Friday, November 30, 2012

Video wrap

The first team get-together of the close-season always means a bunch of videos of the riders released in the Basque media. Below you'll find a small selection of what's worth seeing:

Igor González de Galdeano, Samuel Sánchez and co. give their opinion on the training camp and the season ahead (Eitb):

Watch new signing Juan José Lobato give his first interviews as an Euskaltel rider. Here he discusses 2013, the foreigners and Google Translate (Deportes Tele 7):

Watch Euskaltel visit Real Sociedad's Anoeta Stadium, exchange jerseys and eat lunch (Real Sociedad):

Link to video:

And, if you feel like doing some reading, click this link for a short but interesting interview with Russian Alexandre Serebryakov. It's worth a read.

Herrero joins Etxebarría at Baqué

Remember this fellow, the guy who used to get Euskaltel fans purring over his precocious talent and all-round ability? David Herrero Llorente, who took in two spells at the team before retiring in the Karpin-Galicia jersey at the tender age of 30 in the winter of 2009, will make a return to the cycling world after having been away for three years. Well, "away" might not be the best word, seeing as he's been working on the technical side of the sport with BH, Gebiomized and others ever since calling it quits. Next year, he'll be back in the amateur ranks with Cafés Baqué, where he'll work with biomechanics.

Herrero was a victim of the hard line set by Igor González de Galdeano back in 2007, leading an high-profile exodus from the team alongside the likes of Ibán Mayo, Iker Camaño and DS and icon Julián Gorospe. Allegedly the two parties couldn't reach an agreement over wages, and the Bilbao-born rider was forced to join Pro Continental outfit Karpin-Galicia.

At Karpin he showed glimpses of what he was made of with a handful of victories, including a stage at the Vuelta al País Vasco, but was forced to call it quits at the end of 2009, being left with no team after an injury-plagued couple of years.

Now he'll join former Euskaltel riders David Etxebarría and Xabier Artetxe at the traditional Basque amateur team. As well as announcing the hiring of Llorente, Cafés Baqué also revealed six new signings:

Iñigo Ojeda, Paul Usabel Lizundia and Eduardo Armengol Gonzalo come over from Koplad-Uni2, 18-year-old cyclo-cross talent Jonathan Bilbao joins from Gastronomía Baska, Antonio Angulo switches from Azysa-Telco'm-Conor and Alex García has prolonged his contract with Baqué.

"I'm still young, but the years are passing by"

Escape artist and climber Miguel Minguez had a somewhat unsatisfying third year with Euskaltel. While he made a name for himself at the Giro, it was more for finishing up dead last than for his trio of breakaways. And while he hit form towards the end of the campaign with two strong performances in Québec and Montréal, his season was cut short by a fall at the Il Lombardia and a DNF at the Tour of Beijing.

Looking towards 2013, the bilbaíno hopes to take a step or two in the right direction - but admits start winning bike races is a tall order.

"It would be very difficult (to take my first triumph next year)", he told El Pedal de Frodo. "First you have to try to change the mentality, train hard and well and take a step ahead both physically and quality-wise. While I'm still young, it's also true the years are passing by", said the 24-year-old.

"I hope to take a step forward next year, though, and, if it's possible, a big step forward rather than a small one. Also being confident and feel good physically so that I can help the team as much as possible. I am young, and I don't have any concrete objectives, but at least I'm setting myself small goals".

The former Orbea rider has done the Italina GT for the last two years, but hopes to take on another three-week race in 2013.

"I'd love to do the Vuelta", he admitted. "I think it'll be really hard, seeing as there's likely to be tough competition for places on that team, but it's my dream".

As all the other riders on the team, Minguez's racing schedule for next year is yet to be confirmed. The recently-concluded training camp in Derio, Vizcaya, was more about getting to know the new riders on the team, and Minguez is sure the nine new riders have a lot to contribute.

"It was a very good get-together", he said. "It was different from other years with all the new guys. But everything went well. They have another mentality, and I think we can learn a lot from them and vice versa.

They're not riders with big names, but that's because they've been in Continental teams. They've won a lot of races, and in general they seem to be strong sprinters. I think they'll improve the team. I also think the fans will welcome them. All in all it's good for the team, for Euskaltel, for the local team, and I think they will accept it. It's thanks to them we've acquired enough points to be able to ride the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta. I think the fans will cheer for them, and hopefully they'll cheer us up to!".

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chaoufi - People thought I lied about Euskaltel move

Tarik Chaoufi will be the first Moroccan ever to ride for a European team when he dons the orange jersey of Euskaltel next year. For his compatriots, a Moroccan being signed by a WorldTour team sounded more like a joke than the truth. After having a translator from Kuwait come over to the team's training camp in Derio yesterday to aid his integration into the team, Chaoufi gave his first interview that can be read in today's Deia and Noticias de Gipuzkoa. Here, he speaks of how no one believed him when he announced he was going to join the world elite.

"People said I was lying", he revealed. "They said it wasn't possible that a European team had contacted me. My mother was happy for me, though, and told me she would come up with the money if I needed it.

"I remember I couldn't sleep the night I got the call from Euskaltel. I thought that this couldn't possibly be happening. How could a European team sign me? I couldn't believe it. The head of the national team brought me the news. And, for sure, I knew about Euskaltel - I'd watched them in the Tour. In the Maghreb (the region he hails from), Samuel Sánchez is very famous because of what he's achieved in that race, but also because he's the Olympic champion."

As many an athlete from the African country, the 26-year-old from Azrou started out as a runner. Azrou is at 1400 metres of altitude, so no prizes for guessing what kind of rider Chaoufi regards himself as.

"I'm a climber", he confirmed. "I like the mountains - I've climbed them since I was a little kid. I always train in the mountains. For a kid living in Azrou, you spend your time studying, doing sports, helping out your parents. I decided to quit school at 16 because I wanted to become a cyclist. I've always liked the bike, and back then you had to travel a lot in order to compete. To Casablance, to Agadir... I couldn't combine riding with my studies, so I opted for the bike.

"My father died when I was a kid - I can't remember him. But my mum encouraged me to do it (give cycling a go). She always supports me. Right from the beginning she was always urging me to do races. I got my first bike from my uncle, who lives in France. That was a mountain bike, but my mum bought me my first road bike. She's got a shop that sells baby clothes in Azrou, and the shop's doing well. She also provided me with the money I needed to register for races.

"As a kid, I dreamed of being like Armstrong, Ullrich, Beloki... As there was no electricity, TV or anything in Azrou, I used to take my bike to a cafeteria in a village nearby to see them ride the Tour. Ten years ago, there was no electricity in my small home town. We still don't have internet! All the lights therefore amazed me when I first got here (Spain). The roads as well - all that."

As a muslim, the winner of the UCI African Tour rankings naturally celebrates Ramadan. He doesn't think it will affect his racing all that much though.

"I'm muslim, but I'm not very religious - I haven't prayed once since I came to the Basque Country! I don't eat pork, but that's also the only thing I don't eat. I have no problem with the rest of the food. As I said, I'm not very strict on it. But I do celebrate Ramadan. In Morocco there are no races on during the month of Ramadan, but I still have to keep training. What I'll do if a race in Europe coincides with Ramadan? Hm, I don't know. I'll do what the team tells me to do. But if I have to race, I don't think I'll do it (Ramadan) and I'll ride instead - if not, it would be very complicated."

During the first few days of the team's training camp in Derio, which wraps up today, Chaoufi struggled to communicate as he only speaks Arab and only understands a bit of French. After his translator joined him though, he sat down with Basque TV channel Eitb for a short interview. Watch it below:

  Photo: Gabon review

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sánchez confirms País Vasco goal

While the speculation over which Grand Tours Samuel Sánchez will be contesting in 2013 continues to rumble on, one thing appears clear: the Vuelta al País Vasco is not in jeopardy for the reigning champion no matter what GT solution he settles on.

