Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Time's up for Basque Cycling News

With Euskaltel Euskadi folding and Equipo Euskadi looking ever likelier to follow suit, it's time this website it put to rest.

As has been the case with the deaths of the aforementioned teams, it's been coming for a while now.

It's been more than seven years since the very first post. "Iban to Saunier Duval?", dated October 3 2006, speculated where Ibán Mayo - once the founding reason for this website - would end up after his sorry breakup with Euskaltel had been confirmed. The sport, Ibán, Euskaltel, Basque cycling and this website have come a long way since then.

Most importantly and certainly most worryingly, the state of the sport in Euskadi - the true heart of Spanish cycling - has been declining ever since. The story of the heydays of Messrs. Indurain, Olano, Beloki, Zubeldia, Mayo et al. is well known and makes the stars of today look pale in comparison, but the lack of big-name riders only serves to hide the real issue.

The biggest problem concerns the lack of interest in the sport and the sad state of the cantera. The number of teams - and the possibilities for young hopefuls to make a living of riding their bikes with it - have been diminishing for the better part of a decade now, and the Basque junior and amateur scene, once the envy of the cycling world, is not what it once was.

That's not to say Basque cycling is dying. Far from it. Journalists in the modern day and age might be tempted to use words of the kind to satisfy the tabloid and at times unreasonable demands of the internet, but don't be fooled: they're more concerned with selling their product than necessarily reflecting the truth. In time, the sport will get back on its feet. The history, the traditions, the talent and - cheeky as it may sound - the love for a life on two wheels is still there. Those are qualities built up over numerous of decades and thus, almost by nature, impossible to lose just like that.

In cycling terminology, the wheels haven't come off Basque cycling. It's merely flatted.

To keep up the cycling jargon and thus hopefully succeeding in putting a less serious spin on what is otherwise an emotional message, this website has reached the end of the road.

With the disappearance of Euskaltel Euskadi and Equipo Euskadi, it was only natural to call it quits. The time consuming nature of keeping a site like this up to date makes it a welcome, if not exactly wanted, ending. With no orange jerseys in the peloton to distinguish the Basques from the rest, I could use the extra time at my hands to learn to recognize the erstwhile Euskaltel riders in their new jerseys come 2014.

A big eskerrik asko is due to my excellent providers of photos, to the riders and journalists who've readily been at my disposal, and to all of you who've loyally checked in to read my ramblings.

See you at the races.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mestre pondering Portugal return

Ricardo Mestre's first year at WorldTour level looks increasingly likely to be his last.

The 30-year-old made the move to Euskaltel as part of the team's internationalization in the winter and wasted little time in getting familiar with the rigours of racing at the highest level, what with taking part in top-tier stage-races like the tours of Catalunya, Suisse and Poland - not to mention the mighty Giro d'Italia in May.

The Portuguese might have thrived in getting his shot at the big time, but with the team folding and the majority of the top teams done signing riders for the year, he's nearing a quicker-than-he-wanted-return to the pro peloton in his home land.

"It looks like I'll go back to riding in Portugal", he tells Basque Cycling News. "I've talked to a few teams back home. Returning is not exactly what I would have wanted, but it's what I've got right now".

In the hope of other and more enticing offers coming his way, though, he's putting off signing on the dotted line for a few weeks.

"I'll wait until November", he says. "If nothing else has come up by then, I'll sign. I have to look ahead".

Fellow first-year Euskaltel rider Robert Vrecer hasn't sorted out his future either. Contrary to Mestre, though, it doesn't appear he's got a plan b lined up. In an e-mail over the weekend, the Slovenian only said he's still on the look-out for a ride for next year.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Garikoitz Bravo ensures last hurrah as Euskaltel say emotional goodbye to peloton

Euskaltel Euskadi bowed out of professional cycling on Tuesday in a discreet, yet honourable manner, at the Tour of Beijing.

Garikoitz Bravo successfully defended his tenth place on general classification, meaning the team had something to celebrate on what was otherwise a sad day for everyone connected with the team.

"This is like someone dying", sports director Álvaro González de Galdeano told "We'll only realize later on that the team is actually gone, and we'll remember the team fondly. We know it's all over now, but we're yet to really grasp it".

Speaking to the team's website upon the stage's conclusion, de Galdeano was pleased with how his charges ended 20 years of cycling history.

"We're pleased with the result - we got into the top ten. We put our faith in Garikoitz and it payed off. He even finished second in the young riders' classification.

"We finished this with the feeling of having done a good job".

By securing his best result in a WorldTour race in his young career, Bravo also bettered the team's performance last year that saw Iván Velasco and Samuel Sánchez coming in 11th and 12th respectively.

As de Galdeano put it, it was most certainly a most "dignified" way to bow out.

  • (1, Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano), 2:26:56)
  • 23, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
  • 48, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 105, Ricardo García, 0:44
  • 106, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 107, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
Final general classification:
  • (1, Beñat Intxausti (Movistar), 19:35:46)
  • 10, Garikoitz Bravo, 0:31
  • 36, Juan José Oroz, 2:43
  • 43, Mikel Landa, 3:58
  • 51, Ricardo García, 6:20
  • 131, Mikel Astarloza, 34:42
Photo: BCPT

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bernaudeau admits interest in Sicard

According to reports in France, Romain Sicard might be on the verge of joining Europcar.

