frodo

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Euskaltel rejected Ridley to stay with Orbea

Despite being in advanced discussions with Belgian bike brand Ridley, Euskaltel Euskadi opted to stick with local producer Orbea for next year.

So reports the knowledgeable guys over at Cobbles & Hills. According to the website, General Manager Igor González de Galdeano and co. asked Orbea for more money if they were to remain Euskaltel's bike supplier, threatening to sign a deal with Ridley if they weren't willing to cough up. Apparently, Galdeano had been negotiating with Ridley for a number of weeks, but eventually the traditional Mallabia-based company came through and will thus continue their long-standing relationship with Euskaltel for another three years.

On the flip side though, and in a sorry turn of events, it appears Euskaltel asking for more money has directly contributed to Orbea's mountain bike team folding. Their increased outlay on Euskaltel, coupled with team icon and MTB legend Julien Absalon leaving for BMC, has resulted in leaving the likes of Iñaki Lejarreta and Rubén Ruzafa being left without a team.

Antón: "Team philosophy hard to maintain"

Igor Antón has, ever since turning pro, been an Euskaltel profile - as much for his outstanding abilities as his personality. As such, it's no surprise to see him saddened at the team's decision to abandon it's famous Basque-only philosophy. But, as he tells El Pedal de Frodo in a candid interview, it was all but inevitable.

"I see the team's change of philosophy from the perspective of what I have experienced since I was 19. I've been with Euskaltel Euskadi for eight years now, and it's been beautiful. I'm proud of what we've achieved up until now and the fact that we've been in the top division solely with riders from the Basque Country or formed as cyclists in the Basque Country. But we've come to the moment that it's hard to maintain it", he said. "I would love to see this Euskaltel Euskadi last forever, from now and until eternity, but what's certain is that cycling and the times are changing. We have examples of teams that are doing what we are soon to be doing, like Rabobank, who've always had big Dutch riders on the team, but who've been forced to adapt and incorporate foreign ones too. Time will tell if the changes will be a success or not".

The 29-year-old just finished up "a very long season" with a gritty if unspectacular performance at the Tour of Beijing last week (26th overall), and thus completed his first winless campaign since 2005. Antón admits it's been an altogether unsatisfactory season, and points to several factors why that is.

"Well, there are numerous reasons. The early part of the season perhaps wasn't good enough as, when I started to go strong, I fractured my collarbone (at Liège-Bastogne-Liège). My goal for the season was just the Vuelta a España, which was a risk. This year I've also experimented with altitude training. Perhaps I lack a bit of experience at that. I spent 32 days, though not 32 consecutive ones, in the Sierra Nevadas. I think I've worked harder this year than in season's past, one can't deny that though the results don't measure up, so it's not for a lack of preparation.

"I went to the Vuelta with really big aspirations. It's certain that the Vuelta has, this year, been the race with the highest quality: with Contador in the forefront alongside Purito and, then, Valverde and Froome. It was difficult. I said before the start of the race that the podium was going to be hard, but that it would be a great achievement, and that I would be very content with a top five on general classification. Eventually I finished inside the top ten, which is what I was fighting for as the points that come with it are so vital. I noticed during the Vuelta, and through the whole year for that matter, that people fight for 18th."

Has cycling changed a lot with the current points system?

"Yes. In the Grand Tours every rider inside the top 20 is awarded points, so there's a big fight to finish up until 20th. I started out well at Arrate, though I realised not everything was tip top. Not form-wise, but rather when it came to recuperation. I had my ups and downs in the Vuelta, but I ended up being the fourth or fifth strongest rider on the mountainous days. But the time trial harmed my chances a great deal, and there were also a few stages, like the one to Valdezcaray, that I ceded time. I'll take the regularity of my performances though, I finished ninth, and sometimes you just have to be satisfied with what you do... even if you're not really happy with it".

As for next year, nothing's naturally set in stone at this moment in time. If his comments are anything to go by, though, he'll likely go for another approach in 2013 compared to the one adopted this year.

"This year I risked it all (on one race). I won't hide that. I wanted to do better at the start of the year, but I wasn't able to do that. But rather than aiming for two peaks of form, I'd rather be in good shape for more World Tour races. Like the Tour de Suisse or the Tour de Romandie, races that have been good to me in the past and where I've previously won stages. As well there's other races I've discovered this year, like the Tour of Poland, so, if it's possible, I can do Suisse and Poland at a good level. There's a lot of things you can do. We have to wait and talk about next year with a calendar in our hands, but I might not focus exclusively on three-week races."

