Monday, December 31, 2012

Hernández soft pedals to Euskadi crown

Aitor Hernández made light work of the competition at the Euskadi Championship race in Ormaiztegi on Sunday, adding the regional champion title to the overall Superprestigio win taken the day before.

The Orbea rider soloed to the win ahead of Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga and Aketza Peña - in other words the exact same podium as in Puente Viesgo the day before. Egoitz Murgoitio was once again hit by bad luck, crashing while checking out the course pre-race. A broken tooth and a hit to the knee was not enough to stop the Hirumet-Taldea rider from lining up, but he was naturally way off the pace and had to settle for a distant sixth.

25-year-old Erlantz Uriarte of Ibaigane Opel finished just off the podium in fourth, while another former road pro, erstwhile Orbea rider Júlen Zubero, came in fifth.

Results, elite (full results here):
  1. Aitor Hernández (Ermua-Orbea), 54:22
  2. Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spiuk), 0:48
  3. Aketze Peña Iza (Zallako Belodromo), 1:19
  4. Erlantz Uriarte (Ibaigane Opel), 1:39
  5. Júlen Zubero (Ciclos Zubero), 2:13
  6. Egoitz Murgoitio (Hirumet-Taldea), 3:54
  7. Asier Arregi (Bizikleta.com), 5:02
  8. Alain Mendijur (Bizikleta.com), 6:14
  9. Zigor Urain (CDR Bicicletas), 7:07
  10. Asier Bolivar (Aiala S.C.), 7:29
Jonathan Lastra once again saved Hirumet-Taldea's day by clinching the sub-23 crown, edging out the multitalented future Caja Rural rider Jon Ander Insausti by four seconds. The Gómez brothers, Jon and Iñigo, took third and fourth respectively, while Bidelan-Kirolgi's Mikel Elorza came through for fifth. Insausti's training buddy Pello Olaberria grabbed sixth ahead of another pair of brothers, Cafés Baqué duo Peio Goikoetxea in seventh and Xabier Goikoetxea in ninth, Debabarrena's Ion Rivero finishing in between in eighth. Josu Urrestarazu closed out the top ten.

Results here.

Mendiz Mendi prodigy Eneko Corrales beat Caja Rural's Alex Aranburu to the junior title, Gotzon Martín, famous for modelling Euskaltel's 2013 jersey recently, grabbing third. Among the cadetes, Jokín Alberdi bested Unai Orbea and Josu Albizua, with a kid with the interesting name of Iñigo Landaluze grabbing fourth.

Olatz Odriozola bested Eider Merino convincingly among the women, Lierni Lekuona taking third.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Galdós - Our agreement wasn't respected














While the signings of Amets Txurruka, Iván Velasco, David Arroyo, Omar Fraile et al. have widely been hailed as masterstrokes by the Spanish and international press, there's quite a few who are not that impressed with the dealings at Floren Esquisabel's Caja Rural outfit. A number of talented youngsters have seen their dreams of turning professional postponed yet another year, while, equally alarming, a considerable number of current employees claim their departures from the team have been unceremonious at best.

Sports manager and lead sports director Mikel Azparren, highly thought of and held in high regard by riders and fans alike, was surprisingly let go at the end of the season, and has recently criticized the team's handling of his departure in no uncertain terms through the media. The once-promising David de la Fuente is likely to call his cycling career quits this year, having not gotten his deal with Caja Rural renewed despite assurances from the team top he would be kept on into 2013.

Former Euskaltel sprinter and one-day rider Aitor Galdós also looks increasingly likely to hang up his bike for good at the relatively tender age of 33 after being let go by the team - and isn't best pleased with how he's been treated either.

"Right now I have nothing", he told Deia. "I'm without a team. It's a complicated situation. Surely I'll now have to decide to do something else. Finding a team is impossible. But I don't know why my time at Caja Rural is up. We had an agreement in place for 2013 that wasn't respected. It was surprising. I think I did enough to merit another year.

"I really enjoyed my two years at the team though. What's more, I had the opportunity to meet a guy like Mikel Azparren, a guy I think did very well while he was here".

Though it's slim pickings for professional cyclists in Spain at the moment, he did receive "a few offers", but decided against accepting them. Looking forward, though, he's clear on where he wants to be.

"I've always said I wanted to stay connected to cycling. I've got the directeur sportif title, and that would be the dream if I can't keep riding. If nothing happens in the next two weeks, I'll know my sporting career has come to an end. Then I'll try to work as a DS".

Galdós, who spent four years in the orange jersey between 2007 and 2011, has been spotted at the occasional 'cross race this off-season, but admits he's more attracted to triathlons and might try them out in the future. With less than 48 hours to go before the new year, time is running out to secure a future on the road.

Photo: Noticias de Gipuzkoa

Drama as Hernández wins Superprestigio overall















The last round of the Superprestigio series was cyclo-cross at its purest: unpredictable, dramatic, exhilarating. Aitor Hernández emerged as the victor, profiting from leader Egoitz Murgoitio's mishaps to run away with both the race and the overall crown to take a richly-deserved triumph.

Hirumet-Taldea's Murgoitio held a nine-point lead over the Ermua-Orbea rider going into the Puente Viesgo decider, and the former Euskaltel man had the odds firmly stacked against him. Second place would guarantee Murgoitio the crown and, given his and Hernández's domination this season, it was hard to see how he could lose his grip on the crown.

Cyclo-cross is everything but predictable, though, and no one would have predicted Murgoitio crashing out of contention mid-race after a string of Constantino Zaballa attacks had left him, and the rest of the leading pack for that matter, on the ropes. Hernández joined Zaballa, former Euskaltel companion Aketza Peña and the revived Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga at the front of the race, keeping a consistently high pace that hindered Murgoitio to ever catch back on.

Hernández held off Larrinaga in the sprint to take his third win of the six-race series, while Peña and Zaballa came in ahead of Murgoitio in fifth to ensure the Orbea man could lift the big prize aloft. Overall, Hernández amassed 131 points to Murgoitio's 125, while Isaac Suárez held on for third despite not participating.

Results, elite:
  1. Aitor Hernández (Ermua-Orbea), 56:47
  2. Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spiuk), s.t.
  3. Aketza Peña (Zallaka Belodromo), 0:20
  4. Constantino Zaballa (Zugor Bikes), 0:27
  5. Egoitz Murgoitio (Hirumet-Taldea), 0:54
  6. José Antonio Díez Arriola (Bikezona.com), 1:45
  7. Agustín Navarro (Ciudad de Oviedo), 1:51
  8. Fernando San Emeterio (Club MTB Ramales), 2:47
  9. Asier Arregi (Bizikleta.com), 3:08
  10. Óscar Pujol (Mallatalud Bike), 3:47

Sub-23 talent Jonathan Lastra saved Hirumet-Taldea's day by taking out the sub-23 crown, despite finishing two places behind Ismael Félix Barba in seventh on the day.

Results, sub-23:
  1. Ismael Félix Barba (EnBici-Stevens), 58:34
  2. Jonathan Lastra (Hirumet-Taldea), 0:58
  3. Damian García (Bizikleta.com), 2:11
Felipe Orts came away with the junior crown as expected, while Roció Gamonal had already won the women's elite category before going into the race, and therefore didn't line up. Lucía González took out the race in her absence, while sister Alicia González came away with the overall junior prize.

Jon Gil won the cadete category, while Lidia Lilian Barba won the women equivalent.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nieve set for Tour de France debut
















Mikel Nieve will as anticipated get his Tour de France bow in 2013, and is set to lead the team in his maiden Grand Boucle.

BiciCiclismo claim to know the 28-year-old's calendar, which is also set to include an appearance at the Vuelta a España later in the year. Nieve, who's developed into something of a Grand Tour specialist through his stage and general classification heroics in the Giro and the Vuelta the last three years, will of course build his season around the biggest race on the planet, and is likely to lead the team outright in the absence of the Giro-bound Samuel Sánchez and the Vuelta-bound Igor Antón.

One-week stage races like the Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya are also races he'll aim to shine in in the coming season.