The once-prodigious French-Basque is - like most of his Euskaltel team-mates - without a team for next year, but Jean-René Bernaudeau's outfit might come to his rescue.

If Europcar indeed does apply for a WorldTour license, they'd need to expand their roster - cue the interest in Sicard.

Speaking to French daily Sud-Ouest this weekend, Bernaudeau admitted he's pondering hiring the 25-year-old.

"To relaunch his career? That might be a good idea", he said of the former sub-23 world road race champion and Tour de l'Avenir victor.

This quote was posted on Sicard's Facebook account yesterday, but the guys running his account warned that one shouldn't "draw any hasty conclusions" based on this one comment. In the comments section below, they even flirted with the idea of joining Spain's only remaining Professional Continental team: Caja Rural.

If Sicard doesn't end up being team-mates with Voeckler, Rolland and co. - or joining old friend Amets Txurruka at the popular green squad for that matter - there's a very real possibility he'll return to the amateur scene.

According to his old sports director at Entente Sud Gascogne, Dominique Arnaud, that would be a tragedy.

"If he had to stop riding, or even go back to being an amateur, it would be nothing short of a disaster", he's quoted as saying in El Corrreo.

Photo: BCPT

de Galdeano - We'll fight for top ten in final race

Garikoitz Bravo continued to showcase his solid form at the Tour of Beijing on Monday, riding himself into the top ten overall on the race's queen-stage.

The 24-year-old placed a creditable 12th on the fourth and penultimate leg from Yanqing to Mentougou - only 18 seconds down on stage winner and fellow Basque Beñat Intxausti - to rise to 10th on GC with only Tuesday's sprinter-friendly final stage left to race.

The native of Lazcao, Gipuzkoa, is tied on 31 second with Michael Rogers, Carlos Betancur and Mathias Frank in 10th through 13th, but Bravo's solid sprinting in the preceding stages makes him a good bet to close out his - and Euskaltel's - last race inside the top ten.

"We don't have a lot of cards to play, but we'll fight to hang onto that top ten", sports director Álvaro González de Galdeano told the team's website upon the completion of the stage. "We'll do our best to close out the team's season on a high".

  • (1, Beñat Intxausti (Movistar), 3:43:25)
  • 12, Garikoitz Bravo, 0:18
  • 23, Juan José Oroz, 1:03
  • 49, Mikel Landa, 3:45
  • 55, Ricardo García, 5:23
  • 99, Mikel Astarloza, 16:41
  • DNF: Juan José Lobato
Photo: BCPT

Euskaltel show sprinting legs in final Paris-Tours

Euskaltel put an unprecedented two riders in the top ten of Paris-Tours on Sunday.

Jon Aberasturi and Ioannis Tamouridis may not have been close to challenging eventual victor John Degenkolb for the big prize, but the duo helped each other out well in the closing kilometre to grab eighth and ninth respectively and thus finish their careers in orange on a relative high.

Following close behind was Peio Bilbao in 16th, three riders in the top 20 thus making up for the team's failure to get into any of the meaningful breaks underway.

Thanks to their new-found sprinting legs, the team ended up taking out the team classification in their last ever Paris-Tours participation.

No wonder sports director Óscar Guerrero was proud of his charges post-race.

"It was difficult to get into the breaks, but we stayed patient until the end and have come away with a great result", he enthused. "We've offered an exemplary image of the team through to the very end, and we've showed we're professionals".

  • (1, John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), 5:29:19)
  • 8, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 9, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 16, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
  • 42, Adrián Sáez, s.t.
  • 45, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 125, Robert Vrecer, 3:16
  • DNF: Ricardo Mestre
Over in China, Euskaltel's no-show continued on day three.

'The carrots' have failed to infiltrate any of the marquee breaks thus far, and in the sprint finish at the end of the 176km third stage from Yanqing to Qiandiajian it was once left to Garikoitz Bravo to fend for the team's honour.

Without much assistance, the first-year Euskaltel rider's 12th place was noteworthy and indicative of his strong late-season shape. 

Mikel Landa and Ricardo García both managed to keep up with the peloton on what was a challenging day of racing, meaning the team still has cards to play in the fight for the overall with two days to go.

  • (1, Nacer Bouhanni (, 4:08:15)
  • 12, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
  • 30, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 42, Ricardo García, s.t.
  • 61, Juan José Oroz, 0:43
  • 122, Mikel Astarloza, 17:04
  • 123, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • DNF: Pablo Urtasun, Gorka Verdugo
Photo: BCPT

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kocjan - I'm negotiating with a few teams

The next Euskaltel rider to find a team for next year could very well be Jure Kocjan.

The Slovenian joined the team ahead of the current season with a solid reputation and a healthy palmarès, but a mystery virus and subsequent health troubles made the 28-year-old's first season at WorldTour level a write-off.

Still, though, he's not lacking in suitors. The Izagirre brothers, Mikel Landa and Mikel Nieve have all found a home for 2014, and Kocjan might just be the fifth Euskaltel rider to secure his future in the not too distant future.

"This is a difficult time for everyone - and my future is still uncertain - but I'm negotiating with a few teams", he tells Basque Cycling News. "I'm in talks with one Professional Continental team and one Continental-ranked outfit".