"The intention is to do the Tour, of course", he told BiciCiclismo. "The 2012 edition left me bitter: we had a very nice Tour ahead of us where we could do great things, and overnight I was watching it on TV. It's the best race in the world, and I want to avenge what happened this year. So I won't say 'no' to the Tour now.

"But it's very difficult to be at the top at the Tour and then again at the Vuelta. This year, Valverde was not at his best in France but in top shape in Spain, while the opposite was the case for Froome. I think it would be hard for me. If you want to do two good Grand Tours, a Giro-Vuelta double is the most feasible - like Joaquim Rodríguez did this year and Alberto Contador in 2008".

While an announcement on Samu's 2013 schedule isn't likely before the Vuelta recorrido in unveiled, he did confirm he won't miss out on the team's home race.

"Yes, I'll be at the Vuelta al País Vasco - it's a talismanic race for me: seven stage victories and four podiums; one triumph, one second and two thirds. It's "my" race, and it's a race I want to do. It's the local race. My friends and fans will be there, I know every pothole and curve. It's always nice (to do that race)."

Photo: Cyclingnews

Bravo eyeing Giro debut

New Euskaltel rider Garikoitz Bravo is not aiming to ease his way into competition in his first year at WorldTour level. The 23-year-old, long tipped for a move to Euskaltel, will start off the year in January at the Tour Down Under, before going on to the Tour Méditerranéen. Later on, he's got his eyes fixed on taking on his first Grand Tour - and, if it's up to him, it's not the Tour de France.

"It's a goal for me to do a GT", he told Gara. "I'd love to finally be able to do one, and preferably the Giro. The Giro is the three-week race that attracts me the most. In 2012 I only had the option to do the Vuelta, and I wasn't picked. In 2013 I'll have the chance to do one, though, and I'd like to give it a try. At the Tour of Portugal in 2011 I finished really well, and I felt it was a bit short. I'd love to do a big one, knowing that I have to prepare well for the body to last the three weeks".

Bravo makes the move to his local team from Caja Rural, a team he just finished his third year with. As anyone leaving that team, he seems saddened at leaving the green-clad team behind.

"My time there was really good", he said. "I'd recommend anyone who's got the chance to join that team to do it. I felt at home, they treated me well, there's nothing negative to say. They bet on me since I was young, and I'm very grateful to Juanma Hernández and Floren Eskisabel. I spent six years with them as a youth rider, sub-23 and as a professional, so it'll be weird to see myself in orange".

And how has the experience at the team's training camp in Derio been so far?

"So far, chapeau! I've wanted to join this team for many years, and now I've made it. The concentration has amazed me. They're always watching over us. The first day, us new guys passed all kinds of medical check-ups; with dentists, optometrists, electrocardiograms... They want to make sure we don't start off the season with any problems. You can tell it's a serious team at the top level".

The team camp has been the first chance for the Basques to meet the foreigners signed this off-season, and so far they've communicated in a mixture of English, Italian, Slovenian, Spanish and Basque. They'll all be making an effort to learn Spanish, though - and the sooner the better, according to 'Gari'.

"I knew half of the guys from before, and I can understand the foreigners if they speak English. But to really get to know them is difficult. They have to learn the language we use in the team, castellano, rapidly, as they're all great guys".

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Insausti makes move to "best amateur team"

Jon Ander Insausti, the 19-year-old Basque phenomenon tipped for future greatness, will leave Bidelan-Kirolgi in favour of Caja Rural's amateur outfit in time for the 2013 season, hoping to further his dream of turning pro in 2014.

The versatile former Seguros Bilbao rider, equally adept in the mud as on the tarmac, announced as much on his Facebook account Monday afternoon, saying it was a "very difficult decision to reach", but that is was his best option. In an emotional message to his friends and team-mates, he thanked everything and everyone for their support. Speaking to Basque Cycling News, Ion and Gorka Izagirre's cousin reiterated it's tough leaving behind his "family".

"Yes, it's hard. It was like a family - everyone there made it an incredible family. We always worked for each other in the races and helped each other out. It's been an amazing year", he said.

Insausti joined the team directed by former pro and Euskaltel sports director Jon Odriozola ahead of the 2012 season, having spent his first year in the amateur category with Seguros Bilbao. He racked up a bunch of victories in the season that just concluded, among them two Torneo Lehendakari races, a stage at the Vuelta a Segovia, the Euskadi sub-23 time trial champs and the Gipuzkoan crono crown. Naturally he harboured hopes of joining the pro ranks this year, but as that didn't materialize, Caja Rural was the next logical step.

"For the moment, Caja Rural is the best amateur team in Spain", he said. "They have the best calendar of races, the best material, the best riders... They're the best. No other team can offer me what they are. And as well they have a professional team, which you can ride for if you perform throughout the season. As with every rider, turning professional is my dream!"

The affable youngster reiterates his goal for next year is to turn pro, but readily admits it'll be "very, very difficult".

"I'll work hard to make it. But if it doesn't happen next year, I'll still continue to try. My aim is also to become a rider capable of winning the biggest races, a rider the others can have confidence in. Of course, I also want to progress next year.

"As for the riders at Caja Rural, I know most of them already. I don't know all the first-year riders, but the rest I do. I have very good friends at that team: Ramón Domene, Jesús Alberto Rubio, Ibai Salas, Fernando Grijalba and others. I think we'll make a great team!"

Photo: Seguros Bilbao

Trio set for Tour Down Under bow

Euskaltel fans will get an early opportunity to get acquainted with the team's new signings next year: Garikoitz Bravo (pictured above), Jon Aberasturi and Juan José Lobato are all in line to debut in the orange jersey at January's first WorldTour race in Australia.

According to the excellently-informed Deia, the three of them are all likely to make the long travel, and will be accompanied by the Izagirre brothers, who should find the course to their liking, as well as Juan José Oroz and Mikel Astarloza. The latter is of course a former winner of the event, having taken his only professional victory in his career at the 2003 edition.

While the team heads and the riders are trying to piece together a tentative racing schedule at the ongoing team concentration in Derio, it's still yet to be decided which of the team's GC riders do which Grand Tour. According to the same paper, Samu has intimated he wants to do the Tour again - which, if confirmed, is slightly surprising, as a Giro-Vuelta double has been mooted for some time. Galdeano is said to be eager to see what Nieve can do at the French GT though, while it's still up in the air what Antón will focus on at this moment in time. What has been decided is that each of them will double up on GCs next year.

The picture is slightly clearer with the Izagirres: Gorka will be back to do the Tour in July, while Ion will take on the Vuelta, and only the Vuelta, after this year's Giro heroics.

In further news coming out of the get-together in Derio, it seems Euskaltel will adopt a model used by many WorldTour teams in 2013: each rider will have one specific sports director to work with - reminiscent of the model used by Team Sky for instance. New DS Óscar Guerrero will be in charge of the riders set to focus on the races and classics in Northern Europe (which is mainly the foreigners), while Samu will work with Gorka Gerrikagoitia, Nieve with Álvaro González de Galdeano, Antón with one or the other.

Picture: Caja Rural

Interview: Dioni Galparsoro

Not every rider gets two chances to ride for his home team. Along with Egoi Martínez, Dioni Galparsoro was one of the lucky few. Coming out of the talent factory that was Óscar Guerrero's amateur Caja Rural team at the turn of the century, the gifted native of Ataun, Gipuzkoa, joined his local team when it was at the top of its game with Ibán Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia, Roberto Laiseka et al. in 2003.

After two highly decent, if a tad unspectacular, years playing second fiddle to some of the biggest names to come out of the Basque Country, the then-26-year-old decided to step down a level, teaming up once again with Óscar Guerrero at the much-loved Kaiku team for 2005 and 2006. After a couple of years which saw him take a pair of wins and consistently display his climbing legs and all-round ability, he was once again back in the orange fold in time for the 2007 season. For the ensuing two years he rode the Giro d'Italia and racked up a bunch of healthy placings in domestic races, before waving goodbye yet again to a team then led by Igor González de Galdeano to close out his career with a year at that man Guerrero's Contentpolis-AMPO team also featuring a certain young hopeful named Gorka Izagirre.