Calendar for the first part of the year:
  • 3-6 of February: Challenge Mallorca/6-10 of February: Tour Méditerranéen
  • 17-21 of February: Vuelta a Andalucía
  • 3-10 of March: Paris-Nice
  • 18-24 of March: Volta a Catalunya
  • 30 of March: Gran Premio Miguel Indurain
  • 10-14 of April: Vuelta a Castilla y León
  • 23-28 of April: Tour de Romandie

Friday, December 28, 2012

Mikel Landa reveals dream calendar
















They say one's sophomore year is always the hardest, and Mikel Landa would certainly subscribe to that view. The 23-year-old burst onto the pro scene in some style by taking out the Vuelta a Burgos' queen-stage atop the mythical Lagunas de Neila in 2011, but found success harder to come by in a decidedly below par 2012. His only result of note was a creditable second to Daniel Moreno in the Gran Premio Miguel Indurain in the spring, while an anonymous ride towards 69th overall in his maiden Grand Tour in the Vuelta was less than his fans, his managers and, surely, himself has expected.

As arguably the most talented climber to come out of the Basque Country since Igor Antón though, Igor González de Galdeano's support for the Murgia-native is unwavering. As a show of his faith in the much sought-after Fundación Euskadi product, Euskaltel's General Manager has handed his young charge a 2013 racing calendar filled with some of the team's biggest races.

The major goal of his season will again be the Vuelta a España, El Correo today reveals. But that's not the only attractive race on his schedule.

"I've got a good calendar with many WorldTour races", he said. "Racing Catalunya, País Vasco and Romandie shows Igor counts on me".

The 2013 season will also see him being handed his debut in the Ardennes Classics, races that should, on paper anyway, be suited to his characteristics. After this heavy first half of the season, he'll retake competition at the Clásica Ordizia and the Vuelta a Burgos to prepare for his second assault on the Spanish three-week race.

Murgoitio - It was my best race this year

















Egoitz Murgoitio has issued a warning to his rivals ahead of the decisive weekend of racing coming up. His rivalry with the in-form Aitor Hernández will reach its climax on Saturday as the duo duke it out for the overall Superprestigio crown in the last round of the race series in Puente Viesgo, Cantabria, before the title of Champion of Euskadi is up for grabs in Ormaiztegi on Sunday.

Having not spent Christmas competing on the World Cup circuit in Belgium unlike Murgoitio, Larrinaga, Suárez et al., Hernández might be physically fresher for both races. However, speaking after finishing 22nd in Zolder on Wednesday, the Hirumet-Taldea captain said the weekend's double-header could hardly have come at a better time.

"Zolder was my best race of the year", he said on his own website, having gone from 45th after the first lap to finish just outside the top 20. "Someone crashed into me from behind on the first round, and that left me way off pace. But the sensations were the best so far this season, and that motivates me for the remainder of the campaign. I was quickly able to catch up with Larrinaga and Suárez's group and leave them behind. My final result doesn't say much, but I'll go home in high spirits as I'm approaching the level of form that I want - and there's still a lot of racing left this season".

Murgoitio holds a slim nine-point leave over Hernández ahead of the series decider (115 to 106 points). MMR-Spiuk's Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga, 31st and 29th in Namur and Zolder respectively, will be present and hoping to give Hernández and Murgoitio a run for their money, while Constantino Zaballa will also be hoping to mix it up with the discipline's top riders. Reigning national champ Isaac Suárez will, according to the Spanish Cycling Federation, miss out, as he'll stay in Belgium to do a few more races.

Jonathan Lastra, also him fresh off international racing, should take home the sub-23 crown, while the junior category is a three-way battle between leader Felipe Orts (Infiniobras-Moixent), Caja Rural's Basque Alex Aranburu and EnBici-Stevens rider Diego Pablo Sevilla.

Orbea-Centeno's Roció Gamonal, who hails from a certain Samuel Sánchez's hometown of Oviedo, Asturias, has already taken out the women's elite series, while fellow Asturian Alicia González only needs to reach the finish line to win the junior crown.

The elite racing in Puente Viesgo kicks off at 13:15 on Saturday.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New team 12 days away














In less than two weeks' time, the reinvented Euskaltel Euskadi anno 2013 will be presented to the public.

The traditional team presentation will, according to BiciCiclismo, be held on Wednesday, January the 9th in the Parque Tecnológico building in Derio, just outside Bilbao. The show will get underway at 12:30, and is likely to be in stark contrast to last year's rather subdued, low-key team unveiling in the Basque capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz.

On show will be the team's new jerseys, new staff and, of course, the much-debated new riders.

Photo: Deia

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Intxausti plotting Italian revenge













For a rider who has promised so much yet has delivered so little, being forced to watch a feasible overall podium place in a Grand Tour drift away two days from the end due to illness must have been a bitter blow. Yet Beñat Intxausti, for so long Basque cycling's own prodigal son, insists that dropping from sixth to 38th in the 2012 edition of the Giro d'Italia wasn't that big a deal. "I'm not disappointed about the outcome", he tells BiciCiclismo - but adds that only the podium will do next time around.

"The Giro d'Italia will be the first goal of the year", the 26-year-old, who went on to place tenth in the Vuelta in September, intimates. "I'll go there with bigger hopes. Last year I was sixth up until the 19th stage, and from there on I couldn't do more because of illness. I was sixth overall, very close to Basso in third, and the final individual time trial was more in my favour than Scarponi's. With this experience and by working well, I can improve.

"The tenth place in the Vuelta gives me hope that I can better it and aspire to something bigger. I'll go for the general classification, and I aim to step up into the top five - and, why not, think about the podium. That's my goal.

"I made an important step this year; I showed I could be ahead in the Grand Tours. I'm 26 now, in 2013 I'll be 27, and I hope to take advantage of that."

The native of Amorebieta, Bizkaia, is adamant that "leadership doesn't scare me", though he freely admits "it is a big challenge".

"Going from sixth to third might seem like a big step, but that mightn't be the case as the differences are often minimal. I'll be heading for Italy with ambitions and a strong team behind me. I've proved to myself and to my team that I can improve and make that step up".

He revealed he'll start off his season at the traditional Spanish season-opener Challenge Mallorca, before going on to either the Vuelta a Andalucía or the Tour Méditerranéen. Then comes the Tirreno-Adriatico, the GP Miguel Indurain, the Vuelta al País Vasco, the Klasika Primavera and then the Giro.

Intxausti will be back at País Vasco after a one-year hiatus, but only expected to be at approximately 70-80 percent, keeping plenty in reserve for the Italian three-week race. Whether he'll embark on another Vuelta later on in the year remains to be seen - for now, he's got his eyes firmly fixed on the Corsa Rosa.

"I like the route - it's similar to this year's", he said. "There's a team time trial, then there's a long individual race against the clock that will be hard, and then there's the hill time trial. To finish off, there's the final stages in the Dolomites and the Alps. It suits me; the climate, the recorrido, the way of racing... The level of participation will be very high, but you never know. The problems I had this year, getting sick, can happen to anyone".

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

No luck for overseas 'crossers

The top placings escaped the Basque cyclo-cross contingent racing in the fifth round of the World Cup-series in Namur on Sunday.

Hirumet-Taldea duo Egoitz Murgoitio and Jonathan Lastra, as well as MMR-Spiuk's Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga, all lined up for the race, but none managed to crack the top 20.

Murgoitio had to contend with two punctures and a disappointing 26th place, leaving him frustrated at the finish line.

"For one reason or another I can't seem to get a result that satisfies me", he told Deia. "I don't know what's up with all the punctures this year. I'm using the same tires as always, so I guess it's just a question of luck. We have to be realistic, though, and I'd be among the top 15 or 20 if I could avoid mishaps. I think that's where I belong", he concluded, before adding "happy christmas to everyone".

The precocious Jonathan Lastra did not have the best of days either, finishing two laps down in 43rd place - and thus outside the UCI's limit.

Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga ended up an anonymous 31st, but wasn't all too disappointed afterwards.

"My body responded physically, though my technique was a bit rushed", a satisfied Larrinaga said after completing his first international race of the season.

All three will be back in World Cup action on Wednesday in Zolder.

Samu wins prestigious regional award
















Entirely as expected, Euskaltel Euskadi captain Samuel Sánchez was voted best cyclist of Asturias for 2012.

The 34-year-old wins the award off the back of a roller-coaster season which saw him finally win the Vuelta al País Vasco, but was forced out of both the Tour de France and the Olympics through injury. According to www.lne.es, Samu was "one of the most celebrated" athletes present at the regional cycling federation's annual gala this past weekend as he picked up his prize.