Kocjan could understandably not reveal what teams he's in talks with, but did say that one factor is making negotiations hard: his nationality.

"The biggest problem for me is that I'm Slovenian", he revealed. "French teams prefer French riders, Italian teams prefer Italians... Unless you're Peter Sagan, finding a team at this time of year is hard.

"Most teams are done shopping".

With only 25 race days to his name this year, Kocjan is naturally low on UCI points.

His stellar 2012 season, though, highlighted by two stage wins at the Tour de Limousin, still appears to make him a rider in demand.

Photo: BCPT

Lobato loses track in Beijing sprint

Stage two of the Tour of Beijing went by quietly for Euskaltel on Saturday morning.

None of the riders made it into the day's main break, and sprinter Juan José Lobato and Garikoitz Bravo - the former's right-hand man in the sprint finishes - failed to mix it up with the big-shots at the end of the 201,5km leg from Huairou Studio City to Yanqing.'s precocious sprinter Nacer Bouhanni eventually emerged victorious, besting Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) and Mitchell Docker to the line. Bravo came in 22nd, while Lobato cruised home for a distant 46th.

Heading into the last three stages, none of the team's riders have ceded any time overall.

  • (1, Nacer Bouhanni (, 4:59:49)
  • 22, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
  • 46, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 103, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 114, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 136, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 138, Ricardo García, s.t.
  • 140, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 142, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
General classification:
  • (1, Nacer Bouhanni (, 9:20:13)
  • 25, Garikoitz Bravo, 0:10
  • 38, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 84, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 85, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 129, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 130, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 131, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 135, Ricardo García, s.t.
Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Friday, October 11, 2013

Euskaltel caught out in Paris-Bourges and Beijing

Euskaltel were left to rue their missing sprinting prowess in Paris-Bourges on Thursday and again in the Tour of Beijing on Friday.

In the former race, John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) bested Arnaud Démare ( to take the sprinter-friendly one-day semi classic. Euskaltel's best bet for the day, young Jon Aberasturi, struggled with flu-like symptoms and abandoned, leaving the team short on options.

Eventually Ioannis Tamouridis - coming in 43rd - was the team's top rider.

Post-race, sports director Óscar Guerrero summed it up succinctly.

"It was a race controlled by three teams who wanted a sprint finish, and we felt powerless without a designated finisher", he told the team's website. "It was a sleepy race".

  • (1, John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), 4:38:00)
  • 43, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 45, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 48, Adrián Sáez, s.t.
  • 54, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
  • 109, Robert Vrecer, 0:25
  • DNF: Ricardo Mestre, Jon Aberasturi
In Beijing, Euskaltel actually had a more than decent sprinter amidst their ranks, but Juan José Lobato - by now a noted finisher after his Tour de France heroics - lost his way in the closing stages on stage one of the Tour of Beijing on Friday.

The 190km leg from Shunyi to Huairou was taken out by Norwegian power sprinter Thor Hushovd, with Lobato forced to make do with 20th. All the team's riders came in with the pack, though, meaning hopes of a decent performance on GC are still intact.

  • (1, Thor Hushovd (BMC), 4:20:34)
  • 20, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 21, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
  • 55, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 69, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 112, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 114, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 116, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 127, Ricardo García, s.t.
Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Azanza - I'm 99,9 percent sure I'll retire

Jorge Azanza has in all likelihood turned his last pedal as a professional cyclist.

The 31-year-old has been one of Samuel Sánchez's most trusted and loyal domestiques the last few years, but in a Spanish peloton high on riders but low on teams, the ending of Euskaltel will more than likely also result in the ending of Azanza's career.

He's yet to receive any offers for 2014 and admits his career is all but over.

"As things stand right now, I won't be a professional cyclist next year", he tells his local regional newspaper Diario de Navarra. "One can always hope for a miracle, but it's 99,9 percent certain I'll retire. In today's cycling, there's no room for me.

"I regret to leave this sport when I'm in the shape of my life and feeling well physically, not to mention when I've found my place, which is to work for team leader. I'm approaching the best years of my career, and now I've got to stop... If I was a big winner, I would have found a team. I'm not, but I help others become winners. My only chance was to accompany one of the team leaders to another team.

"It's hard, but this is not dramatic. If I have to stop riding, I'll start a new life", he says.

Azanza's future - and his team-mates at Euskaltel with it - appeared to be safe when Fernando Alonso announced he intended to keep the team alive under a new name and in a new guise in early September, but negotiations eventually broke down and is likely to leave a lot of the team's riders on the metaphorical street next year.

Azanza says the Alonso-deal falling through was "unlucky", but admits it left him feeling angry.

"It made me mad, as now, having never felt better, I'm forced to put away the bike for good. I was also feeling valued by Euskaltel and other teams. It hurts to have all heard all this stuff about a new team and then watch is disappear into thin air. It was a false illusion.

"We've lived with tremendous uncertainty for the last couple of months. Before the Vuelta they told us the team would fold, then on stage ten they congratulated us and said a new sponsor had been found. And less than ten days after the Vuelta ended they told us negotiations had fallen through. It's been an emotional roller coaster".

Assuming Azanza does indeed retire, he'll become the second Euskaltel rider to reach that decision. Only last week, Mikel Astarloza announced he's decided to quit the sport for good.