After having been out of the game for three years, Basque Cycling News decided to see what the former fans favourite was up to these days, and to discuss Guerrero's arrival at a much-changed Euskaltel.

Question: You retired at the end of the 2009 season. What are you up to now?

Answer: Now I work as a commercial technician in an industrial machinery company.

Q: Do you still follow cycling?

A: Not too much, mainly just the biggest ones (the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España) and when my schedule allows it. But I do keep in touch with my cycling friends to see how they're doing.

Q: Your cycling career was a bit atypical: you signed for Euskalte in 2003, left two years later, then came back another two years after that. Can you tell us how that happened

A: My second season with Euskaltel (2004) was very good, especially at the start when I was fighting for the wins in hard races with top-level riders. I don't think Euskaltel valued the improvements I'd made enough, or that the offer they made me was up to my level at the time. That, and the fact Óscar Guerreo was creating a new team, made me leave the team.

Dionisio with long-term mentor, sports director and friend Óscar Guerrero.

Q: Looking back, are you pleased with your career as a whole?

A: I honestly think I could have done more, but I didn't have too much luck on my side at certain moments of my career.

Q: What was your best moment?

A: On a sporting level, the second year at Kaiku. On a personal level, both my years at that team.

Q: Do you miss cycling?

A: I don't miss competitive cycling. But I do miss the good times cycling gave me, friendships, making trips to the south to train when it was cold here, the excitement you feel ahead of new challenges... that sort of things I do miss.

Q: What were the main differences between Kaiku and Euskaltel - apart from the level of races, obviously?

A: Basically, Kaiku was a team with a small budget but with great enthusiasm, much camaraderie, a lot of passion for the bike, an eagerness to do things well, much clarity, much democracy... At Euskaltel, I think they could have done things differently.

Q: What do you think of Euskaltel's decision to hire Guerrero as a sports director next year?

A: I think it's the best signing they've done in years. And I don't say that because he's a friend of mine, I say it because it's the truth.

Q: What were your years in the amateur ranks like? At that time, Caja Rural was a really potent team, right?

A: Yeah. Jorge Azanza was there, Egoi Martínez, Gorka Verdugo, Pablo Urtasun, Aitor Pérez... We were a pretty strong group, yeah.

Q: You won the Memorial Valenciaga - a very prestigious race - in 2002, beating, among others, Iñigo Urretxua (current Naturgas Energía DS), David López García, Rubén Pérez, Luis Pasamontes, etc. How did that race unfold?

A: It was a very easy day. I went on the last climb, and Urretxua got on my wheel. Later, a small group joined us from behind, but I managed to win the sprint, which was on a gentle rise. It was a very nice day.

Q: You picked up two wins with Kaiku in 2005 - was it your best year?

A: It wasn't bad, but at that time I wanted more. I had a throat operation in the middle of that year, and that stopped me from doing even better.

Galparsoro rates his years at Kaiku as his most enjoyable - no wonder with that kit.

Q: On the whole, how was your life as a professional cyclist? Was it like you expected?

A: When you were young you started to dream when you saw your idols, and you thought that that world had to be marvelous. Later, there's youth, inexperience, a need to show what you can do, you're in a hurry... and other factors that doesn't really allow you to fully enjoy the professional world. I consider myself lucky to have been able to live that dream, but I don't miss that life.

Q: How was your experience with Euskaltel?

A: It had a little bit of everything: good moments, average ones, bad ones... I'd say that, during the first stage (with Julián Gorospe at the helm), we were more of a local team. During the second, with Igor González de Galdeano, it was a different mentality. Everything was a bit more meticulous, surely because during that time span, cycling changed its way of working.

Galparsoro spent four years and did two Giri d'Italia with Euskaltel - but took his only professional triumphs with Kaiku.

Q: And what do you think of the team's decision to abandon its philosophy?

A: I think it's legitimate that a private company invests the money at its disposal as it sees fit. Though I don't agree with it, I understand it. Years ago, I think supporters of the Basque Country would have criticized this change. But unfortunately, with all the damage that's been done to the sport, I don't think people will care all that much if Euskaltel sign Basques, Catalans or riders from China.

Q: And, finally, what do you make of Lance's sanction? Was it just?

A: Not looking at whether he doped or not, Armstrong was one of a kind, a genius. It's like you asking me whether I consider it fair that they remove a painting by Dalí from the Museo del Prado because he painted it under the influence of a psychoactive drug that was forbidden... Only a genius could have done what he did - someone who's not, couldn't.

Galdós ousts Maté for Memorial Clavero win

Aitor Galdós might not be hitting the highs of yesteryear and is set to retire after the season, but the 33-year-old showed signs of life on Saturday as he claimed the 21st running of the traditional off-season race Memorial Isabel Clavero in Las Rozas, just outside Madrid.

The former Euskaltel, Ceramica Panaria and Nippo-Hoddo sprinter, and now also formerly of Caja Rural as his contract won't be extended, escaped about halfway through with Cofidis' local hero Luis Ángel Maté. The duo stayed away, and the Ermua native just about edged out Maté to the line, avenging his second place of four years ago. Fellow Basque and erstwhile team-mate Koldo Fernández de Larrea grabbed third.

This year's race paid tribute to former rider Juan Carlos Vicario and José Manuel Fernández, former head of equipment producer Spiuk. Both passed away earlier this year.

A whole host of current pros were present - click on this link to view an image gallery.

Photo: Caja Rural

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Interview: Iñigo Urretxua

He might not be the most well-known within the talent factory that is the Fundación Euskadi, but Iñigo Urretxua is certainly one of the most important ones. As head of sub-23 team Naturgas Energía, he's responsible for overseeing the development of the Basque stars of tomorrow and has watched on close hand the rise of several of his charges into the professional ranks.

As a gifted directeur sportif, he's also been at work with the stars of today, memorably driving the team car at last year's Paris-Nice. Basque Cycling News caught up with the DS and physical trainer, quizzing him about the year that was, the team's recruitment, and his own short-lived, yet successful, career on the bike.

Question: Congratulations on an historic season - Imanol Estévez's win in the Torneo Lehendakari must have been satisfying. Was it a surprise that a first-year rider like Estévez won that race series?

Answer: I don't think it was a surprise - every rider develops at his own pace, and there's always someone who contest races in the first year. Others need more time to adapt, and improve year by year, step by step.

Q: Is he one of the most talented riders to have been at the team?

A: There's been a lot of talented riders at this team since its inception in 2008. All of them are different, both in their way of being and in their way of riding.

This win in Lemoiz propelled Estévez towards the overall Lehenadakari triumph.

Q: Speaking of the team; you won to races, were second in the team classification in the Torneo Lehendakari and, of course, won the overall with Estévez and was third with Larrinaga. Are you pleased?

A: I think we have to be content with the team's season. Every year's different: the age and experience of the riders, as well as the type of riders we have. The important thing for us is that the riders grow personally and as bike riders. I don't think you can value a team's season on its number of wins - one should rather look at how we started the season and how we finished it, in every aspect.

Q: From the team's perspective, what could have been done better? What are the team's main weaknesses?

A: This year we had a very reduced roster - only 12 riders - and as a consequence were a bit squeezed facing the whole campaign. Sometimes some couldn't take part because of injuries and exams as well. Therefore, we'll tackle 2013 with 18 riders.

It's also important to remember that Eduardo Ardaiz's injury was a shame, as he's been off the bike for a year and a half and hasn't been able to progress and develop as other amateur cyclists.

Q: Speaking of the year to come, who's joining?

A: Besides Óscar González, we've signed six: Álvaro Trueba (who'll embark on his second year in the category), and Aitor Morales, Eder Saenz de Ocariz, Bernat Font, Noel Gil and Alberto Barrón, everyone making the step up from the juniors.