'Samu' also took time out to pay tribute to fallen rider Iñaki Lejarreta.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Remembering Iñaki Lejarreta

Orbea posted this beautiful tribute to the late Iñaki Lejarreta today, 24 hours after a staggering eight thousand people turned up to pay their respects by participating in a mass ride from Bilbao to Iurreta on Sunday. Watch below:


Astarloza gets dream 2013 calendar
















Mikel Astarloza will once again be back at the Tour de France, the race of his biggest win and even bigger embarrassment, in 2013.

The veteran rider, famous for winning stage 16 of the 2009 edition of the French GT before testing positive for EPO, revealed his racing schedule for the fast-approaching season, with the Grand Boucle forming the crux of his first part of the season.

Before embarking on his ninth Tour, though, he'll take on a bunch of the biggest races on the planet. Among other races, he's pencilled in for the Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, Vuelta al País Vasco, the Ardennes Classics, the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse.

According to his own website, this is his complete schedule:
  • January 22-27: Tour Down Under
  • February 6-10: Tour Méditerranéen
  • February 16-17: Tour du Haut-Var
  • February 23: La Drôme Classic
  • February 24: Classic Sud Ardèche - Souvenir Francis Delpech
  • March 3-10: Paris-Nice
  • March 18-24: Volta a Catalunya
  • April 1-6: Vuelta al País Vasco
  • April 14: Amstel Gold Race
  • April 17: Flèche Wallonne
  • April 21: Liège-Bastogne-Liège
  • April 23-28: Tour de Romandie
  • June 8-16: Tour de Suisse
  • June 29-July 21: Tour de France

Hernández bests old team-mate to Oñati win


















Aitor Hernández grabbed back to back wins this weekend by cantering to his 13th success of the season in Oñati, Gipuzkoa, on Sunday.

The former Euskaltel roadie had no trouble holding off former team-mate Aketza Peña a day after soloing to glory in Treto, Cantabria, going clear on the third lap and never looking back. Erlantz Uriarte continued his consistent season by taking third.

Results (courtesy of the Basque Cycling Federation):
  1. Aitor Hernández (Ermua-Orbea)
  2. Aketza Peña (Zallaka Belodromo)
  3. Erlantz Uriarte (Ibaigane Opel)
  4. Asier Arregi (Bizikleta.com)
  5. Joseba León
The Gómez brothers unsurprisingly dominated the sub-23 event, Iñigo triumphing ahead of Jon. Jon Ander Insausti, who's decided to wholeheartedly focus on the road in the future, came up with third, showing he's still got it. 

Eneko Corrales shut out Alex Aranburu in the junior category, while Jokín Alberdi held off yesterday's winner Jon Gil in the age group below. Olatz Odriozola profited from Lucía González's absence to take the women's elite win ahead of Maite Murgia, whilst Lierni Lekuona, who early in the week got the honour of showing off Euskaltel Euskadi's 2013 jersey to the public, grabbed the junior event. 

Photo: Alex Soro

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A dozen and counting for Hernández

















Aitor Hernández was in a league of his own as he romped to his twelfth triumph of the year on Saturday in Treto, Cantabria.

The win was never in question as the Ermua-Orbea rider went solo early on and held on to win by a comfy 1:13 ahead of the seemingly never-tiring Constantino Zaballa, who's set for a return to the European road peloton in 2013.

The race also counted as the regional champs, meaning Zaballa could raise his arms aloft despite crossing the line in second. Zaballa held off reigning national champ Isaac Suárez for the title and for second in the race, while Agustín Navarro and Kevin Suárez closed out the top five.

Hernández was of course not in the running for the crown of regional champion, but will hope to win the Basque equivalent in Ormaiztegi on Sunday the 30th of December.

Results (full results, courtesy of BiciCiclismo, here):
  1. Aitor Hernández (Ermua-Orbea), 56:57
  2. Constantino Zaballa (Zugor-Bikes), 1:13
  3. Isaac Suárez (Bio Racer/Caravanas Erandio), 1:58
  4. Agustín Navarro (Ciudad de Oviedo), 2:05
  5. Kevin Suárez (Bio Racer/Caravanas Erandio), 3:31 - First sub-23
  6. José Antonio Díez Arriola (Bikezona.com), 4:14
  7. Erlantz Uriarte (Ibaigane Opel), 4:28
  8. Asier Arregi (Bizikleta.com), 4:30
  9. Júlen Zubero (Ciclos Zubero), 1 lap
  10. Alberto Sainz (MTB Ramales), 3 laps
Kevin Suárez was best of the sub-23s, Álvaro Carral best of the juniors, while Jon Gil was the top cadete on show. Lucía González as expected took out the women's elite race, while, equally unsurprisingly, her sister Alicia came away with the junior crown. 

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fundación ride for Lejarreta
















The Basque cycling community will turn out in their masses in Bilbao on Sunday to pay homage to fallen riders Víctor Cabedo and Iñaki Lejarreta, as well as campaigning for better rider safety on the roads.

An anticipated sizeable peloton will start out by the famed Guggenheim museum in downtown Bilbao at 10:00 am Sunday morning, and will ride to the death scene of Lejarreta in Iurreta, Durango - approximately an hour's ride. By doing this, the Basque cycling society hope to raise awareness of just how unsafe the roads are for cyclists, and as an end result hopefully get their point across to local politicians.

Euskaltel's website reports the Fundación's president and vice-president, namely Miguel Madariaga and Iñaki Zarate, Cabedo's girlfriend, Fundación employee and former cyclist Dorleta Zorrilla, Orbea DS Aritz Arberas and his riders Haritz Orbe, Igor Merino and Jon Larrinaga, Naturgas Energía DS Iñigo Urretxua and his young charges Imanol Estévez, Oier Sánchez and newbie Alberto Barrón, will all be present.

Photo: www.elmundo.es

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ruiz de Larrinaga set for international Xmas














Fresh off an encouraging second place in the Ciclocross Internacional Ciudad de Valencia last weekend, Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga will spend the upcoming Christmas holidays racing in Belgium, looking to rediscover the form that brought him much joy early on in the season.

The former Kaiku road pro started off the 'cross season in solid style, racking up four triumphs and a host of podium placings. A knee injury sustained in Muskiz in November put him back, though, and he's been off the trailblazing pace set by Ermua-Orbea's Aitor Hernández and Hirumet-Taldea's Egoitz Murgoitio ever since.

Second to Hernández on Sunday indicates he's approaching form once again, and he'll aim to step it up a further notch by taking on two World Cup races in Belgium within the next seven days.

The 33-year-old will race in Namur on the 23rd of December and in Zolder three days later, Gara reports.

"Two important races in Namur and Zolder are coming up, and I'll use them to further improve my form and refine my technique", he said.

After a two-week hiatus, the Basque calendar recommences with a race in Oñati, Gipuzkoa, this coming Sunday.

Photo: Noticias de Álava

Lejarreta case: Driver of car positive for drugs


















The accident that ended mountain biker Iñaki Lejarreta's life on Sunday might have been fuelled by drugs.

Various Spanish and Basque media today report that the driver of the Renault Clio which crashed into the 29-year-old on the N-634 road in Iurreta failed a drug test after the fatal accident. However, the positive test might have been triggered by medication the 22-year-old driver was on.

According to the ever well-informed El Diario Vasco, sources close to the driver of the car have confirmed a medical certificate was presented at the time of the analysis.

Local police are therefore awaiting the outcome of further tests before they can tell what caused the preliminary positive.  

Photo: www.avanzamosciclismo.com

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The ultimate Iñaki Lejarreta tribute

Iñaki Lejarreta laid to rest

Fallen rider Iñaki Lejarreta's funeral was held Monday evening in the San Juan Evangelista church in Berriz, Bizkaia. Close to 2000 people came to bid their last goodbye to the popular 29-year-old, killed after being struck by a car while out training Sunday morning.

Among those in attendance were Igor Antón, Miguel Madariaga, Rubén Gorospe, legendary Athletic Club goalkeeper, icon and ambassador José Ángel Iribar, and Orbea team-mate Rubén Ruzafa, seen carrying the coffin in the short Eitb video clip above.

2013 Euskaltel jersey revealed



Next year's Euskaltel Euskadi jersey, manufactured by Belgian brand Bio Racer, was unveiled to the public today. While sticking with the iconic orange theme, the jersey is distinctly different to previous years. Black makes its introduction, while the 'Euskadi'-logo has gotten a makeover. The big 'K', a press release reads, "combines tradition and modernity" and is "intimately related to the Basque language".