"My goal is to return to my best"

While a lot of Euskaltel fans are understandably downbeat at Amets Txurruka's change of teams, the wily soon-to-be 30-year-old climber appears to be just as motivated as ever. Speaking at the team's presentation of his signing yesterday (along with Omar Fraile, pictured above), the Etxebarria-born rider seemed eager to start his new adventure.

"I want to thank the team for giving me the opportunity to continue riding and trusting in me", he said. "I'll try to give it all that I can, and we'll see if luck is on our side and if we can do something great.

"I'm encouraged. It's a very different team, and the races will also be very different. Change motivates you, and as always I'm eager and looking forward to start the new season. My personal goal (for next year) is to return to my best form and give it my utmost. Everyone on the team will have their freedom and the races will show us where we are. The key will be to support each other. Caja Rural has always been a fighting team, and they showed this season that they're a good team and they've obtained big victories. Hopefully we can continue this way".

The team's president, Floren Esquisabel, said 'Txurru's experience will greatly aid the younger riders on the team, but also praised his personality.

"Txurruka is a rider with experience that will help the team. In addition, according to what I've been told, he's a great guy. Our idea is that he strengthens the team and can help the younger ones to find their way in races and learn them what it's like to be a professional cyclist."

"As for Omar (Fraile), he represents the department in the team to which we devote the most work, the younger riders - giving them opportunities and helping them grow. Omar has got a big future ahead of him, and we're looking forward to helping him improve".

The 22-year-old now former Orbea prodigy hopes to "pay the team back for the trust they've put in me" and "be at the level they want me to next season. It'll be a leap (from Continental to Pro Continental level), but there'll be riders I can learn a lot from and I hope to learn from the older riders".

Photo: Noticias de Navarra

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nieve + 2013 = Tour de France

Samuel Sánchez's flirtations with the Giro d'Italia might result in Grand Tour specialist Mikel Nieve getting his Tour de France bow next year.

So says Revista Desde La Cuneta. The magazine claims he'll "almost certainly spearhead Euskaltel" at next season's Grand Boucle, as Samu sets his sights on a Giro-Vuelta double. Where this leaves Antón, the team's other main GC candidate, is yet to be seen.

Although the 28-year-old has enjoyed plenty of success in the two other GTs, what with stage-wins and twice 10th overall in both races, he's never been unleashed on the biggest race of them all. Considering his penchant for marathon days in the saddle and long, steady climbs, a traditional Tour parcours should suit the Leitza-born rider to a tee. The 2012 route is yet to be unveiled, though.

Nieve last week concluded a successful season, including 10th at the Giro and fifth at the Tour de Suisse, by finishing 51st overall at the Tour of Beijing.

Photo: Deia

Velasco makes the move to Caja Rural

Released Euskaltel rider Iván Velasco will ride for Caja Rural next year, BiciCiclismo reports this morning.

The 32-year-old, 11th overall in the Tour of Beijing recently, will thus be reunited with Amets Txurruka, who it was reported yesterday will also don the iconic green jersey as of 2013 and beyond. General Manager Igor González de Galdeano received much flak for releasing the long-serving climber just after the completion of the Vuelta a España, but a move to Caja Rural has been on the cards ever since.

He'll of course also team up again with erstwhile Euskaltel team-mate Javier Aramendía at the Professional Continental team, while another former team-mate, Aitor Galdós, is on the look out for a new outfit after being let go at the end of the season.

Murgoitio and Lastra going strong overseas

The Belgian (and thus the international) cyclo-cross season commenced for real this weekend with the first race in the renamed Bpost Bank Trofee series in Ronse. And, befitting their increasing stature on the european 'cross scene, Basque team Hirumet Taldea was present with locals Egoitz Murgoitio and Jonathan Lastra.

Murgoitio, the undisputed king on the domestic circuit, finished up a creditable 26th after a strong first half of the race. The Abadiño-born rider, fresh off victory in the first Spanish Superprestigio race in Asturias 10 days ago, was cautiously optimistic afterwards.