You can read more about the team's transfer dealings here.

Q: And who's leaving?

A: Jon Larrinaga, who'll next year be with the new Basque team in the Continental category, and Damien Garcia, who left in the middle of this season for personal reasons.

Q: Do you think Larrinaga will be successful at Orbea (or what it will be called in 2013)? What type of rider is he?

A: Jon is a very strong and consistent rider. We think he can do a great job for the team, but it's too early to say what type of races he'll do best in.

Q: in 2013, Euskaltel won't be a part of the Fundación Euskadi. Does this change affect Naturgas?

A: Still, to this day, the bonds between Euskaltel and the foundation aren't severed. They're currently in negotiations, and we'll wait and see what the outcome is. We're optimistic.

Q: Speaking of Euskaltel, what do you make of the them abandoning their philosophy?

A: Man, Euskaltel will stay on and continue to back and prioritize the Basque riders. What's happening is that, at times, we'll need foreign riders to reach the minimum requirement. Therefore, from the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi, we'll continue to work with the young Basque riders.

Q: Naturgas Energía have signed more and more riders form Iparralde the last few years. How are they progressing?

A: The last years we haven't signed a single rider from France, now we have the two we signed a couple of years ago, Karl Baudron and Loïc Chetout. We hope they'll make a big leap next year.

A Loïc Chetout in good spirits might be set for a breakthrough 2013.

Q: How will next year's calendar be?

A: As we'll have more riders next year, we'll expand our calendar and make a financial effort to leave Euskadi to participate in other races.

Q: As a sports director, what type of contact do you have with the riders during the week? Do you speak to them a lot, or only during the races at the weekends?

A: I'm also the physical trainer at the team, so I'm not only in contact with the riders at the weekends. We speak during the week to adjust their training, to discuss how they're feeling, doubts etc.

Q: Before we conclude, can you tell us a bit about your own cycling career? You were in Olarra, right, and won the Subida a Gorla?

A: My career as a rider was a nice one. I came from mountain biking and switched to the road in my third year as an amateur. I struggled to adapt, above all with riding in the bunch, keeping my place and to read the race, but I managed to show my good climbing abilities and got some good results. In addition, I got to ride some races with the pros with the national team for amateurs.

It was a time when there were a lot of high-quality riders, and I didn't have the chance to turn professional. I thus decided to leave cycling and resume my studies. During my amateur career I finished my Physical Education degree, and once I stopped riding, I started studying for a degree in Physical Activity and Sport.

Lastly, I'd like to say thank you to Miguel Madariaga for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi. I'm still here, I'm proud of it, and I'm happy to be able to work with that I like and what I've studied - which in today's situation is a lottery.

All Photos: Pascal Baudron

Durán reveals Euskaltel talks

Having won the grand total of 21 races on the amateur circuit in 2012, Arkaitz Durán thought, and probably rightly so, that returning to the WorldTour wouldn't be all that hard. However, late in November he's still to settle on a team for next year. Not that suitors haven't come in for the 26-year-old, but they're not quite what he expected. The Azysa-Telco'm-Conor rider feels his performances this year merit a return to the big league, but neither Movistar, Euskaltel nor Caja Rural had place for the former boy wonder.

"We know that cycling's in a state of crisis, but I've done enough to get a place on a Spanish team", he told Gara. "This year our handicap was the points - that system closed a lot on doors on me. I thought I'd easily find a team with 21 triumphs, but at the moment that hasn't happened. I have options to turn pro, though. I'm waiting for a few teams and I can't say more before I sign".

Euskaltel's non-interest in Durán has been the subject of much debate over the years, and likely boils down to the fact that former Euskaltel head Miguel Madariaga had his differences with the rider. With a change in team management, though, things appear to have changed - not that it helped Durán much eventually.

"Initially, Igor (González de Galdeano) wanted to talk to me. He evaluated his options, me included, and decided to go for something else. There was also a time when Movistar seemed interested and it was revealed I'd signed for them, but at no time was there ever anything on the table and it hurt me that it ended like that".

The Vitoria-native is reportedly close to inking a deal with Portuguese Continental outfit Efapel.

Photo: Bikezona

de la Parte angered by lack of reward

Despite only joining Greek professional team SP Tableware in June, Basque Victor de la Parte racked up a healthy number of wins in UCI stage-races this season. A stage and the overall of the Sibiu Cycling Tour, a stage and second overall at the Romanian Cycling Tour and seventh at the Spanish national championship time trial was the net result of an impressive few months, but at the end of the campaign he still found himself short on offers. Having rejected a chance to ride for a Chinese team, the 26-year-old opted to prolong his stay in Greece.

Hailing from Vitoria-Gasteiz, the Basque capital, the former Caja Rural prodigy would no doubt have hoped to attract the interest of either his home team or his former one, but none were interested. And the irony of Tableware team-mate Ioannis Tamouridis joining 'The Carrots' instead of himself wasn't lost on de la Parte when he spoke to Gara this weekend.

"I'm the Basque who's won the most races, I have the sufficient quality, and someday that should matter", he said. "I had an offer from a Continental team in China, but it would have been too much hassle. Therefore I decided to stay here, do a full calendar and keep scoring points".

The all-rounder was initially set for a move to Italy earlier in the season, but when that opportunity disappeared, a good friend came calling.

"When all doors were closing on me, Joaquin Sobrino told me he could talk to his team. Through him and a manager I negotiated a contract that would start in June. I didn't think twice about making the move, as everything appeared to be lost then. When I was given the chance, the results came quickly as I was so motivated".

Speaking of Tamouridis, de la Parte didn't sound overly optimistic about his erstwhile team-mate's 2013 prospects.

"We heard the rumours of his move when in China. He was very excited to be on a WorldTour team, and I told him it was killing me, as that was my local team where I wasn't able to land a deal. He's a 32-year-old who's very good in one-day races, but I don't know how he'll do in the WorldTour".

Photo: Marca

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Basque CX roundup from Koksijde World Cup

A full contingent of Basque cyclocross racers made there way up to the rainy Belgian coast for today's UCI World Cup race at the famous sand dunes of Koksijde. With World Cup races being run under national federations, the majority of the Spanish National team was made up of Basque riders.While there were no outstanding results today on a course that is notoriously dominated by Belgians, there were signs of promise.

Jonathan Lastra led the Spanish contingent in the U23 race along with the Basque twins, Jon and Iñigo Gomez. Having stated in his interview with Basque Cycling News that he was not happy with his World Cup performances this year, Lastra was looking to improve on his 30th and 34th places from the previous two World Cup rounds in Tabor and Plzen, respectively. Koksijde is a course that does not forgive and Lastra had an uphill battle against him all day since sand is not an element that features much in Spanish cyclocross. While not being able to improve on his results, Lastra rode a solid race, finishing in 32nd place, 5'33" behind winner Wietse Bosmans, and it was a major improvement on his 53rd place last year. The Gomez brothers did relatively well with Iñigo finishing in 33rd, 5'38" behind, and Jon finishing in 36th, 6'32" behind.

  • 1. Wietse Bosmans (Belgium)
  • 32. Jonathan Lastra (Spain) +5'33"
  • 33. Iñigo Gomez (Spain +5'38"
  • 36. Jon Gomez (Spain) +6'32"
Lierni Lekuona Extebeste, who is only 17 years old, flew the flag in the women's race, trying her best to keep up with the more experienced women, some who are double her age. Lekuona was able to finish in a group that finished one lap down in 33rd place, behind a flying Katie Compton (USA). 