The Orbea logo features, as its done since the team's inception back in 1994, as well as two 'Ikurriñas', the Basque flag - one on the left sleeve, and one on the back of the shorts.

The equipación was presented at the team's headquarters in Derio, with General Manager Igor González de Galdeano and Bio Racer's commercial director, Mateo Hermans, present. To signal the team's intention to keep unearthing local talent, a trio of promising youngsters showed off the clothing.

The trio of Josu Albizua (Álava), Gotzon Martín (Bizkaia) and Lierni Lekuona (Gipuzkoa) got the honour of presenting the jersey to the press. All three of them were fresh from competing in the cyclo-cross race 'Cross de Nailloux' in Toulouse, France, this past weekend.

According to Galdeano, the jersey will "continue to make Euskaltel riders stand out in the international peloton because of the traditional orange colour".

What do you make of the jersey?

Click here for more pictures.

Monday, December 17, 2012

- Iñaki preferred the silence of the mountains
















Tributes to the fallen Iñaki Lejarreta have been pouring in ever since the 29-year-old mountain biker was his by a car and killed five kilometres from his home in Berriz Sunday morning. One of those who's been most vocal is former road pro Pedro Horrillo - which should not come as a surprise, seeing as he was a close friend of the Orbea rider and now works as a journalist.

Horrillo, who hails from nearby Eibar, of course flirted with death himself only three years ago, when he famously fell off the descent off the Culmine di San Pietro in the 2009 Giro and fell 70 metres into a ravine. In today's El País, the former Rabobank rider tells the story of how he rightly feared the worst when he saw a blue Orbea helmet lying atop a cement roadblock close to several police cars.

"I saw a bike helmet lying on that road block and, given the time of day, I immediately understood it had to be a professional cyclist", he said, moments earlier having been stopped by the police driving his car on the same N-634 road between San Sebastián and Bilbao. "I knew it had to be a professional, as only pros go training alone. Non-professionals ride in groups and, as there had been a dinner with the majority of the professional cyclists from the area 'till five o'clock in the morning the night before, it couldn't be any of them. So I thought it had to be Iñaki.

"Thank goodness police wouldn't let me through and look under the white blanket - I would have identified him instantly, and it would have been a terrible moment. Iñaki was a good friend of mine".

Both the said daily and Deia today report that the driver of the Renault Clio which hit Lejarreta from behind was blinded by the early-morning sun and didn't see the rider. The fatal accident happened in a 50-zone bereft of heavy traffic on a beautiful Sunday morning, with the 22-year-old driver allegedly on his way to work as a Red Cross volunteer.

To further compound the tragedy, Lejarreta and his wife and trainer, former mountain biker Naiara Telletxea, were expecting their first child in January. According to Horrillo, Lejarreta never really liked riding the road, citing the stress it brings with it.

"As well as riding mountain bikes, he could have made a career on the road. But he chose cross-country over road riding as he didn't like the atmosphere in the peloton, the doping", he said. "As well he told me that he suffered training on the road - that it was too stressful and that he preferred the tranquillity of the mountains. But he had to do some training on the roads, as not all of his training rides could be done in the mountains.

"He was witty, educated, restless... He was the kind of guy you could talk to about anything. He was a great conversationalist, he didn't mind if we spoke for two or four hours.

"The worst thing is that things like these make you lose the motivation to go riding, because this is not an additional risk. It's part of the profession, like my fall in the Giro was".

Lejarreta will be buried at 19:00 on Monday in the church of San Juan Evangelista in Berriz, his birthplace a couple of kilometres east of Durango.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Duo bemoans safety after Lejarreta tragedy

Watch Basque pro duo Beñat Intxausti and Koldo Fernández de Larrea speak out on the dangers facing cyclists in the wake of Iñaki Lejarreta's passing in an interview with Eitb below:

Aitor Hernández races to 10th win in Valencia


Aitor Hernández (Orbea) continued his outstanding year with his 10th win of the season at the Cyclocross International Valencia today but it was a much tighter finish than he has been used to. With Egoitz Murgoitio (Hirumet-Taldea) absent, Hernández was left to contend with two other mainstays in the Basque cyclocross calendar, Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spiuk) and Spanish Champion Isaac Suarez (BioRacer - Caravanas Erandio). The trio was able to break away on the fast, flat circuit and no one was able to challenge them for the duration of the event.

The trio exchanged furious attacks with Isaac Suarez laying down a ferocious attack with 4 laps to go that distanced his opponents for 2 laps, both Hernández and Larrinaga having to chew on their stems for two straight laps to regain contact. Larrinaga played his hand and showed his return to form by laying down another attack within one lap to go that got him around 6 seconds advantage before fading. The three riders came together at the end and Hernández took the initiative in the sprint, and won handily, beating Larrinaga and Suarez into 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

Elite Men (full results here)
  •  1, Aitor Hernández (Orbea) 1:00:39
  • 2,  Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spiuk) s.t.
  • 3.  Isaac Suarez (BioRacer - Caravanas Erandio) s.t.
  • 4. Daniel Guerrero (Cliniconfort - Bicisprint) +50"
  • 5. Santiago Armero (BioRacer - Caravanas Erandio) +54"
All of the podium finishers have expressed their condolences for their fallen countryman Iñaki Lejarreta, who tragically passed away after being hit by a car during training.

Photo: RFEC/Orbea

Iñaki Lejarreta dies














Basque mountain biker Iñaki Lejarreta was killed on Sunday after being hit by a car while out training.

The 29-year-old was hit from behind by a car while riding on the N-634 road in Iurreta, Vizcaya, close to Durango. Efforts were made to revive the Orbea rider on the scene, but medics were not successful. A Renault Clio, with a 22-year-old resident of Iurreta at the wheel, is reported to have crashed into the rider at around 9:30 am, Lejarreta apparently riding westwards towards Bilbao. According to reports, the roads were virtually bereft of traffic (which is normal on a Sunday morning).

Watch a video of the scene here, including pictures of the car, the police, the smashed bike, cyclists despairing and the body covered by a white blanket.

Iñaki Lejarreta Errasti, road legend Marino's nephew and former road pro Ismael's son, hailed from the area, and has been one of Spain's standout cross-country riders for the better part of a decade. He got his big break by winning the junior mountain bike world championships in Vail, Colorado, in 2001, and went on to represent his team at World Cups in the proceeding years and his country at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He was also a double champion of the Copa de España, and has World Cup podiums to his name.

Only a month and a half ago, the likeable Lejarreta told this website that he was considering changing disciplines for the upcoming year, as the folding of Orbea's mountain bike team had left him scrambling for a job in 2013. As it turned out, he stayed in the blue of Orbea to the very end.

To read a short biography, click here. Check out his complete palmarès here. For the Spanish Federation's statement, click here.

BiciCiclismo are honouring Iñaki by gathering all Tweets concerning his passing here, under the title "The cycling world mourns the death of Iñaki Lejarreta". Worth a read.

Lejarreta's passing naturally follows hot on the heels of Euskaltel rider Víctor Cabedo suffering a similar fate in mid-September. People are taking to Twitter in their masses to say farewell to Lejarreta, as well as condemning the safety of cyclists in Spain. Former Cervélo pro Óscar Pujol perhaps summed up everyone's feelings when he tweeted "I'm saddened at the news of Iñaki Lejarreta. Another car, another cyclist. I send my sincere condolences to his family".

Watch an interesting interview with Iñaki and Marino below:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fraile - I wasn't prepared for WorldTour move
















Having an agreement to join the local WorldTour team broken off and being forced to watch relatively unknown foreigners join the team instead, one would excuse Omar Fraile for being a tad bitter. Speaking to Gara, the new Caja Rural recruit appears to be everything but, though, insisting he agrees with Igor González de Galdeano's judgement that a move to the top level was perhaps a move too big in 2013.

The former Orbea rider had a deal in place to join 'the Carrots' next year, but will instead don the green of Caja Rural alongside the likes of Amets Txurruka and Iván Velasco.

"I took Galdeano's proposal (that the move to Euskaltel be called off) very well", he said. "We shared the same opinion. I wasn't prepared, seeing how cycling, with it's points system, is today. Now I'm joining a smaller team without the competitiveness of the WorldTour to continue growing and prepare to join the very elite in the future.