Photo. BCPT

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Antón - There are other interested teams

One of Euskaltel's biggest ever stars and favourite sons, Igor Antón, is still looking for a team for 2014.

The 30-year-old has long been linked with a move to Omega Pharma-QuickStep, but his hope of signing for Patrick Lefevere's team took a big hit when news broke that Thomas de Gendt had received what's believed to be the last available spot on their 2014 roster.

"Right now I've got nothing sealed - at least not officially", he told ETB, according to BiciCiclismo. "And with time ticking away, you do get a little nervous".

Though most teams are done shopping for the winter, he's in no way lost hope he'll be riding at cycling's top level next season.

"Several doors have been opened: if it's not from Omega Pharma, there are many other interested teams.

"My aim is to secure a spot on a WorldTour outfit".

It's believed Antón had a deal in place with Omega Pharma before Fernando Alonso announced he was looking to buy Euskaltel's WorldTour license, but that deal was subsequently not signed as it appeared the team's future was in safe hands.

Various sources also have it he was close to reaching a deal with Astana at one point.

According to BiciCiclismo Tuesday evening, though, Antón may very well sign with Lefevere's team in the next few days or even hours.

The rider's agent, Giuseppe Acquadro, is reportedly meeting Lefevere in Málaga on Tuesday evening in the hope of thrashing out deal.

Photo: Orbea

Euskaltel aim big in farewell race

Euskaltel have selected a team high on quality and versatility for their last ever competitive appearance.

The Tour of Beijing, running from 11-15 of October, will mark the end of 20 years of cycling history - and the team is unsurprisingly looking to go out with a bang.

The Euskaltel octet will be spearheaded by the speedy legs of Juan José Lobato and ever-potent ace climber Mikel Landa in the last WorldTour race of the year.

Accompanying them will be super domestique Gorka Verdugo, veteran allrounders Pablo Urtasun and Juan José Oroz, young duo Garikoitz Bravo and Ricardo García, and the soon-to-be-retired Mikel Astarloza.

The latter announced last week that he'll put the bike away for good once the Tour of Beijing - and the season with it - concludes, and the Pasajes native was naturally a bit emotional upon boarding the plane to Asia.

"It's a shame that Euskaltel's 20-year history will come to nothing", he told Spanish sports daily AS from the airport in Bilbao. "It's a sad feeling".

Come the end of the race, Astarloza - like many of his team-mates - will be forced to look for a new life beyond Euskaltel and the world of cycling.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Tamouridis shows his worth in Binche-Chimay-Binche

Euskaltel put on a combative display in Tuesday's Binche-Chimay-Binche one-day race.

Óscar Guerrero's boys were present in the breaks from the off and managed to place four riders in the top 30.

While no orange riders were close to challenging Reinardt Janse van Rensburg for the win, Ioannis Tamouridis made it into the deciding 16-man move to clinch a notable 14th. Just a few seconds further back were Jon Aberasturi in 22nd, Peio Bilbao in 24th and Miguel Mínguez in 30th.

Up on Thursday for the same batch of riders in Paris-Bourges.

  • (1, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Argos-Shimano), 4:10:24)
  • 14, Ioannis Tamouridis, 0:04
  • 22, Jon Aberasturi, 0:12
  • 24, Peio Bilbao, 0:14
  • 30, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 38, Adrián Sáez, 0:19
  • 100, Ricardo Mestre, 5:15
  • DNF: Steffen Radochla, Robert Vrecer
Photo: BCPT

Monday, October 07, 2013

Euskaltel abandon en masse in Lombardia

It was always going to be a big ask for Euskaltel to factor in il Lombardia without team leader and one-day specialist Samuel Sánchez, but fans and team leaders would nonetheless have hoped for more.

Mikel Landa was the only rider to finish the race, the others six failing to complete what was, admittedly, a brutal race in challenging conditions. Landa put in a decent effort, though, coming home 21st in a small group alongside Philippe Gilbert, Greg van Avermaet, Cyril Gautier and Tom Dumoulin.

Gorka Izagirre featured in the race's first meaningful break, but quickly dropped back as the attacked kept on coming from behind.

Photo: BCPT

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Euskaltel come crashing down in Eurométropole

Both Peio Bilbao and Robert Vrecer hit the deck in this weekend's concluding stages of the Eurométropole Tour.

The former emerged relatively unscathed from his tumble on day two, while the latter needed a few stitches to his elbow after coming down on the wind-plagued stage three. Neither were seriously hurt, though.

Jon Aberasturi was the rider who came closest to scoring a notable result for the team, coming in 17th, 16th and 15th respectively, adding to his 15th on the opening day.

The young sprinter was also the team's best rider on GC, finishing the four-day race in a respectable 18th.

Final general classification:
  • (1, Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol), 15:39:04)
  • 18, Jon Aberasturi, 0:23
  • 64, Adrián Sáez, 0:58
  • 69, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 125, Miguel Mínguez, 14:36
Photo: BCPT

Friday, October 04, 2013

Official: Ion Izagirre signs for Movistar

The youngest of the Izagirres will team up with brother Gorka at Movistar in 2014, the team confirms in a press release on Friday morning.