The elite men's race included Basque stalwart Egoitz Murgoitio, who was coming off a 7th place in the French Cup race at Besançon. Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga was included on the startlist but still seems to be bouncing back from his injuries from a fall at Muskiz. Murgoitio, who was 16th at the World Championships at Koksijde last year, had high hopes for a high finish today but he had to contend with a redesigned course and a course that was soaked with rain. While not being able to replicate that result, Murgoitio had a decent race that left him finishing in 34th place, 6'31" behind an incredible Sven Nys. 
  • 1. Sven Nys (Belgium)
  • 32. Egoitz Murgoitio (Spain)
Photo: Eunate Fernandez 

    Jonathan Lastra interview

    While the young Basque hopefuls at Euskaltel might have failed to shine on the road this year, there's an unpolished diamond shining ever brighter on the cyclo-cross circuit. Jonathan Lastra is the man in question; Egoitz Murgoitio's team-mate who's made a name for himself internationally in the sub-23 ranks this year. Only a few months into the season, and the 19-year-old has already racked up a healthy amount of podium placings: second in the sub-23s in Baden and Neerpelt, fourth in Besancon, and three times a victor in his age group domestically.

    If he continues to progress at the rate he's been doing the last couple of years, it won't be long before the Bilbaíno is vying for the wins in the Superprestigio races alongside the likes of his Hirumet-Taldea team-mate Murgoitio, Aitor Hernández and Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga. Speaking before the weekend, Lastra made time for a small chat with Basque Cycling News to talk 'cross, his big goal of the season and the state of the domestic 'cross scene.

    Question: First off: you're competing on the international sub-23 level for the first time this year and have, among other results, finished 22nd in Baden, 30th in Tabor and 34th in Plzen. Are you pleased? Has it gone better than expected?

    Answer: Yes, this year I'm doing a calendar much more international than last year. The first race was the one in Baden, Switzerland, and I was quite surprised by the result: I didn't expect to finish that high up. However, the results in the World Cups haven't been up to expectations. I thought I would be able to be a bit further ahead, but various mishaps in both races saw to it that I wasn't able to show my true level.

    Q: Besides the level of racing, what's the main differences between riding in Spain and Belgium, the Czech Republic etc.?

    A: There are big differences. Especially in Spain; the circuits are different, the times of the races and the way that the races are disputed.

    Q: Will you compete much in Spain this year, or for the majority abroad?

    A: We'll ride all the World Cups and a few other races at international level. Domestically, we'll do the Superprestigio series, the international ones and the national champs.

    Q: What's your strong point in cyclo-cross? Your technique, your strength...?

    A: I'd say my strengths are running with the bike on my shoulder and the very heavy, muddy circuits. I don't consider myself technically bad, but I have a lot to work on if I want to have a good technique.

    Q: What do you think of the state of Spanish cyclo-cross at the moment? Better or worse than in the past?

    A: I think the average level in Spain has gone up, but there's still much to be improved on. Also, it has to be said that, like David Seco did in his time, Egoitz Murgoitio is performing very well internationally.

    While he's won the sub-23 classification in all three Spanish races he's entered this season, the three top-six placings among the elites are just as, if not more, impressive. 

    Q: What's your main goal this year?

    A: This year it's the national championships. It slipped away from me last year because of a fall when I was going solo towards the win. Besides that, I'd like to get international experience and continue to progress in every aspect.

    Q: What's your proudest moment on the bike?

    A: I'd say that has to be the day I won the national championships in the cadete category. Though, winning important races are always good memories.

    Q: Who'd your idol and source of inspiration in cyclo-cross?

    A: I've always liked Sven Nys. He's the best in every way. Although I've only seen him at the start line, I've been able to ride against him on a couple of occasions.

    Q: Throughout 2012, you've competed and captured impressive results in various road races, the MTB championships etc. Would it be an option for you to compete more in these disciplines in the future, or is it just the mud for you?

    A: I would never say never or close doors, but, right now, I'm not thinking about other disciplines. I prefer to stay in 'cross.

    Q: What does a normal training week for you include? Do you do a lot of road riding, or more with your 'cross bike?

    A: It depends on what part of the season I'm in, whether I do more or less high-intensity rides. I ride my road bike almost every single day alone, while I do one or two rides a week on my 'cross bike.

    Q: Besides training and competing, are you studying as well?

    A: Yes, I'm studying to be a Senior Technician in Physical and Sport Activities.

    Next up for Lastra and Murgoitio is today's World Cup race in Koksijde.

    Galdeano - I regret the handling of Txurruka

    While Igor González de Galdeano has received a fair bit of criticism by doing away with Euskaltel's unique Basque-only philosophy, he's perhaps received equally much flak for doing away with Amets Txurruka.

    Galdeano still stands by his decision to sign a host of foreigners to his "new" team in 2013, but has finally admitted he could have handled the Txurruka case better.

    "I regret the handling of Amets Txurruka", he told Vavel. "I wasn't able to measure the impact of him leaving Euskaltel. As for the rest, no (I don't regret releasing him). What we did was strictly for sporting reasons. Euskadi is a small country where everyone speaks about everyone, and it seems that decisions that are taken are always taken for another reason. I was the one who brought Amets from Barloworld to Euskaltel, but the time came when I though we needed a change. In fact, with his new team he's said he wants to return to the one he was before. Still though, I recognize I didn't successfully handle his non-renewal".

    To further his point, Galdeano went on to claim that if Txurruka really is that valuable, another WorldTour team would have picked him up.

    "The team gave him every chance to show he should be kept on, and if he didn't do that it was only down to sporting reasons. In fact, if he was at the level they say he is, he would now have been at another WorldTour team. And saying he was informed late on in the year doesn't really matter. Three years ago he told me he had an offer to jump ships, and I regarded that as completely normal. This is a professional world, the elite, but when someone touches him, it's apparently an injustice. No one should feel that they've got a guaranteed spot on the team just through being Basque".

    Photo: Deia

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Koplad-Uni2 changes name; finalizes roster

    Basque sub-23 outfit Koplad-Uni2 will undergo a name change in time for the 2013 season, and today revealed their roster for the upcoming campaign.

    The team will from now on wear the name of the place their based out of, namely Sopelana, a small village just north of Bilbao, Vizcaya. Out goes Koplad, and the team will thus be known as Sopelana-Uni2, according to BiciCiclismo. The team will lose DS David Etxebarria to Cafés Baqué, as previously reported, but will count on a big 21-man line-up.

    Only five will stay on from this year: Alejandro Trapote, Ander Ruiz de Larrea, Dennis Alvarez, Xavier Rementeria and Aritz Sasiain. As such, 16 riders will join the team, and these are:
    • Aitor Agirre (Zirauna)
    • Ander Agirrebeitia (Aosa)
    • Alfonso Bea (CAI)
    • David Civera (Cerámicas Onda)
    • David Cotillas (Electro-Alavesa)
    • Asier Jiménez (Aosa)
    • Aritz Llaguno (Vicinay)
    • Tauvai Marie-Bornand (Team Peltrax-CS)
    • Touiti Marie-Bornand (Team Peltrax-CS)
    • Juan José Martínez (Cerámicas Onda)
    • Javier Ochoa (Cafés Gometero)
    • Óscar Pelegrí (Cerámicas Onda)
    • Jon Quintanilla (Cafés Baqué)
    • Aritz Sulibarria (Umpro)
    • Iker Ruiz de Loizaga (Electro-Alavesa)
    • Galder Zurimendi (Aosa)
    Emilio Ramos, José Luis Laka and Miguel Sánchez will act as sports directors.


    Gorospe - Now everything will be different

    When Julián Gorospe speaks, people listen - and for good reason. As a two-time Vuelta al País Vasco overall winner and conqueror of stages in both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, not to mention main sports director during arguably Euskaltel' highest peak with the Mayo/Zubeldia-duo wreaking havoc at the turn of the century, his statements carry a certain weight.

    As so many of the team's fans, the 52-year-old isn't happy with the changes being implemented at his old team. Not only that, he says it's likely to affect Basque cycling way down to the grassroots level.

    "Yeah, now I think everything will be different", he told El Pedal de Frodo. "I think Euskaltel would have had a place at the Tour if they'd continued as they were - the team's history, what they've achieved in the past and what they still achieve would have been enough I think. What we're seeing now is the result of pressure from the UCI, as they needed those points to finish inside the top 15 and to be able to take part in the Tour.