"At the time being I'm focused on Caja Rural, and we'll see next year where we stand", he continued, affirming he's not guaranteed a spot on Euskaltel's 2014 roster. "If everything goes well in the future, I'll return with them. I want to go step by step, to grow as a rider, because it's very difficult to reach the top level in today's world of cycling".

As mentioned above, the 22-year-old will team up with former Euskaltel duo Velasco and Txurruka at Floren Esquisabel's team. Going from being a fan of the duo to being their team-mate is something he's enjoying.

"They're very good riders, and personality-wise they're cracks. I've been travelling with them since the first day, and they're nice guys. It's a bit strange though; I've followed them since I was a kid, and being their team-mate and friend is great.

"The team has been strengthened this year. It'll be a competitive team that will be noticed. Moreover, the mood in the training camps is very good - it's a good group".

Looking towards next year, Fraile admits a debut appearance at the Vuelta al País Vasco "would be a dream come true". Competition for places will be hard though, but, whether he gets the nod to do that race or not, stage-races will be where he aims to shine the most, as "that's where I perform the best and am enjoying myself the most".

Just like this year, the Volta a Portugal will be a major goal in 2013. Before that, though, he's likely to line up in the Challenge Mallorca, Algarve, some French one-day races, the Giro del Trentino, the GP Miguel Induráin, Vuelta a La Rioja, Klasika Primavera and the Vuelta a Asturias.

Photo: Diario de Navarra

Murgoitio drops out; Gómez brothers to France

Hirumet-Taldea star Egoitz Murgoitio will not head to Valencia on Sunday after all to take on an international field in the C2-ranked Ciclocross Internacional Ciudad de Valencia.

The 29-year-old is struggling with a niggling injury to his right knee and will therefore stay at home. The injury is not reported to be serious though, so he'll take a so-called "active break" from racing for a week. The upcoming World Cups in Belgium are not thought to be in jeopardy.

One who will be present, though, and hoping to reignite his season after a troubled few weeks with injuries, is Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga.

The lack of racing on in the Basque Country this week will see a sizeable contingent of up-and-coming Basques head over to France to prove their mettle. Gara reports 15 riders have been picked by the Basque Federation to take on the Cross de Nailloux, close to Toulouse, on Sunday.

Bio Racer - Caravanas Erandio brothers Ion and Iñigo Gómez will line up in the sub-23 ranks, juniors Alex Aranburu, Aritz Hernández, Patxi Aldanondo and Gotzon Martín will get a run-out, as well as cadetes Jon Gil, Unai Orbea, Josu Albizua and Jokin Alberdi. Paula Lanz and Lierni Lekuona will start the women's junior event, while Olatz Odriozola, Maite Murgia and Eider Merino will be out to impose themselves on the elite race.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Izagirre - We'll help the foreigners to integrate
















Through his sensational solo stage win at his first Grand Tour and overall impressive 2012 season, young Ion Izagirre has quickly become a mainstay of Euskaltel and one poised for future leadership of the team. Hoping to kick off the 2013 season in top shape in Australia in January, the 23-year-old is at the time of writing clocking up kilometres in Benidorm along with his fellow Down Under-bound team-mates. While the team for the first WorldTour event of the season will be made up of Spaniards exclusively, the foreigners who've joined the team in the off-season will get ample opportunity at the start of the year to bring in results, and more importantly points, in races in northern Europe.

See the tentative line-up for the Tour Down Under here.

The team's recent get-together at the team's headquarters in Derio was the first opportunity for the old riders to meet the new ones, and, according to the affable Ormaiztegi-native, making sure Euskaltel remain a solid and tight-knit unit shouldn't be too much of a problem.

"It's clear that things have changed at the team, but the structure remains the same", he told BiciCiclismo. "The majority of them speak Italian or English. They're nice guys who want to become a part of the team, and we'll help them integrate. We've changed our Basque-only philosophy; with the UCI's points system and the globalization of the sport it's not obligatory, but the team's been forced to sign riders with points to their name to stay in the WorldTour.

"Eventually we got the licence. We more or less expected to get it, but it gives us peace of mind now that it's official, and above all because it's for four years".

Izagirre finished up his season at the World Time Trial Championships in mid-September, having completed 58 race days and logged close to 10 000 kilometres. He then went on to spend a whole month off the bike, before resuming training with exercises in the gym, swimming and hiking in the mountains before getting back in the saddle.

"Yeah, I spent four full weeks not touching the bike", he said. "For the rest of the year you're with the bike every day, so psychologically it's good to disconnect a little bit, spend time with your friends, your family, your girlfriend. I also go mushroom picking or hunting with my father and brother, but not as much as we used to. You don't want to put on ten kilos, but, still, putting on weight in fundamental".

Izagirre's full calendar of races is yet to be unveiled, but a Grand Tour is sure to be on his schedule. It was previously reported that he'd take on the Vuelta a España this year in place of the Giro, but that does not appear to be set in stone just yet. Neither his nor his team-mates' calendars are likely to be mapped out before Christmas.

Until then, though, and before the big kick-off in Australia, check out the video below of what a normal day at Euskaltel is like at the Tour Down Under:

Euskaltel and Fundación reach deal
















A deal has finally been struck between Euskaltel Euskadi and the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi over the much-debated team vehicles.

This means that the riders and staff at the foundation will be paid their November wages before the end of the year. It was revealed late last week that the Fundación had been unable to pay their employees due to a budgetary shortfall Madariaga and co. hoped to avoid by selling numerous team busses and vehicles to the "new Euskaltel" led by Igor González de Galdeano. After discussions the last few days, an agreement has now been reached that will see Galdeano's outfit buy "the assets needed for the team".

In a short press release, Euskaltel state that an agreement "has been signed for the transfer of necessary assets for the cycling team Euskaltel Euskadi". The team considers this deal as "another example of our historic commitment to the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi", and further states that "Euskaltel come to the aid of the Fundación" through "this extraordinary contribution".

The Fundación's communiqué is decidedly more low-key, stating simply that "an agreement has just been reached", and that riders and staff will be paid their November salaries before December the 25th.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Koldo Fernández maps out season goals
















Koldo Fernández will in 2013 embark on his second season with US team Garmin-Sharp, and the Vuelta a España will once again form the crux of the sprinter's season. Before that, though, a trip to Malaysia awaits.

According to BiciCiclismo, these are the races set to feature on his schedule for the first half of the season:
  • Challenge Mallorca (3-7 Feb)
  • Tour du Haut Var (16-17 Feb)
  • Tour of Langkawi (21 Feb-3 March)
  • Volta a Catalunya (18-24 March)
  • Vuelta al Pais Vasco (1-6 April)/Circuit de la Sarthe (2-5 April)
  • Tour de Romandie (23-28 April)/Italian classics
  • Tour de Picardie (10-12 May)
  • Bayern Rundfahrt (22-26 May) (possibly)
  • Critérium du Dauphiné (2-9 June)
The article goes on to claim that Fernández, without a win in over two years, will have plenty of chances to chase personal glory, except for at Mallorca where he'll aim to help Tyler Farrar snag a early-season triumph.

Photo: www.koldofernandezdelarrea.com

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"I can see the light at the end of the tunnel"
















It was on Sunday reported that riders and staff at Euskaltel Euskadi had not been paid their wages for November as the Fundación Euskadi are struggling to reach an agreement with Euskaltel over the sale of team vehicles that would free up money to balance the foundation's 2012 books. Now it appears a solution might be within sight.

"Discussions on Monday and Tuesday will be very important if we are to reach a deal", Madariaga said two days ago. While an agreement is far from being reached, he sounded distinctly positive when talking to Bilbao-based daily El Correo Tuesday morning.

"Now, one can see the light at the end of the tunnel", the soon-to-be former Generel Manager of the team said. Allegedly, the two parties "are getting closer" to an agreement.

Photo: Fundación Ciclista Euskadi

Euskaltel secure four-year licence


















Euskaltel Euskadi were today awarded a four-year UCI WorldTour licence by the sport's governing body.

The team got their licence confirmed earlier on Monday, as the UCI revealed the make-up of the 2013 WorldTour. While it was no surprise to see Igor González de Galdeano's outfit handed a place at cycling's top table as they had met the UCI's sporting criteria, seeing Katusha denied a place was definitely unexpected. While no reason has been offered by either the UCI or Katusha as to why they've been demoted to Professional Continental status, it's believed the governing body has issues with the ethical side of things over at the Russian powerhouse.