"Although the result doesn't say a lot, I'm pleased with my rhythm and how I felt", a press release reads. "I didn't have any pain in my lower back (which troubled him in the lead-up), so that makes me happy. The level of competition was really elevated and the course was a really fast one despite the mud. I still lack a bit of strength, but I'm getting closer to what I hope to achieve this year".

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), 57:31)
  • 26, Egoits Murgoitio (Hirumet Taldea), 5:10
As for 19-year-old Lastra (pictured above), he featured in the lead group for some time but was eventually forced to settle for 22nd - still, though, a considerable achievement considering he's barely old enough for the category. The Bilbaíno seemed equally content with his performance post-race.

"I was worried before the race as my hip was troubling me, but I felt no pain during the race. I started out well, but it was a bit too long with the pace and the level of the riders. (...) this encourages me for the future", the youngster said.

  • (1, Michael Vanthourenhout, 53:16)
  • 22, Jonathan Lastra (Hirumet Taldea), 5:10
Photo: Alex Soro

Monday, October 15, 2012

Report: Omar Fraile to sign with Caja Rural

After being denied his chance to move up into the World Tour ranks with Euskaltel next year, BiciCiclismo is now reporting that Orbea rider Omar Fraile will sign with the Professional Continental team Caja Rural, who has also reportedly signed Euskaltel stalwart Amets Txurruka. It is reported that the riders will be formally presented tomorrow.

Fraile was a casualty of the transitioning process by the team, having been scheduled to make the jump to the World Tour for 2013 but came to an agreement with new Euskaltel manager Igor González de Galdeano to stay another year with Orbea so that he could develop further. The transitioning process also came at a time when Euskaltel needs to fill any available roster spot with riders that have UCI points so that they are able to maintain their World Tour status. No comment has been made by Fraile at this time.


Report: Txurruka set for Caja Rural

Entirely as expected, Amets Txurruka has decided to join Caja Rural for the upcoming season, BiciCiclismo reports.

Rumours have surfaced ever since he was informed he was let go by Euskaltel that the Spanish Pro Continental outfit was his most likely option. BiciCiclismo have now "learned" that the parties have reached an agreement, though the length of the 30-year-old's contract has not been disclosed.

Joining him at the green team will be current Movistar rider David Arroyo. The 32-year-old former podium finisher at the Giro d'Italia has been linked to Euskaltel for the last few weeks, but is now set to step down a level to continue his career.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Riding for Víctor Cabedo

Fans and cyclists turned out in their hundreds as the late Víctor Cabedo was remembered in today's Marcha Cicloturista Ciudad de Valencia.

More than 600 turned up to complete the 45 kilometres in downtown Valencia, close to Cabedo's hometown of Onda, Castellón. The riders paid their respects to his family and closest friends, reports El Mundo Deportivo, as well as observing a minute's silence. Fittingly, José Cabedo, his brother, was allowed to cross the line first.

Organizer Javier Castellar also took time out to speak of the importance of rider safety on the roads, as well as paying tribute to the former Seguros Bilbao, Orbea and Euskaltel rider.

"Thank you to Víctor for being who he was, the great cyclist he was", he stated. "We will not forget you".


Euskaltel close out year with decent Vendée performance

It wasn't the fairytale ending to Euskaltel's unique Basque-only philosophy many would have wanted, but the team still put two riders in the top 20 in today's season-ending Tour de Vendée.

Ricardo García's 16th place and Romain Sicard's 18th made sure the French cup-race wasn't a total write-off for the team, as the orange contingent failed to light up the racing in the west of France. Young Vacansoleil stagiaire Wesley Kreder, cousin of Michel and Raymond Kreder and brother of Dennis, secured himself a permanent place on the Dutch team by soloing clear in the last few kilometres to beat a charging pack by a mere two seconds. In it were the two aforementioned 'Carrots', who both got their campaigns off to solid conclusions, while Adrián Sáez came home in 35th at 1:52 and Rubén Pérez 52nd at 1:57.

Pablo Urtasun and Mikel Astarloza both failed to complete the race.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Wesley Kreder (Vacansoleil-DCM), 4:13:08)
  • 16, Ricardo García, 0:02
  • 18, Romain Sicard, s.t.
  • 35, Adrián Sáez, 1:52
  • 52, Rubén Pérez, 1:57
  • DNF: Mikel Astarloza, Pablo Urtasun

David Arroyo linked to Euskaltel

Movistar climber David Arroyo Durán is being linked with a switch to Euskaltel for the coming season.