    "But things will change. It'll change because the riders that had a dream of joining their home team will lose that chance. The youngsters and the kids will now think twice about becoming cyclists. And when people from outside the region joined, Euskaltel became just like any other team".

    While many are predicting a fan exodus in the wake of the fundamental changes in the team's policy, Gorospe think they'll still be around - if slightly less passionate.

    "I think the fans will line the roadside, but not with the happiness and desire they used to", he stated. "If you're a cycling fan you'll continue to back the riders from the region and the team from the region, but I think we'll lose the brilliant years Euskaltel enjoyed (in the past). The riders who have joined are unknowns. If they perform well, the fans will support them, but not like earlier when everything was so close, everyone were from here, they were well known... ".

    Speaking about his own tenure at the orange team, the Mañaria-born erstwhile Reynolds and Banesto rider labelled it "brilliant".

    "I have very good memories (from that time)", he said. "I think it was a modest team (back then), a team that hadn't succeeded in reaching a high level. But little by little we made our way and went far: we won stages at the Tour, Midi Libre, Euskal Bizikleta... For me it was brilliant, and the truth is that those were very good years. I didn't expect to get to that situation, a situation in which I was directing a team after having been a rider, with the riders responding like they did. They were great years as everything we were doing became more and more important. We grew little by little, with local riders and a special philosophy, with great supporters... it was exciting seeing the roadsides drenched in orange. It gave me goosebumps."

    When pressed on which victory was the most special one, Gorospe reverted to classical, diplomatic directeur sportif-language.

    "Laiseka's wins in the Vuelta were brilliant, and the one at the Tour even more so. And then there was the Dauphiné of Ibán Mayo, Haimar's Euskal Bizikleta, Ibán also won País Vasco... I think all triumphs were important. I won't say that this or that one was more important, as every single one, at that time, made you feel happy and satisfied with what was achieved".


    First team get-together coming up

    Ioannis Tamouridis, André Schulze and co. will have their first chance to get acquainted with Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón et al. when the team arranges its first pre-season training camp next week.

    Of course, it'll be more a meet & greet than a training camp, seeing as the riders will do all their usual planning, medical check-ups etc., with a bit of training thrown in. The team will gather at the team's headquarters in Derio, just north of Bilbao, from Monday the 26th through Thursday.

    By then, the team might have gotten an answer from the UCI's Licence Commission whether or not they'll be part of the WorldTour next year. As team head Igor González de Galdeano put it though, that "shouldn't be a problem".

    Photo: Vavel

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Durán denies Efapel signing

    Arkaitz Durán's seemingly never-ending search for a home in 2013 continues: Despite reports on Tuesday he'd put pen to paper on a deal with Portuguese Continental outfit Efapel, the rider himself has now denied this.

    The 26-year-old has been the subject of much transfer speculation for the better part of four months, and Durán tells El Correo it's going to be a while yet before that is likely to end.

    "I haven't signed anything with them", he said of Efapel, but admitted he's held several discussions with the team management.

    Reportedly, he's weighing up his options and hopes to reach a decision "soon, in less than a month". According to the trustworthy newspaper, he has three offers, all of them foreign ones, on his table.

    Photo: Noticias de Álava

    The day of truth

    Igor González de Galdeano and Euskaltel will stand before the UCI's Licence Commission today, hoping to receive a long-term WorldTour licence.

    While Euskaltel fulfilled the sporting criteria by finishing 15th on the UCI's rankings after a much-debated spending spree this off-season, they're still not officially in the WorldTour. Today, the Commission will value the ethical, financial and administrative criteria of the 'new Euskaltel', and is likely to issue a decision on Monday the 26th.

    As telephone company Euskaltel has pledged support of the team for the next four years, the team is hoping to receive an equally long guaranteed stay at cycling's top table.

    Photo: Orbea

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    Jure Kocjan interview

    Few would argue Jure Kocjan is a skilled bike rider - his results the last few years speak for themselves. The big question mark, though, is how a sprinter and one-day rider - not to mention a Slovenian - will fit in at an Euskaltel still, true to form, dominated by climbers and stage-racers.

    Speaking to Basque Cycling News, the 28-year-old doesn't appear to have any such qualms. In the ensuing interview, the former Team Type 1 rider talks Euskaltel, his background in mountain biking and his late entry to road racing - and rates Andrej Hauptman as his biggest hero.

    Question: First of all, congratulations on making it into a WorldTour team! How does that make you feel?

    Answer: After three years of riding at the Pro Continental level, I've finally made it - and of course I was really happy when I signed the contract. I think next season will be the most important one of my career.

    Q: Is it daunting joining a team previously only made up of Basques, or will it be just like joining any other team?

    A: I heard a lot of good things about Euskaltel and their numerous fans, so I'm proud I'll wear the traditional orange jersey. It'll be a big challenge.

    Q: Are you nervous about the higher quality of races and the higher quality of competition?

    A: Yes, a little bit, but that just makes me more motivated to prove myself.

    Having only started road racing at the end of his teens, Kocjan has come a long way.

    Q: You've said in the past that you've also had some interesting offers from French teams. What made you choose Euskaltel? What were the pros and cons?

    A: I received offers from both WorldTour teams and Pro Conti teams. But I opted for Euskaltel because it's a big team with a big history. I think the Basque Country and Slovenia might be a bit similar, so I can't wait to visit!

    Q: For those who follow cycling, your name is not a new one - you've had impressive results for years. Are you surprised it's taken you so (comparatively) long to join a top-level team?

    A: The main problem is that I started my career very late. The next problem is that I'm Slovenian. When you're young and want to turn pro you need very good results. When I was 22, nobody knew about me. But year by year I improved, and 2011 was a good year. Ahead of the 2012 season I received my first offer from a WorldTour team, but I decided to stay for another year with Team Type 1.

    Q: Did you sign for one or two years?

    A: I signed a one-year deal.

    Q: How has the national media reacted to you signing for such a big team?

    A: There was, and still is, a lot of publicity. All the sports media reported on me signing with this special Basque team.

    Q: As a sprinter and classics rider, what do you think it will be like to ride with a team like Euskaltel, seeing as they've been weak in those areas for years?

    A: I think they'll be more competitive in those areas with the new riders.

    Kocjan spent two years at Carmiooro-NGC before teaming up with Team Type 1 ahead of 2011.

    Q: It's probably too early to talk race schedules, but do you know if a Grand Tour might be on your calendar?

    A: It's too early to say.

    Q: Tell us about your childhood. Did you do any other sports, or was it always cycling? Do you have any family doing sports? 

    A: My mother was a good cross country skier, and I used to do alpine skiing in the winter. I also did running and football when I was young. I started riding mountain bikes when I was 15, and started on the road when I was 19.

    Q: Your place of birth, Jesenice, is pretty well known for its ice hockey, right? Is that sport something you're into?

    A: I was born in Ljubljana - I've played ice hockey twice in my life!

    Q: Oops, that's embarrassing. Anyway, do you remember your first bike race?

    A: Yes, it was a mountain bike national cup race in 1999. I won.

    Q: Who was your cycling hero while you were growing up?

    A: When I started road racing, my hero was Andrej Hauptman, who was third in the 2001 Lisbon World Championships road race. Now he's a good friend of mine.

    Q: And who do you consider your best friend in cycling now?

    A: There's more than one: Mahoric, Ilesic and Vrecer from Slovenia. Then there's Colli and Bazzana from Italy, and Ventoso from Spain.

    Q: Off the bike, what is your main interests?

    A: I spend my spare time with my wife and our two-year-old daughter.

    Q: And, finally, the obligatory question: what do you make of the Lance case? About time he got caught, or is he still the rightful winner of those seven Tours?

    A: This case should have been solved years ago. I think if they prove he's guilty, he's not the rightful winner of those Tours.