There appears to be no such issues with Euskaltel though, who got the additional bonus of being guaranteed a four-year stay in the sport's elite division. Speaking afterwards, team head Galdeano expressed his contentment.

"We're very satisfied, as we'll know have a Basque team at the elite level in international cycling", he said through a press release. "Being handed this licence gives us peace of mind to keep working with enthusiasm for the future. This goes to show we've done well. There's much work to be done in the future, but we're on the right track.

"Together we've ensured that this project keeps going. We've worked hard, but there's still a lot to do. We can't rest on our laurels, that's for sure. Being awarded the licence is a happy starting point for the long road ahead. We'll give it our all every year to stay at the top level. The only thing that's certain is that we have to work hard and professionally. We'll put all our effort, knowledge and commitment into keeping this project going, ensuring that a Basque team stays among the best in the world for many years, and that the supporters can be proud of it", he concluded.

What's interesting from an Euskaltel point of view with Saxo Bank being handed a licence and Katusha denied one, is that it appears signing non-Basques might have been completely unnecessary. As Riis' team were given a licence despite being well short points-wise, there's no reason to believe Euskaltel wouldn't have received one even if they hadn't signed non-Basques with points to their names. With the foreseeable future in the WorldTour secured, there should be no stopping Galdeano and co. reverting to an all-Basque outfit for 2014 and beyond if the desire is there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Madariaga reveals non-payment of rider wages














In the wake of reports that the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi and Euskaltel Euskadi have not managed to reach a deal over the sale of team vehicles from the former to the latter a week ago, foundation president and outgoing team manager Miguel Madariaga has revealed riders and staff have not been paid wages for November.

As previously reported, the Fundación is facing a big budget deficit after sponsors cut back on their support earlier this year, and Madariaga was hoping to balance the books by selling the team's fleet vehicles to Galdeano and co. running the "new Euskaltel". As communication has broken down, the employees have taken the hit.

"The sky is black for the Fundación Euskadi", he told regional radio station Euskadi Irratia, reproduced by BiciCislismo. "Not only the riders haven't received their wages; no employee of the Fundación has. It's the most difficult situation we've ever been in".

According to Madariaga, the wage bills for November and December total 857 000 euros. With the numerous vehicles valued at precisely 918 000, the solution to the problem is obvious.

"The vehicles are mine and the riders' hope of salvation", he stated. "We have to reach an agreement as I see no other way out of this - it's a necessity. Euskaltel need to realize this. If we can't sell the busses to them, the Fundación is in great danger."

Despite the dire outlook, though, the founding father of the team is hopeful a deal can be reached.

"We haven't reached an agreement because we haven't met for discussions. Monday and Tuesday morning will be very important if we are to reach a deal. Euskaltel are holding the keys to solve this problem in their hands. They have to realize most of the riders will stay on with them, and not getting paid is not a good start. But before we reach that point, we all have the opportunity to speak and correct the situation. I harbour hope this will all be solved before the end of the year".

Murgoitio: "It wasn't to be"


















After beating main rival Aitor Hernández and everyone else with consummate ease in Itsasondo on Saturday, Egoitz Murgoitio headed into Sunday's Igorre classic as arguably the main favourite. Despite leading the race for five out of the seven laps though, the Hirumet-Taldea rider was forced to give best to the former Euskaltel man on the hallowed Olabarria circuit - who thus became the first Basque in 25 years to win in Igorre.

Speaking post-race, Murgoitio was as always magnanimous in defeat. Besides praising his rival, though, he went on to admit he got his equipment wrong.

"It wasn't to be", he said in a team press release. "My legs didn't respond. The sun hardened the mud, and I didn't get the tire pressure right. Riding against competitors of the level of Hernández, details like that might be decisive, and today I failed. I had to put unclip in almost every bend.

"Hernández is very strong and very tough psychologically. He didn't give up and won deservedly. All in all, though, the week has been very good, and I embark on the toughest part of the season in high spirits".

Next up for Murgoitio and his team-mate Jonathan Lastra, who as usual was the best of the sub-23s, is the C2 race in Valencia next Sunday (the Ciclocross Internacional Ciudad de Valencia), before heading back to Belgium for more World Cup action.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Hernández overcomes Murgoitio at hollowed Igorre

Aitor Hernández (Orbea) was jubilant as he crossed the line as he was finally able to beat a rampaging Egoitz Murgoitio (Hirumet-Taldea) and claim victory on the famous Igorre circuit. Hernández was able to come from behind after Murgoitio took an early lead, making the juncture with 2 laps to go, and pounced on the final lap to take an 8 second lead, more than enough to secure a big confidence boost.

The start of the elite men's race included a big crash by one of the foreign competitors, Bart Hofman of Belgium, who might have been one of the only ones to challenge either Murgoitio or Hernández today. Murgoitio took an early lead just as he had done at Asteasu on Thursday and at Itsasondo yesterday, while Hernández trailed in his wake along with former Euskaltel teammate Aketza Peña. Murgoitio continued out in front but Hernández gained ground on him every lap until he caught the man from Bizkaia. Hernández launched his move that put him on the top step of the podium while Murgoitio has to settle for 2nd place. Spanish Champion Isaac Suarez finished in 3rd while Aketza Peña surprised in 4th place while Tino Zaballa passed Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga for 5th on the final lap. Murgoitio praised Hernández in his post-race interview, once again saying that he deserved the win and that he himself made mistakes that Hernández capitalized on.

Results
  • 1. Aitor Hernández (Orbea)
  • 2. Egoitz Murgoitio (Hirumet-Taldea) +25"
  • 3. Isaac Suarez (Bio-Racer/Caravanas) +1'10"
  • 4. Aketza Peña (Zallako Belodromo) +2'08"
  • 5. Tino Zaballa (Zugor) +2'17"
  • 6. Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spiuk) +2'34"
  • 7. Erlantz Uriarte (Ibaigane Opel) +2'36"
  • 8. Jonathan Lastra (Hirumet-Taldea) (1st U23) +3'19"
  • 9. Josep Betalu (GSport) +4'40"
  • 10. Jon Gomez (Bio-Racer/Caravanas) (2nd U23) +5'00"
In other action, Caja Rural junior Alex Aranburu won again convincingly for the 2nd day in a row over Felipe Orts (Infinobras) and Alvaro Carral (Incera-Forlica). 22-year-old Lucia González (Lointek) was once again able to deny the feisty Olatz Odriozola in the elite women's race while younger sister Alicia González dominated the junior women's race over Lierni Lekuona.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Murgoitio outduels Hernández at Itsasondo


Egoitz Murgoitio (Hirumet-Taldea) came alive once again in Euskadi and trounced his in form rival Aitor Hernández (Orbea) at the Itsasondo XIII Ziklo Krosa, the penultimate race in the Superprestigio series, to beat him into 2nd place by 57 seconds. Murgoitio, who up until this week has had a rather frustrating season field with crashes and low results, has now beaten Hernández for a 2nd straight race, after beating him at the mid-week UCI C2 race in Asteasu.

Murgoitio once again took the race by the scruff of the neck early on but Hernández, who has had 9 wins in Euskadi this year, including a pair of Murgoitio, was up for the challenge on the soft, heavy course and was able to follow on the early laps along with a stubborn Constantino Zaballa. Murgoitio and Hernández were both able to eventually drop Zaballa but were not able to shake each other until later in the race. Murgoitio made his acceleration with 4 laps to go while Hernández was able to just follow in his wake until 2 laps to go, when the former Euskaltel rider exploded and had to recover. Murgoitio was able to stretch his advantage to a comfortable 57" seconds and extend his Superprestigio lead over Hernández to 9 points. Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spuik) was able to recover from an early mechanical to overtake Spanish champion Isaac Suarez (Bio-Racer Caravanas) for the final podium spot.