Ion had a year left on his contract with Euskaltel and would have formed a key part of Fernando Alonso's set-up if the team had materialized, but has now - entirely as expected - secured a ride with Eusebio Unzúe's squad for next year.

The press release makes no mention of the length of the deal, though.

Ion signing with Movistar takes the tally of Euskaltel riders with a secure feature next year up to four. Mikel Landa, Mikel Nieve and the Izagirre brothers are thus far the only riders to have found a new home for 2014.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Euskaltel line-ups galore

Euskaltel have a hectic week and a half ahead of them with races in Italy, France and Belgium.

The big one is of course this Sunday's Il Lombardia.

Perennial contender Samuel Sánchez will be absent due to the injury picked up at the worlds, but the team will field a potent seven-man group anyhow. Ion Izagirre, Mikel Landa and Egoi Martínez will lead the team and be accompanied by Juan José Oroz, Garikoitz Bravo, Gorka Verdugo and Mikel Astarloza.

Before the 'Race of the Falling Leaves' commences, an eight-man squad will have taken part in the four-day Eurométropole Tour (formerly known as the Circuit Franco-Belge).

Representing Euskaltel for the last time will be Jon Aberasturi, Adrián Sáez, Ioannis Tamouridis, Robert Vrecer, Steffen Radochla, Ricardo Mestre, Peio Bilbao and Miguel Mínguez.

The race's first stage on Thursday was taken out by the on-fire Jens Debusschere of Lotto-Belisol in a sprint. Euskaltel's top man was unsurprisingly speedster Aberasturi in 15th.

  • (1, Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol), 4:22:05)
  • 15, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 39, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 61, Adrián Sáez, s.t.
  • 73, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
  • 122, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 136, Ricardo Mestre, s.t.
  • 148, Steffen Radochla, s.t.
  • 161, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
The same octet riding Eurométropole will also line up for Binche-Tournai-Binche (October 8), Paris-Bourges (October 10) and Paris-Tours (October 13).

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Txurruka prolongs Caja Rural stay

While many of his former team-mates at Euskaltel are now scrambling to ensure the continuity of their careers, Amets Txurruka has decided to extend his love-in with Caja Rural for another season.

The iconic little escalador swapped the orange of Euskaltel for the green of Caja Rural prior to this season and went on to enjoy arguably his best season on the bike since getting his breakthrough at the Tour de France in 2007.

A mountains jersey in the Vuelta al País Vasco and a stage and the overall of the Vuelta a Asturias gave the Pro Continental team some handy triumphs and some much-needed exposure, and sports director Eugenio Goikoetxea was only too keen to keep the 31-year-old on.

"It's great for the team that he's prolonging his contract", he told the team's website. "We've seen throughout his career what he's able to and what he's done this year, so we're very pleased he's decided to extend his stay with us".


Confirmed: Mikel Landa signs for Astana

According to trustworthy website El Pedal de Frodo, Mikel Landa has inked a two-year deal with Kazakh outfit Astana.

The young climber has been heavily linked with the team in recent months and on Wednesday told said website that a deal has indeed been reached.

"I'm very grateful to Astana for giving me this opportunity. I'm looking forward to embarking on this new adventure", he says.

Having spent the last three years in the famous orange of Euskaltel, he naturally had words of gratitude for his now former employer as well.

"I want to thank Euskaltel Euskadi and the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi for giving me the opportunity to become a professional cyclist", he's quoted as saying.

Photo: BCPT

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Mikel Astarloza ends career

After 12 years as a professional, Mikel Astarloza has decided to end his career come the end of the current season.

The 33-year-old will finish his career on the bike at the upcoming Tour of Beijing, Astarloza writes in a press release on Tuesday.

"Although I've only been able to lift my arms in celebration three times, my biggest triumph has been to be able to enjoy my profession and make a living of what I like the most, pushing the pedals...

"It's been a long journey on which I've made many friends and seen a lot of new places - I'll take with me many fond memories. Retiring is the hardest decision I've had to make so far, but I'm turning 34 and I think it's time to change my lifestyle.

"I'll leave behind me many things that I'll for sure go on to miss, but I'll take on the new objectives in life with the same motivation I've always done".

Astarloza refrains from saying what these "new objectives" actually consist of, but be makes no mention of staying in the world of cycling.

The native of Pasaia, Gipuzkoa, entered the cycling world in 2002 with French team Ag2r Prévoyance, making the step into the professional ranks from Olarra-Ercoreca - later to be known as Orbea, Euskaltel's long-standing feeder team.

He stayed in France for five years and grabbed arguably his biggest win already in his second year, winning the Tour Down Under outright.

The powerful all-rounder matured into a decent GC rider after joining Euskaltel in time for the 2007 season, but his career and reputation was forever tarnished by his EPO positive after winning stage 16 of the 2009 Tour de France.

Ever since returning from his doping ban, Astarloza has failed to hit the heights of his form pre-ban. His 2013 season has been high on race days but low on top results, his 14th on home roads in the Clásica San Sebastián his standout performance.

Photo: BCPT

Sánchez ruled out for rest of season

Samuel Sánchez has been forced to put a premature end to his season - and his Euskaltel career with it - after crashing hard at the recent World Championships.

'Samu' crashed out of the road race and failed to finish the marquee event. Two days later it's been confirmed by VeloNews that he'll skip this weekend's Il Lombardia.