    Photo: &

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    No place in Spain for Durán, goes Portuguese

    Former Basque hope Arkaitz Durán has finally found a team for next year - but it's not as glamourous a team as his performances this year might have merited. The 26-year-old Azysa-Telco'm-Conor rider will in 2013 wear the colours of Portuguese Continental outfit Efapel.

    BiciCiclismo erroneously reported in mid-August that Movistar had picked up the talented Vitoria-native (a story this site subsequently bought into). Movistar chief Eusebio Unzué admitted he'd held talks with the rider most known for skipping the sub-23 ranks altogether by joining Joxean "Matxin" Fernández's Saunier Duval as a fresh-faced 19-year-old in 2005, but an agreement wasn't reached, and Durán will thus have to ride with a foreign team next year as neither Euskaltel nor Caja Rural had room/wanted the gangly all-rounder in their ranks.

    Arkaitz Durán is known to have enjoyed a rocky relationship with outgoing Euskaltel head and alma mater Miguel Madariaga in the past, perhaps explaining why a rider widely regarded as a freak of nature in his youth never donned the jersey of his home team.

    Photo: El Diario Vasco

    David Etxebarria returns to Baqué

    Remember this guy? As most of you probably can tell, the picture shows the legendary Once, Euskaltel and Liberty Seguros rider David Etxebarria. The Abadiño-born 39-year-old, a two-time Tour stage winner, was once one of Spain's finest and most popular riders, but disappeared into oblivion after retiring in the wake of the damaging Operación Puerto.

    Close followers of the Basque amateur scene will know he's been working as a sports director for Koplad-Uni2 the last couple of years, but he's now decided to go back to his roots and take on a similar job at the famed Cafés Baqué outfit, Deia writes.

    Baqué, which will embark on its 35th season in the sport in 2013 with a budget double the size of this year, was where Etxebarria learned the ropes of the sport before joining Once in 1994. He was one of the team's finest exports, alongside the likes of Joseba Beloki, Ibán Mayo, Iñigo Landaluze, Marino Lejarreta, Mikel Zarrabeitia, Igor Astarloa, Pedro Horrillo, David López and Unai Etxebarria - to name but a few.

    At Baqué he'll replace a certain Rubén Gorospe, himself not an unknown to Euskaltel followers of course after his one-year stint with the team in its maiden season, who'll leave for "professional reasons", according to a press communiqué.


    Monday, November 19, 2012

    ...and it's that man Hernández again

    Aitor Hernández completed another weekend of back-to-back wins by claiming Sunday's cyclo-cross race in Llanera, Asturias.

    The Orbea rider thus took full advantage of perennial contenders Egoitz Murgoitio and Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga's absence to snatch his seventh triumph of the season - and we're barely halfway through November.

    Erlantz Uriarte, third yesterday, went one better to claim second,  which is his top result of the year. Daniel Ania, fifth in Colindres, grabbed the last podium spot, BiciCiclismo reports.

    Results VI Ciclocross La Morgal:
    1. Aitor Hernández (Ermua Orbea)
    2. Erlantz Uriarte (Ibaigane Opel)
    3. Daniel Ania (Nesta-MMR]
    Roció Gamonal bested Lucía González to the women's prize, while Alicia González once again took out the juniors' event. The best male junior rider was Pablo Suárez.

    Photo: Iñaki Azanza

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    Basque Crossers Abroad in France and Belgium

    With this being a down week in Spanish cyclo-cross, Basque star Egoitz Murgoitio and his U23 teammate Jonathan Lastra went to the French Cup race in Besaçon while Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga ventured to Belgium to race in the Superprestige race and Asper-Gavere.

    The U23 French Cup race included a deep field with 81 participants including U23 French champion Julien Alaphilippe, former Junior World Champion Clément Venturini and last year's French junior Champion Quentin Jauregui. Lastra was not able to follow the front group but was able to seperate himself from the rest of the field and finish 4th, 40" behind the winner Alaphilippe.
    1. Julien Alaphilippe 52'25"
    2. David Menut 02"
    3. Quentin Jauregui 08"
    4. Jonathan Lastra 40"
    5. Clément Venturini 53"
    Lastra's Hirumet-Taldea star teammate Egoitz Murgoitio was able to race against a stronger field than usual and finished in 7th, 1'26" behind a flying Francis Mourey (FDJ-BigMat).
    1. Francis Mourey 1h03'04"
    2. Guillaume Perrot 22"
    3. John Gadret 1'05"
    4. Nicolas Bazin 1'11"
    5. Julien Roussel 1'20"
    6. Romain Lejeune 1'26"
    7. Egoitz Murgoitio s.t.
     Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga, who is coming back from a weekend off after crashing, raced on a very muddy and slick course at Asper-Gavere in Belgium but like nearly half the field, had to pull out.

    Photo: DeportesOnline

    Track Roundup: Elorriaga takes bronze in Glasgow omnium

    After holding the lead for the majority of the day, Unai Elorriaga (Cespa-Euskadi faltered in the kilometer time trial to slip behind both Lucas Liß of Germany and Omnium World Champion Glenn O'Shea to claim bronze at the Glasgow UCI Track World Cup on Saturday. The 32-year-old Elorriaga earned his first international track medal since 2008, where he won the Madison World Cup in Melbourne with partner David Muntaner Juadeda.

    In the morning session, competitors in the omnium tackled the 4km individual pursuit and the 15km scratch race. Elorriaga rode a solid 4'32" in the pursuit to get 4th place and mitigated any big losses in points. The fast-paced scratch race was not kind to Elorriaga. Starting off quick and attacks flying, a large group of riders were able to gain a lap though none of the riders were contenders for the overall. After more attacks in the final laps, Elorriaga was not able to contest the final sprint and lost valuable overall points to Liß and O'Shea.

    Going into the final event in the evening session, the kilometer TT, Elorriaga possessed a 2 point lead over both Liß and O'Shea, who were equal on points. Liß put in a blistering ride in the 2nd to last heat and set the best overall time. Having to put in a ride of a lifetime in one of his weaker events, Elorriaga fell short by placing 8th and slipping to 3rd in the overall. While there might be dissapointment after the final event, it does signal a return to form for Elorriaga and perhaps brighter prospects for the rest of the track season.

    On the women's side, 35-year-old Olympian Leire Olaberria Dorronsoro ( - Gipuzkoa) started in the first 3 events of the women's omnium with a field that includes Olympic and World Champion Laura Trott. The rider hailing from Ikaztegieta started the event off well by placing 2nd in the flying lap by a mere .024 seconds. While she was a bronze medalist in the points race at the 2008 Olympics, Olaberria was only able to manage 10th place.

    In the evening session, the women contested the elimination race, which was filled with some thrills and a big spill. On an early sprint lap, German Mieke Kröger went down hard on the boards after being bumped, which neutralized the race for a period as she was helped off. When the race was restarted, the pace was frantic, with riders at the back being stuck and hardly being able to advance. Olaberria was eliminated in 12th place thus giving her a difficult challenge for her to overcome if she wants to get into medal contention. She is the current Spanish champion in the pursuit and scratch race which might be able to give her a boost in the standings as both are being contested tomorrow along with the 500m time trial.

    2) Marcel Segessemann

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    ...and another one for Aitor Hernández

    Aitor Hernández offered further proof he's ready for international challenges by cantering to his sixth win of the young season in Colindres, Cantábria, on Saturday.

    The Orbea rider ousted former Euskaltel stable-mate Aketza Peña by a whopping 1:09, while third was reserved for Ibaigane Opel rider Erlantz Uriarte, almost two and a half minutes in arrears. While the field was of a distinctively lower profile than what he's been up against in the Superprestigio series, it will only serve to increase his confidence after a morale-boosting couple of weeks.