The 32-year-old, who's spent eight years at Eusebio Unzúe's outfit, was informed earlier this summer that he's not being kept on by the team, and has 'till this date not signed with a new team. Several Basque newspapers have the last few weeks briefly mentioned Arroyo as a rider Igor González de Galdeano could be keen on getting his hands on, and if the Twitter rumour mill is anything to go by, that might just be the case.

Nieves Moya, cycling journo at Tuttosport, tweeted a few days back that if Euskaltel or Saxo Bank were interested, talks could be started. Fellow scribe Roberto Tejedor was more precise, saying "Tug of war between Euskaltel and Saxo Bank to secure the services of David Arroyo (Movistar)". CyclingFever added Arroyo to Euskaltel as "a rumour" in their "Cycling Transfers 2013" overview.

Whether these rumours are to be believed we'll soon find out, as the UCI's 20th of October deadline is getting ever closer.


Sánchez content with season finale

Despite coming away empty handed from the Tour of Beijing as far as triumphs and UCI points are concerned, Euskaltel leader Samuel Sánchez deems himself satisfied with the last month of the season after an injury-truncated year. The 34-year-old bounced back from crashes and subsequent abandonments at the Tour de France and, later, the Tour du Poitou-Charentes to feature strongly at the Worlds road race, finish second in the Giro di Lombardia and now 12th in China.

"Finally the season has come to a close", he told Efe. "And i finish the season better than I had expected. When I crashed in France (at Poitou-Charentes), I looked bleakly at everything, but at least I managed to line up in the World Championships, I got second in Lombardia and I travelled to China. It's important to finish the season with a bib number on your back and not by watching the races on television."

Speaking of the Tour of Beijing, Samu said: "The team gave it a go on the most demanding days, either by getting into the breaks or attacking in the finale, like the day with the Great Wall, but we lack the win and the more advanced places on GC. We brought a team of climbers, and the time bonuses didn't favour us".

The 2008 Olympic champion came in for some criticism (from this website anyway) earlier this week for quotes attributed to him about the damning revelations put forward by the USADA on Lance Armstrong. While he stopped short of saying one single bad word about the former seven-time Tour champ then, he's keen to point out that cycling is doing its utmost to clean up its act.

"Today cycling is a sport with a lot of controls, we have an internet program, ADAMS, on localization", he told Eitb, according to BiciCiclismo. "Cycling is at the forefront of doping (presumably he here tried to say it's at the forefront in the FIGHT against doping) and we're an exemplary sport in this regard".

Final WorldTour rankings

Despite brining their a-team to the Tour of Beijing, Euskaltel did not succeed in adding to their UCI WorldTour points tally and finishes the year ranked 13th.

They came close though: 11th and 12th overall, through Iván Velasco and Samuel Sánchez respectively, and second in the team rankings was no mean feat, but it counted for little as only the top ten on general classification would bring points with them home. Iván Velasco's 11th-hour heroic attempts in snatching a few points thus proved futile, and he ends the season with no points to his name.

As per tradition, Samuel Sánchez is the team's top rider in the rankings. After a stellar start to the year, a terribly unlucky mid-part, and a satisfying end, the 34-year-old finishes up ninth with 332. As the team as a whole grabbed 555, Samu is alone responsible for well more than half of the outfit's 2012 haul.

Nine of the riders scored WorldTour points this year, more than what's been the case in previous years, while the total haul of 555 points is better than last year and only 40 short of the 2010 mark - the year the team took a record 17 victories.

Final individual rankings:
  • (1, Joaquin Rodríguez (Katusha), 692)
  • 9, Samuel Sánchez, 332
  • 54, Mikel Nieve, 98
  • 86, Ion Izagirre, 46
  • 88, Igor Antón, 44
  • 100, Gorka Verdugo, 35
  • 128, Egoi Martínez, 20
  • 148, Rubén Pérez, 12
  • 168, Gorka Izagirre, 8
  • 238, Romain Sicard, 1
Team rankings:
  • (1, Sky, 1767)
  • (12, RadioShack, 619)
  • 13, Euskaltel, 555
  • (14, Lampre ISD, 435)
Full rankings can be found here.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Euskaltel finish up decent Tour of Beijing

Euskaltel-Euskadi attempted to shake up the General Classification a few times on the last stage of the Tour of Beijing but with the final flat run-in into the finish, the men in orange were all but resigned to their fate. A two-man breakaway of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) and Steve Cummings (BMC) rode away from their breakaway companions and held off a charging pack into Pinggu as Tony Martin (OPQS) sewed up his 2nd consecutive Tour of Beijing.