The 35-year-old is reportedly bruised up and suffers from knee pain, and has been ordered by team doctors to take two weeks off the bike.

While he might be done racing for the year, he'll by no means struggle to find stuff to do in his spare time. The Euskaltel icon is yet to confirm where he'll be getting his pay check from next year, but it's widely believed he'll join Alberto Contador at Saxo-Tinkoff.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Nieve - I'll ride for Sky in 2014

Mikel Nieve has - entirely as expected - confirmed he'll be riding for Team Sky in 2014 and beyond.

The 29-year-old has been heavily linked with the British powerhouse squad in the last few weeks and today revealed he's indeed decided to sign for David Brailsford's team.

The two parties have agreed on a two-year deal, and the only thing that's lacking in order to make it official is the rider's signature.

"I've opted to go to Sky", he told el Diario de Navarra, according to BiciCiclismo. "I still haven't signed the documents as I have to see what happens with my contract with Euskaltel, but we've decided on a deal for 2014 and 2015.

"I'd already made my mind up on signing for Sky before Fernando Alonso entered the scene".

The ace climber reportedly had a host of suitors lined up for him, but talks with a fellow Basque swayed him in direction of Sky.

"I've spoken a lot to Xabier Zandio about this", he said. "He told me a lot of good things about the team. I've as well spoken to the team itself. It seems like the best option, and I'll be signing for them because it's the best team in the world".

Nieve has excelled in a leadership role for Euskaltel ever since his breakthrough marathon win on stage 16 of the Vuelta a España's 2010 edition.

At Sky he'll team up with the likes of Christopher Froome and Bradley Wiggins, though, and he's fully aware of the fact that he'll first and foremost be a super domestique.

"I know I'll be tasked with working for others and that I'll be going to a team where I can help out in the mountain stages. I'm aware it'll be a different kind of racing and that things will be different, but I think it'll be good for me - it's the best team there is and I can grow as a rider there".

Nieve signed for Euskaltel from satellite team Orbea in the winter of 2009, going on to become one of the team's most valuable riders. His palmarès includes queen-stage wins in both the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Monday, September 30, 2013

Euskaltel duo fail to finish Worlds

Only two of six Basques managed to cross the finish line at the recent UCI Road World Championships.

Samuel Sánchez and Egoi Martínez both failed to finish the elite men's race, the duo both doing their work for team leaders Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodríguez before the big finale. 'Samu' hardly looked to be on his a game (and eventually crashed out), while Martínez did as the majority of the Spaniards early on and stayed out of the limelight.

One Basque who did reach the line - and with some bravado - was the ever-reliable Jonathan Castroviejo. The Movistar rider took valuable pulls on the front and eventually crossed the line in 48th, eight minutes down on victor and team-mate Rui Costa.

In the sub-23 race, both Mikel Iturria and Haritz Orbe failed to complete the race. The duo both did what they were asked to - especially the former, who set the pace at the front for some time - but both eventually posted DNFs as Spain's challenge faltered spectacularly.

In the junior men's race, young Caja Rural prodigy Alex Aranburu enjoyed a solid debut. The youngster, equally at ease in the mud as on the road, modestly told this website only days before the race that his goal was to finish the race "and do my best", and he duly succeeded by being the nation's top finisher in 47th - four minutes back on Mathieu van der Poel.

Photo: Orbea

Iparragirre makes a name for himself in China

The Equipo Euskadi sprinter grabbed his best result of the year in what is possibly his last race as a professional at the Tour of China II on Monday.

The likely collapse of the Basque Continental team may leave a lot of the team's riders on the metaphorical street come 2014. Iparragirre, having signed a one-year deal prior to this year, has steadily built up a reputation as a sprinter to be reckoned with in his first year among the pros, but the 25-year-old track specialist told Basque Cycling News only last month that no teams had enquired about his services for 2014 and beyond.

The native of Azpeitia, Gipuzkoa, did his chances of landing a ride for next year no harm in China, though, finishing the race in third overall. What's more, he grabbed second, third and fourth on stages.

The team, having taken out the team classification at the Tour of China I, emerged victorious in the combined team rankings to close out their first race in Asia on a high.

Final general classification:
  • (1, Alois Kankovsky (ASC Dukla Praha), 18:17:58)
  • 3, Unai Iparragirre, 0:20
  • 15, Aritz Bagües, 0:33
  • 32, Mikel Bizkarra, 3:42
  • 55, Illart Zuazubiskar, 3:44
  • 75, Mikel Aristi, s.t.
  • 86, Jon Larrinaga, s.t.
While a bunch of riders competed in China, an Euskadi contingent also took part in the Tour du Gévaudan - the race, as usual, being the team's last competitive outing of the year.

Naturgas Energía duo Loïc Chetout and Víctor Etxberría were supposed to be given their first chance with the team, but in the end only the latter joined up. Chetout, the team's standout rider this season, crashed last week and didn't recover in time to line up for his first pro race.

In his place, Haritz Orbe stole the headlines for the team with his fourth place finish on the second and last stage.

"We weren't on our guard on day one, but we were active and present in the breaks the following day", team DS Aritz Arberas told the team's website. "We were strong - Orbe came in fourth. With this race and the Tour of China done and dusted with, Equipo Euskadi have finished its season".