    Results (courtesy of BiciCiclismo):
    1. Aitor Hernández (Ermua-Orbea), 56:13
    2. Aketza Peña (Zallako Belodromo TKE), 1:09
    3. Erlantz Uriarte (Ibaigane Opel), 2:20
    4. Asier Arregi (, 2:21
    5. Daniel Ania (Ciudad de Oviedo-Nesta), 2:22
    6. Zigor Urain (CDR Bicicletas), 2:25
    7. Júlen Zubero (Ciclos Zubero), 2:27
    8. Alberto Sainz (MTB Ramales), 2:37 - winner sub-23
    9. José Luis Blanco (Cangas de Onis Ciclismo), 2:59
    10. Pablo Fernández (Incera-Forlica), 3:02
    Unsurprisingly, Lucía González (Lointek) ran away with the women's race, while, again as expected, Alicia González grabbed the juniors' race. Adrián Garcia (The Bathco) beat Incera-Forlica duo Óscar Linares and Alfonso Ayestaran to the junior men's crown.

    Photo: Iñaki Azanza

    Zabalo and Etxebarria say goodbye to Orbea

    The make-up of Euskaltel's feeder team, Orbea, for next year is still up in the air as they struggle to find sponsors, but what's clear is that several are leaving the blue team. Andoni Blázquez, Aritz Extebarria and Xabier Zabalo (pictured above) are three of those. The former two have decided to dismount the bike for good, while the latter still hopes to find a team for the fast-approaching 2013 season.

    24-year-old Etxebarria just completed his third year with the team, and does not sound too disheartened at having to step away from the sport and entering the regular job market.

    "I've been given the opportunity, it's been good, and now I begin another stage of my life", he told Gara, revealing he's planning to finalize his studies before start looking for a job. "I was given the chance, and I saw a sport going global with fewer and fewer possibilities for those of us who are not stars. (Leaving the bike) is no failure, and the memories of competing in the Basque Country will stay with me."

    Xabier Zabalo, meanwhile, who'll forever be remember for that crash in Italy last August, intends to pursue his career - although he readily admits it'll be difficult.

    "I couldn't stay with Orbea because of my age", the 25-year-old said. "But there's no place for me on domestic teams, it's impossible. I've checked out some foreign ones, and the idea is to keep riding as I've got room for improvement. I've ruled out going back down to the amateur level, though, as it's been four years now since I last rode there. I've looked for Continental teams outside of Spain, but I haven't found anything yet. I hope to find something during this month.

    "As for Orbea, I'm pleased overall. I've been given the opportunity to ride professionally and get to know this world with a young team, a team which I knew I wouldn't be able to stay with forever. I'll take with me the overall experience and the friendships I've made".

    Photo: Iñaki Azanza

    Cazaux - It's hard to return to amateur ranks

    After two seasons at Euskaltel that can be labelled either 'decent' or 'mediocre', depending on your point of view, Pierre Cazaux was deemed surplus to requirements by Igor González de Galdeano at the end of the 2012 season. Like fellow French-Basque Damien Branaa, he's forced to step down to the amateur level to make a living next year, and will spend at least one season riding for home team Blagnac. Speaking refreshingly honestly in today's Gara, the 29-year-old says it's mainly to be able to pay the bills.

    "I'm not going to say I'm returning to the amateur ranks to have fun or whatever", he said bluntly. "I didn't want to make this step down or continue as a bike rider in this way, but I need money. Blagnac called me, asking me to ride for them and make money. It's very hard mentally, though, to go back to being an amateur after riding as a pro for five years. I'm not thinking about whether I can again be a professional in 2014. I'm working and riding my bike to earn a bit more money".

    Cazaux came over from Francaise des Jeux in the winter of 2010, and has ridden three Grand Tours in his time with 'The Carrots'. Naturally, he cherishes those memories.

    "It's been two good years, two years in which I've done the work I've been asked to do", he said. "It's been a very pleasant experience, and I want to extend my gratitude towards the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi and Miguel Madariaga.

    "There were many good times. The 2011 Giro was very hard, with Wouter Weylandt's death and eight-hour stages with rain and cold, but also happy memories like the wins of Nieve and Antón on the most beautiful stages. As well I'll keep with me this year's Giro with the win of my roommate, Ion Izagirre, and the time we spent together. At Euskaltel, more than being team-mates, we were a group of friends".

    "It's hard to race when you don't get paid"

    As previously reported, French-Basque Damien Branaa will return to the amateur ranks in 2013 after an unsuccessful year-long stint at 2012 Burgos BH - Castilla y León. The 26-year-old will team up with released Euskaltel rider and best friend Pierre Cazaux at French outfit Blagnac next season, and says money problems put paid to his professional adventure in Spain.

    "It's been a very hard year for me, as I haven't received my pay every month", he told Gara. "It was tough for me and my wife to pay for the house, the car and everything else you need to live every month. I haven't been able to focus 100 per cent on the bike because of this, and as a result I didn't perform as I would have liked to. It was a very hard year, and therefore I prefer to continue as an amateur with Blagnac, who are also professional".

    Looking towards the future, he's not overly optimistic of returning to the pro scene.

    "There are many riders who want to turn pro, and in France the Veranda Rideau won't continue, Roubaix is downgrading from 12 to 10 riders, and other teams do the same... It's very difficult with the points system and the teams' lack of money".

    Photo: BH Bikes

    Track Roundup: Elorriaga storms to omnium lead in Glasgow

    Unai Elorriaga Zubiaur took the lead in the omnium on the first day of the UCI Track World Cup in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. The 32-year-old from Barakaldo, Vizcaya rode superb points and elimination races, taking 2nd and 1st place respectively, to secure a 4 point lead on 2nd place Lucas Liß of Germany.

    The morning session started the action with the flying lap and the points race. The flying lap, an individual 3.5 lap race where only the last lap being timed, started off the proceedings with Elorriaga placing 7th, a bit over 3 tenths of a second off of Liß. The 2nd race of the morning session, the points race, proved to be fruitful for Elorriaga with the Basque rider scoring a massive 103 points to come 2nd behind Volodymyr Kogut of Ukraine.

    The evening session only had one event for the men's omnium in the elimination race. With the object of the race being not to be caught at the back on the sprint laps, the pace fluctuated from relaxed to frantic throughout the event. Elorriaga used great tactics and easily made the final selection where he was able to overhaul a tired omnium world champion Glenn O'Shea in the final sprint for the win. Saturday will contain three more events in the individual pursuit, the scratch race and kilometer time trial.

    In other news from Glasgow Basque riders Illart Zuazubiskar (Orbea) and Asier Maetzu composed half of the Spanish team pursuit squad that rode to 4th place, being beaten in the bronze medal final by Belgium.

    Photo: Tiffany Hore

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Galdeano "sure" fans will stay loyal

    Despite a sizeable contingent of the team's followers letting their frustration known at the direction the team is taking, head chief Igor González de Galdeano is not too worried. Having taken some well-deserved time off after finalizing the team's paperwork for the UCI, the ex-pro told Marca he's sure the Pyrenees in July will be just as orange-clad as ever in the coming years.

    "I'm sure our supporters will continue to root for us", he said. "After all, this team remains centred on Basque riders, and they're our greatest asset.

    "We feel good. We're preparing for the new season - which is just around the corner. We hope and desire to do things well. We've had to do a different job compared to what we're used to, but it seems to be worth it. We've taken the necessary step in modern cycling."

    As the head of the team, Galdeano would naturally have been pleased at the news the team came in 15th at the UCI's list - and thus highly likely to receive a WorldTour licence. He's never been one to get carried away, though, and insists they aren't just there yet.

    "We've only passed the first filter at this point", he said. "We still have to wait for the Licence Commission's decision; they have the final say. But there shouldn't be any problems", he said.

    Finally, he confirmed what's been said earlier, that the team will expand its calendar into new countries and disciplines in 2013, saying "now we've got cyclists to take on races in France and Belgium, and we'll also have a bigger presence in the Classics", adding: "I think we'll do well".

    Photo: Deia


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