The 182.5km stage 5 was the last chance for the Euskaltel to shake up the G.C. with Iván Velasco in 11th and Samu Sánchez in 14th. Velasco, who was not resigned by the team for the coming year, was one G.C. spot away from 4 precious World Tour points, which would greatly boost his worth. Samu attempted a couple of digs on the final climb but both were easily covered by the chasing group. Euskaltel also has numbers going into the finale with 5 riders in the front chasing group of around 30 riders but alas they were not able to change the outcome.

Stage Results (Full Results found here)

  • (1, Stephen Cummings (BMC), 4:05:08)
  • 15, Iván Velasco +0:17
  • 20, Samuel Sánchez +0:17
  • 26, Gorka Verdugo +0:17
  • 27, Mikel Nieve +0:17
  • 28, Igor Antón +0:17
  • 60, Mikel Landa +1:48
  • 66, Peio Bilbao +1:48
General Classification
  • (1, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), 17:16:56)
  • 11, Iván Velasco +1:00
  • 12, Samuel Sánchez +1:00
  • 26, Igor Antón +3:45
  • 33, Gorka Verdugo +5:38
  • 51, Mikel Nieve +11:40
  • 52, Peio Bilbao +11:49
  • 84, Mikel Landa +24:16

Friday, October 12, 2012

Confirmed: Euskaltel sign Ricardo Mestre

BiciCiclismo today confirms Euskaltel have secured the services of Portuguese 29-year-old Ricardo Mestre.

The victor of the Volta ao Portugal's 2011 edition has long been linked with a switch to the orange squad after news broke of the team being on the look-out for foreign riders to aid the team in its quest for a WorldTour licence in 2013. Despite having won such a prestigious race as the Portuguese tour overall, not to mention back-to-back wins in the Trofeo Joaquim Agostinho/GP Internacional Torres Vedras, the native of Faro, the country's southernmost city, has spent his entire career up until this point at Continental-ranked teams. He's spent the last seven years with the ever-mutuating squad that is now called Carmin-Prio.

Check out his profile here.

Mestre is at the time being ranked 277th in the UCI's Europe Tour rankings with 53 points to his name.

As Igor González de Galdeano and co. are hoping to catch their rivalling teams for a WorldTour licence by surprise, so to speak, the signings won't be made official until the 20th of October.


Patxi Vila laments missed Euskaltel opportunity

While the now-retired Patxi Vila probably has quite a few regrets in his 12-year-spanning professional cycling career, what with spending almost two of those years off the bike after testing positive in 2008, the 36-year-old says never having had the chance to represent his home team is one of the biggest. Speaking at length in today's Deia, the Hondarribia-born Paris-Nice stage-winner describes his relationship with Euskaltel as "weird".

"The possibility to ride for Euskaltel was there at various times", he said. "Either I couldn't as I had a contract in place with another team, or vice versa. The relationship (with Euskaltel) was a little weird. It grieves me greatly never having ridden for my local team. It's a thorn that is stuck in me".

While Vila's all-round ability made him a wanted rider by many an Euskaltel fan back in the years, in hindsight it appears not signing him was a good decision. Speaking of that testosterone-positive that marred his profession as well as its image, Juan Manuel Garate's best friend only states the obvious.

"I got through that time (of sanction) with patience. It was a tremendous setback. You'll never know what it's like until you experience it yourself. I got through it with the support of my closest ones and the motivation to return. If you don't have a big motivation to return, it's difficult to bear", he stated.

As for the highs of his career, winning stage three of the 2006 edition of the Paris-Nice ahead of Floyd Landis naturally stands out on a sporting level. On an emotional level, though, the moment pictured above is in a league of its own entirely, he explains.

"I'm a very romantic rider and a lot of the "unseen" moments will stay with me. This year's climb of the Ibardin (on stage four of the Vuelta al País Vasco) was the highlight of my career emotionally (Ibardin being in his home town of Bera, Vila dismounted just before crossing the line and kissed the ground). That moment will stay with me forever".

If you want to read the interview in its entirety, proceed to this page.