Final general classification:
  • (1, Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), 8:24:41)
  • 20, Igor Merino, 5:34
  • 53, Víctor Etxeberría, 19:37
  • 56, Carlos Barbero, 21:48
  • 69, Haritz Orbe, 35:37
Photo: Fundación Ciclista Euskadi

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rumour mill round-up: Nieve to Sky, Sánchez negotiating with Saxo

With the Alonso-Euskaltel deal falling through, every Euskaltel rider is suddenly back on the market.

That's except for Gorka Izagirre, of course, who's already signed with Movistar. According to various reports, his brother Ion is desperate to join up with him. Ion naturally has no shortage of offers, but it's believed he's more keen to stay in Spain than move abroad. The pressing question is if Movistar has a spot open for him. Only today, Eusebio Unzúe signed John Gadret. Expect a deal to be reached between the two parties rather quickly if a contract is indeed put on the table.

According to the 'twittersphere' and the usually reliable guys over at BiciCiclismo, Mikel Nieve is on the verge of joining Sky. Samuel Sánchez on his part is said to be negotiating with Riis and Contador at Saxo-Tinkoff, but the Euskaltel icon has naturally not commented on the rumours in person.

Speaking to BiciCiclismo on Friday, he even said that "it wouldn't be a big drama" if he was to retire come the end of the season.

Read that article here.

Juan José Lobato is allegedly close to inking a deal with Cofidis, while Igor Antón is said to be fighting with Jan Bakelants and Thomas de Gendt over the last spot available at Omega Pharma-QuickStep.

Ioannis Tamouridis, currently at the Worlds in Florence, claims he's received no offers whatsoever, but several Pro Continental teams are said to be keen to take on the Greek.

Photo: BCPT

New Basque team in the making

To make up for the disappearance of Euskaltel Euskadi and the Continental-ranked Equipo Euskadi, the Basque Cycling Federation is working on setting up a new team for next year.

According to the president of the federation, José Luis Arrieta, the team is likely to consist of 16 to 20 riders (all under the age of 25), have a Continental or Pro Continental license, and a budget in the range of 1,5-2 million euro.

According to BiciCiclismo, the team's goal is to eventually participate in the biggest races on the domestic calendar - including the Vuelta a España, Vuelta al País Vasco and the Clásica San Sebastián.

"Yes, I think the team is viable", he told Radio Euskadi. "It's feasible, it's possible. Hopefully we'll be able to register the team with UCI in time. Ideally we'd be Pro Continental, but if not we'll take it step by step. What's pivotal is to create a group of riders, maintain the motivation and to have a decent budget".

Basque Cycling News will naturally have more on this case as it develops.

Euskaltel riders voice their dismay; Euskaltel hit back

The Euskaltel riders weren't overly happy to receive the news of the team failing to reach an agreement with Fernando Alonso's men on Monday.

According to various sources, the riders let their frustration and anger known at a meeting with the telephone company. Mikel Astorkiza, Euskaltel's corporate director, was allegedly in the firing line, with the riders understandably at a loss to figure out how a deal was not reached when Euskaltel wanted to sell and Alonso wanted to buy.

Only a few days later, Euskaltel decided to hit back at the critics.

In an at times strongly-worded press release, the team's long-standing sponsor denied they were at fault for the breakdown in negotiations and reserved the right to "take legal action to defend itself against false accusations".

The telephone company claims it's not true that they requested any sort of financial compensation from Alonso's men. What's more, they claim talks didn't reach a standstill over where the team was to be situated, and that the differing tax laws in Euskadi and Asturias were not an issue that hindered the negotiations.

More significantly, and contrary to reports, the dispute over the contracts of the team's backroom staff and sport directors were not the reason for the tentative agreement reached on August 31 being broken.

All in all, Euskaltel say they didn't hinder a deal being reached whatsoever, which begs the question what actually happened at the meetings between the two parties.

Alonso's men haven't offered an explanation as of yet, while Euskaltel still maintain that negotiations are confidential and thus should be kept away from the public eye.

Photo: BCPT

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Castroviejo "satisfied" with Worlds TT

Jonathan Castroviejo missed out on his pre-race goal but was still a happy man after finishing the World Championships Individual Time Trial in Florence.

The Movistar rouleur had hoped for a top ten prior to the race but eventually had to make do with 14th, more than three minutes down on winner Tony Martin.

Post-race, he said he was pleased considering the circumstances.

"I'm really pleased with how I felt, but it's hard for me on a route like this", he told the Spanish Cycling Federation's website. "Riders with my weight have to do almost double the effort on a course like this to be up there with the best, but still the likes of me, Porte and Kwiatkowski were relatively close.

"My goal was to finish inside the top ten, and the difference between fifth and my position was for large parts no more than half a minute. We got close, and I'm happy with the outcome".

While Castroviejo was the only Basque on show in Florence on Wednesday, another rider with close ties to the Basque Country took to the course as well.

The man in question was naturally Ioannis Tamouridis. The Greek champion wasn't on his best day, though, and eventually came through for 44th.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Antón - Hopefully Omega Pharma are still keen

Igor Antón is back on the market after yesterday's news of the deal between Fernando Alonso and Euskaltel collapsing.