Elite Men results:
  • 1. Egoitz Murgoitio (Hirumet-Taldea) 1:01:14
  • 2. Aitor Hernández (Orbea) +57"
  • 3. Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spuik) +2'01"
  • 4. Isaac Suarez (Bio-Racer Caravanas) +2'25"
  • 5. Constantino Zaballa (Zugor) +2'56"
  • 6. Erlantz Uriarte +3'15"
  • 7. Josep Betalú s.t.
  • 8. Aketza Peña s.t.
  • 9. Jonathan Lastra (Hirumet-Taldea) (U23 winner) +4'35"
  • 10. Antonio Suarez +4'59"
In other results. Rocio Gamonal handidly beat Olatz Odriozola by 1'15" in the elite women's race. Junior Alex Aranburu was able to take the top step today in the junior men's race after his loss in Asteasu while Alicia Gonzalez beat Leire Lekuona by 46 seconds to take the junior women's title.

Tomorrow is the 36th edition of the famed Igorre cyclocross race and for the first time in nearly 25 years, a Spanish racer will most likely win the race, which was demoted this year from a World Cup race to a UCI C2 race. Nevertheless, Igorre is an important race to Basque and Spanish cyclocross and it will be filled with some action packed racing.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Friday, December 07, 2012

Murgoitio hits back in Asteasu

















Egoitz Murgoitio got back to winning ways in Asteasu yesterday, besting the in-form Aitor Hernández in convincing fashion.

Hernández's breathless run of form - that's seen him claim nine wins already this year - has resulted in an unusual dry spell for the Hirumet-Taldea star, who's been juggling racing overseas with domestic races since the start of the season.

He was on fire on Thursday, though, never giving the Ermua-Orbea rider a look-in en route to his third triumph of the campaign, finishing half a minute ahead of the former roadie. The pair were in a class of their own, with Constantino Zaballa, set for a return to the European road peloton next year, coming in third a full 2:29 in arrears.

Murgoitio's team-mate Jonathan Lastra continued to impress, taking fourth ahead of a recovering Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga. Lastra's brother, Kevin, was also racing, but could only finish 39th.

Results, Asteasu (full results here):
  1. Egoitz Murgoitio (Hirumet Taldea), 1:01:53
  2. Aitor Hernández (Ermua-Orbea), 0:30
  3. Constantino Zaballa (Zugor-Bikes), 2:29
  4. Jonathan Lastra (Hirumet-Taldea), 3:40
  5. Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spiuk), 4:31
  6. Erlantz Uriarte (Opel Ibaigane), 5:32
  7. Josep Betalú (GSport-Valencia Terra i Mar), 6:30
  8. Asier Arregi (Bizikleta.com), 6:52
  9. Martin Haring (CK Banska Bystrica), 7:36
  10. Alain Mendijur (Bizikleta.com), 8:34
Belgian Arne Poelvorrde bested Alex Aranburu to the junior's title, while Jokin Alberda won the cadetes race. Olatz Odriozola won the women's race ahead of Mercè Pacios and Eider Merino, whilst Paula Lanz of Caja Rural was best among the juniors.

The weekend of 'cross continues tomorrow with a Superprestigio race in Itsasondo, before the big one in Igorre on the famed Olabarri circuit concludes the weekend of racing on Sunday.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Aitor Pérez Arrieta calls it quits
















Basque pro Aitor Pérez Arrieta has decided to put the bike away for good after nine seasons as a pro.

The 35-year-old from Zegama, Gipuzkoa, has enjoyed a stellar career after emerging through the youth ranks of Caja Rural and then Cafés Baqué at the start of the century. He went on to represent top-level teams like Caisse d'Epargne, Footon-Servetto and Lampre for a number of years, but has spent the last year riding on the domestic amateur circuit in the colours of Gios Deyser-Leon Kastro.

While wins have proved hard to come by for the strong all-rounder, he has completed all three Grand Tours, coming close to taking a stage win at the 2010 Tour de France.

Writing on his Facebook account, Arrieta said he's been "privileged to have been able to do what I like the most", and that he'd like to thank "everyone. The sport directors, my training group, my friends, sponsors, my parents and my family".

Photo: www.planetaciclista.blogspot.com

Firsanov refused to sign with Euskaltel


Russian rider Sergey Firsanov (RusVelo) revealed to F-Sport that he was offered a contract by Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano and Euskaltel but refused to sign because of multiple reasons. The Russian, who had a breakthrough year with a stage and overall win at the Vuelta a la Comunidad de Madrid along with 4th overall at the Tour of Belgium and 5th overall at the Tour of Norway, stated that he refused to sign with the Basque squad because he did not want to switch from an all-Russian squad. Firsanov continued by saying that he "would not be able to put (his) soul" into a foreign squad such as Euskaltel that had such a different culture and mentality. Another reason he provided was the Basque fans that were outraged by the move by Euskaltel to become a multi-cultural team.

Firsanov stock rose considerably after an outstanding year but he came to understand that if he moved to Euskaltel that he would be working for team star Samuel Sanchez, something that didn't sit too well with the Russian who has Tour de France dreams of his own. Euskaltel will most likely be riding against the talent that could have possibly been theirs at some point this year in Spain and abroad.

Photo: eciclismo.com

Sabino Angoitia's son joins Contador team

Alberto Contador's new junior team, Specialized-Fundación Alberto Contador, will have one Basque rider in its ranks next year, and it's none other than the son of former pro and Saunier Duval sports director Sabino Angoitia.

Iosu, who's been impressive this year despite riding without a team, will join 13 other riders from the whole of Spain at Contador's newly created outfit in 2013, to be lead by former Spanish team coach José Luis de Santos.

Sabino Angoitia, pictured here alongside fellow Basques Ibán Mayoz and Aitor Pérez Arrieta, was a sports director at Joxean "Matxin" Fernández and Mauro Gianetti's originally-titled Saunier Duval-Prodir team for a number of years before the team folded, and also enjoyed a seven-year career as a professional rider in the 80s.

Photo: www.elciclista.forogratis.es

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Galdeano "evaluating" MPCC option


















As an increasing number of teams and riders have voiced their disapproval of the UCI and their endorsement of the Mouvement pour un cyclisme crédible (MPCC) in the aftermath of the USADA revelations, Euskaltel have kept eerily quiet. That might be about to change, should we believe the man at the helm of the team, Igor González de Galdeano. Speaking to BiciCiclismo from a UCI seminar in Aigle, Switzerland, titled "How to make cycling more attractive", the former yellow jersey wearer revealed the team might seek to become a member of the MPCC.

"We're evaluating the option of joining the MPCC", he said. "We value very highly these types of partnerships to be a member of in the near future. The team wants to contribute towards a clean sport, and that's something we need to do. Up until now we've adhered to the rules and norms of WADA and the UCI, and I don't see anything very different with respect to their initiatives. But we have to evaluate carefully what we will do".

Turning philosophical, Galdeano appeared confused over what exactly ethics in cycling constitutes, and left no doubt that his ultimate loyalty lies with the sport's governing body.

"Ethics is only related to doping. But ethics is more than just that, which leads me to ask the following question: what is ethics? Is it only about doping, or is there more to it? Therefore, the team's intention today is to support all the initiatives the UCI put in place without hesitating, and to value what kind of impact these relationships can have. For now, we'll continue to wait.

"I've always said that we, as a team, will support all the UCI's initiatives - they're the governing body. We want to stand by the UCI in everything that comes next".

For the full interview, click here.

Photo: Marca

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Irizar the TV star
















The story of Markel Irizar's way to the top is well known within cycling circles; being diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 22, the native of Oñati not only managed to beat the illness and turning pro with his home team, he's gone on to enjoy nine (and counting) fruitful seasons at the highest level of arguably the world's hardest sport. Now, that story is about to get that much more known.

In January, the 32-year-old will feature on Spanish Canal+ program 'Informe Robinson', a program that takes the viewer behind the glamorous facade of top level sport and shows the arduous stories that often lie behind it. The filming started this weekend in Mondragón, Gipuzkoa, and will continue through his team RadioShack-Nissan Trek's training camp in Jávea, Alicante, according to KEC Pro Sport.

In November, the erstwhile Euskaltel rider revealed that, ten years on, he was finally well and truly clear of the illness. 

Photo: Team Radio Shack

Monday, December 03, 2012

Galdeano open to Asia and America adventure














It's long been known Euskaltel will take on an expanded calendar in 2013 to accommodate both their sponsors and riders; Belgium, the Netherlands and France will, arguably for the first time, be a central part of the team's season. In an interview with BiciCiclismo today, team head Igor González de Galdeano revealed it mightn't be long before Euskaltel travel even further to race bikes.