Pair sign for Naturgas Energía

The Fundación Euskadi's sub-23 team Naturgas Energía have continued their recruiting for next year by signing non-Basque pair Noel Gil (pictured above) and Bernat Font, El Correo and BiciCiclismo report.

The duo thus becomes the team's second and third signings this off-season after news broke in late September that highly-regarded 18-year-old Óscar González del Campo, also him not hailing from Euskal Herria, will be joining the red and whites as of the commencement of the 2013 season.

Gil and Font will both leave their Castillo de Onda team, an outfit the Fundación established a partnership agreement with earlier this year, and will move to Güenes, just south of Bilbao - of course the home town of a certain Samuel Sánchez. The Mayor of Güenes, Koldo Artaraz, hopes the Olympic champion is just the kind of rider Gil and Font can become in the future.

"I hope they'll go on to achieve the same success, or more, as our Samuel has done", Artaraz told El Correo. 

Speaking as a Fundación delegation, including Miguel Madariaga, the deceased Víctor Cabedo's girlfriend and ex-pro Dorleta Zorrilla and Naturgas Energía DS Iñigo Urretxua, visited the village a few days ago, Gil and Font were clearly looking forward to the experience.

"Euskadi is the best place for a cyclist to grow", they said. "Here you've got the best resources and options. If you want to grow and evolve as a bike rider, you need to be here. This is the best place to train".

The 18-year-olds, who'll aim to combine their sporting goals with studies at Bilbao's Escuela de Empresariales, have numerous triumphs to their names this year, and are both accomplished track riders.


Status quo in Beijing

Iván Velasco and Samuel Sánchez are still on the fringes of the top ten in Beijing after Friday's penultimate stage.

The duo went into the mainly flat 166km leg from Yanqing to Chang Ping ranked 11th and 14th overall respectively, and the sprinters' anticipated domination did little to change the general classification - except for Samu moving up to 12th, but still a minute off runaway winner Tony Martin's time. Katusha's Marco Haller, who's been due a win this season after a steady first campaign among the pros, bested a host of big-name speedsters to claim a surprising win, while all seven remaining riders in orange crossed the line inside the pack.

Results stage four (full results here):
  • (1, Marco Haller (Katusha), 3:35:39)
  • 21, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 23, Iván Velasco, s.t.
  • 33, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
  • 53, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 59, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 67, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 93, Igor Antón, s.t.
General classification:
  • (1, Tony Martín (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
  • 11, Iván Velasco, 1:00
  • 12, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 32, Igor Antón, 3:45
  • 44, Gorka Verdugo, 5:38
  • 55, Peio Bilbao, 10:18
  • 59, Mikel Nieve, 11:40
  • 113, Mikel Landa, 22:45
Photo: Fundación Ciclista Euskadi

Samuel Sánchez stands up for Lance

Lance Armstrong's definite fall from grace has provoked many a reaction during the last 24 hours. Most are saying "about time", but there's still a considerable minority in the peloton steadfastly standing by the disgraced Texan. In what is likely to come as a disappointment to many, Euskaltel leader and icon Samuel Sánchez appears to be one of the latter.

"Until the contrary is proved, he remains innocent", he told the Associated Press ahead of embarking on the Tour of Beijing's third stage on Thursday. "Lance has overcome many controls, and even until today he has never been found positive in any of them", he continued, clearly swayed by Lance and his lawyer's over-used, and unfounded one at that, mantra of Lance being "the most tested athlete in the world".

"About all the accusations that have been poured against him, we have to see what the goal of them all are, whether there's an economic motive there or they just want to harm his image. We still need to wait and see what decision the UCI reaches and see what they rule. The UCI are all the time saying they're working on today's cycling, not the cycling of the past", he added.

While Samu's amiable ways, welcoming grin and ever-dimplomatic answers have made him astoundingly popular, and rightly so, over the last decade both domestically as well as internationally, his answers in this case leave a lot to be desired for those looking for a big-name rider in the pack to step forward, break the omertá and tell Lance just what kind of damage he's done to their sport and their profession. Samu is arguably Spain's only true great at present never to have been implicated in doping-related activities, save for Joaquin Rodríguez perhaps, and as such could have been his nation's leading voice in the never-ending fight against performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. Are comments like these the way to go in that regard?

 Don't hesitate in letting your feelings on the matter show in the 'comments' section below.


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