"Yes, it's been talk of racing in Asia, but that's in the long term. First off, we'll do the Europe Tour, aiming to be able to compete and expand our horizons in Belgium, Holland and France. Year number two, after this experience, might be to go to other continents like America, where Orbea has interests, or Asia", he revealed. "More than anything, it's about doing what's best for the WorldTour and our sponsors' interests - and they want to become more global, like Orbea. We have to wait and see. First of all we're a WorldTour team, and we need to do that calendar and be competitive. But, hey, points are scored in every race. For example, it's obvious that Serebryakov got some points in Asia that were very important to us this year".

While the majority of the team's foreign signings will aim to shine in those aforementioned races in northern Europe, the Basques will embark on a highly similar calendar of races to that of years past. In 2013, Galdeano hopes everyone, young and old, can contribute by taking a step or two in the right direction.

"If I had to write a letter to Santa Claus, I'd write that I hope Samuel Sánchez, Mikel Nieve and Igor Antón keep the team at the same level, including the latter two progressing further; that Romain Sicard takes a step forward. I think it's time, and he's prepared. He's got a lot of potential - psychologically as well as physically; that the youngsters make a leap in quality big enough that we can say we've got a future within this project. Izagirre, Landa, Bilbao, Aberasturi, Lobato... Riders that within three of four years must be our points of reference. This year, they've got to take a step in the right direction and say "we're the future" - if not, it'll cost us more every time."

Photo: Noticias de Álava

No agreement with Fundación over team vehicles; Galdeano looks to ONCE















La Fundación Ciclista Euskadi may face a considerable budget deficit after it's been revealed that Euskaltel will not buy the current team vehicles from the foundation.

This website reported in August that foundation alma mater Miguel Madariaga was in need of half a million euros to balance the books, and that the foundation was hoping to cover this budget shortfall by selling team buses and vehicles to Galdeano and co.

"We need 565 000 euro. Our four buses, our truck and our caravan is more or less worth that exact amount. We can't just give them away as we've got books to balance. The problem is that Eukaltel think they own them. My lawyer says they don't", he said then, adding "we don't deserve this treatment".

Today's El Correo reveals that "the new Euskaltel have not been able to come to an agreement with the Fundación Euskadi over the buses and vehicles used by the team the last few years". Instead, the article goes on to claim, the new team chiefs are contemplating buying ONCE's old fleet vehicles. ONCE is of course Galdeano's former team, a team that ceased to exist in 2006.

A decision does not appear to have been taken, but expect señor Madariaga to have something to say if Euskaltel do go ahead with their plans.

Photo: BBC

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hernández continues his hot streak in Legazpi


Aitor Hernández (Orbea) continued his streak of dominance in Euskadi cyclocross with his 9th win of the year today in Legazpi. On a relatively dry course, Hernández was able to take another solo win from former Euskaltel teammate Aketza Peña and Spanish Champion Isaac Suarez (Bio-Racer/Caravanas). Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR-Spuik) was able to take the start today after finishing 2nd yesterday in Amezaga and finished up in 4th place while Josep Betalu (G-Sport) finished in 5th place.

Jonathan Lastra was able to take the win in the U23 category over a trio of Bio-Racer/Caravanas riders in the Gomez twins, Iñigo (2nd) and Jon (4th), while Kevin Suarez finished in 3rd place. Eneko Corrales was able to take a win in the junior men's race. Women's stalwart Olatz Odriozola was able to take the win in the elite women's race over Maite Murguia, who had won big yesterday in Amezaga. Lastly, Lierne Lekuona, who raced the elite women's race at the Koksijde World Cup last weekend, took the junior women's race handily.

Egoitz Murgoitio had a disappointing finish after a promising start at the Roubaix World Cup. Murgoitio was running around 20th place on the 3rd lap when he had a mechanical that forced him to abandon the race. It was yet another disappointing finish for Murgoitio, who has been looking for another good World Cup result after his 15th in Plzen.

Next week promises a showdown between a flying Hernández and Murgoitio at the Superprestigio race in Itsasondo. Murgoitio holds the lead in the Superprestigio series and will be looking to deny Hernández, who has not been able to put a foot wrong lately. Expect Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga to be a more prominent player next week while Jonathan Lastra should be able to cement his lead in the U23 classification.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Guerrero - It's a dream to be here














To help lead the "new Euskaltel" in what's sure to be a testing 2013 season, team head Igor González de Galdeano turned to a sports director who's been out of the game for three years and has never coached a top-level team. Don't be fooled though, no one in the sport is questioning Óscar Guerrero's ability - actually, some would say, there are few as capable at what he does as the softly-spoken man from Navarra.

Having only coached Kaiku, Fuerteventura and Contentpolis-AMPO at pro level, leading a bunch of local stars and relatively unknown foreigners at some of the world's biggest races is going to be a monumental change. It's one he relishes, though.

"I've been out of cycling, as far as working with teams go, for three years, so to return, with the local team and a team at the highest level, is very exciting", he told El Pedal de Frodo. "It is a dream come true. Because when I started working as a DS, when I was 19, I always looked up to Euskaltel and dreamt of one day being able to be with that team and direct it from the car. In that sense, now was probably the moment I least expected to be contacted as I've been away for three years. It looked like it was going to be hard to return, but then Igor called me and offered me the chance. I hope to be able to pay him back for the confidence he's shown in me".

Guerrero, dubbed "the best signing by Euskaltel in 2012" by ex-pro Dioni Galparsoro in a recent interview, has been working with Bio-Racer ever since his last team, Contentpolis-AMPO, folded at the end of the 2009 season. Bio-Racer will of course manufacture Euskaltel's jerseys and shorts next year, but if there's any connection between Guerrero joining and Bio-Racer coming on board is unknown.

Euskaltel riders and staff were gathered in Derio this week for the first close-season camp, and he couldn't be happier with how the first get-together panned out.

"I'm very pleased - they welcomed me with open arms", he said. "I've only been here for two or three days, but it already feels like I've been here almost a year. The reception was very good both from the staff, the directors and the riders, some of them who I already know from having worked with them when they were amateurs and professionals. It was very good, I was taken care of and I'm very pleased".

Guerrero will be specifically tasked with leading the foreign signings in the races up north on the continent. Much has been made of the multi-lingual communication within the team this week, but Guerrero doesn't think it will pose any serious problems.

"Most of them speak some English", he said. "We don't have problems with anyone of them, as the Slovenians speak Italian and understand very well Spanish, but we'll be able to work better with them in English. We also have Tarik (Chaoufi) who understands a little bit of French, but he's very lively and will learn Spanish really fast".

Photo: Deia

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Aitor Hernández continues breakout season














Aitor Hernández continued his impressive breakout season in Ametzaga today with his 8th win of the cyclocross season at the VIII Trofeo San Andrés Amezaga. Hernández took the race by the scruff of the neck early on and broke away from the field to an impressive solo victory. Today also featured the return of early season star, and hometown favorite, Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga, who had been sidelined for a month with a nagging knee injury following a fall in the race at Muskiz.

On a cool day in Ametzaga, Hernández was able to break away from the pack on lap two and was able to power his way around a relatively dry course. Larrinaga showed that his form is still relatively in tact after his break and was able to break away from U23 rider Jonathan Lastra and Erlantz Uriarte to secure 2nd place, 1'37" down on a flying Hernández, while Lastra was able to beat out Uriarte in a sprint for 3rd place, 1'55" down.

Absent from the proceedings was again Egoitz Murgoitio, who is going to be racing around in and around the famous velodrome at the World Cup in Roubaix, France.

In other races, Maite Murgia was able to dominate the women's race by an astounding 6'47" while Álvaro Carral triumphed in the junior men's race.

Elite Men's results
  • 1. Aitor Hernández (Orbea) 1'03'44"
  • 2. Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga (MMR - Spuik) +1'37"
  • 3. Jonathan Lastra (Hirumet - Taldea) +1'55" (First U23)
  • 4. Erlantz Uriarte (Garaje Paco) s.t.
  • 5. Josep Besalú (GS Sport) +3'11"
Tomorrow will be the II Telleriarteko Ziklokrossa Legazpia Challenge Federación Vasca in Legazpi, Gipuzkoa. Hernández will be looking for his 9th win of the season, while Larrinaga's start is still tentative because of his knee. In an interview post-race today, Larrinaga stated that he was hopeful to start tomorrow but he did not want to overextend himself.

Photo: RFEC/Orbea

 

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