The ace climber, who only last week went public on regional television that he was happy to stay with the team into 2014 and beyond, is one of the lucky few on the team that will have no trouble finding a ride for next year. Prior to the news in early September that Alonso intended to buy the team's license, Antón was close to signing with Belgian powerhouse team Omega Pharma-QuickStep.

Three weeks on, he can only hope there's still interest on Patrick Lefevere's part.

"Now we have to pick up the negotiations we put to rest when we thought the team was going to continue", he tells Cobbles&Hills. "I think I had several options earlier, but I realize it might not be that easy now.

"Hopefully Omega Pharma-QuickStep will come calling. It's a team I've always liked, and it's a team of the highest standard - they showed that in Sunday's team time trial in Florence. I'm fond of that team, and they'll attack the three-week races with the signing of Rigoberto Urán. I could fit in there. Time will tell if they're still interested and if they've got a spot open for me".

Realizing the cycling 'transfer market' has been in full swing for almost two months already, the Galdakano native isn't demanding too much from his potential suitors.

"Having to find a team now is bad for me, and I'm aware it won't be like three weeks ago. What I'm hoping to find is a place on a WorldTour team. It it's a one-year contract, that's fine. Stay in the WorldTour, a transitional year, and then show I'm worthy of a longer contract.

"I still don't know where I'll end up, but I'm not asking for more than 12 months to show what I've got".

Photo: BCPT

Official report: Euskaltel and Alonso fail to reach an agreement

Euskaltel Euskadi will soon be history after both the team and the Formula 1 star revealed negotiations over the latter's purchase of the team and its license have been broken off for good.

Several reports over the weekend claimed talks between the parties were proceeding slowly, but both the team and Alonso's men sounded optimistic a deal might be struck eventually. In a press release issued on Monday afternoon, though, telecommunications company Euskaltel revealed they've pulled out of the negotiations and that the team will fold after all come the end of 2013.

"Negotiations between Euskaltel and Alonso's representatives over the latter's acquisition of Euskaltel Euskadi - started on August 31 with the signing of a pre-agreement - have come to an end without an agreement being reached", the statement reads.

"We can't hide out disappointment about the final outcome of the negotiations. It's a sad day for Euskaltel and the team after expectations were raised following the agreement reached in principle at the end of August and the public statements made at the time by Fernando Alonso and his representatives".

Euskaltel refused to reveal why the talks reached a standstill and eventually fell through, saying "we would like to reveal the details as we, with all sincerity, did our utmost, but the confidentiality of the negotiations have to be respected".

Euskaltel are adamant they did "everything within their powers to reach an agreement without setting any type of economic pre-conditions".

As reported on earlier, the talks are thought to have hinged on Alonso's reluctance to take on the team's backroom staff and sponsors, as well as the difficulties in moving the team from its base in the Basque Country to the less tax-friendly region of Asturias.

Alonso's representatives didn't comment on where the talks stranded either, simply saying "we tried until the very end, but we won't be able to lead a cycling team in 2014". Writing on Twitter, the Spanish star added they're already working on setting up a team for 2015, though.

As a consequence of the deal being called off, Euskaltel's riders are again back on the job market. Only Gorka Izagirre of the current riders have already left the team, meaning 26 riders will need to pick their phones up quickly in the hope of securing a ride for next year.

Neither the riders nor the team heads have yet to comment on today's news.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Iturria - Everything went wrong at Worlds

Young Basque prodigy Mikel Iturria's World Championships bow didn't go entirely according to plan on Monday.

The Equipo Euskadi rider was one of two Spaniards selected to ride the sub-23 time trial in Florence, and neither rider performed up to expectations.

Cantabrian Mario González, fresh off a stellar season with Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos, came in 37th, while Iturria ended up a more distant 67th, a full seven and a half minutes down on victor Damien Howson.

It wasn't exactly the Worlds debut Iturria had been hoping for.

"Everything went wrong today", he told the Spanish Cycling Federation's website upon completing the race of truth. "I wasn't feeling good, and it didn't get better as we got underway".

A long, flat time trial was hardly ideal terrain for the gangly climber, but Wednesday's road race is likely to suit the young native of Urnieta, Gipuzkoa, a lot more.

Report: Alonso-Euskaltel deal close to falling through

It was a week ago reported that the team of Fernando Alonso were starting to get worried over the time it was taking to reach a deal with Euskaltel Euskadi and their WorldTour license holder. Seven days later, the Spanish press claim negotiations have reached a complete standstill.

As a consequence, the deal may very well not happen at all and Euskaltel Euskadi may, after all, indeed cease to exist come the end of the current season.

The sticking point in the negotiations is still the contracts of the backroom staff and the team's current sponsors. Euskaltel want Alonso's team to take on everything they've got - which includes contracts with equipment providers Orbea and Bio Racer, the team's vehicle fleet and the contracts of soigneurs and sport directors - while the Formula 1 star appears keen to only take on the 14 riders under contract and put together his own staff and team of sponsors.

According to sports daily AS, Alonso and co. have a deal tied up with a new main sponsor for the coming four years. Various reports have it that this sponsor is Italian car manufacturer FIAT.

Euskaltel's problem, though, is that both Orbea and Bio Racer have another year running on their current deals with the team.

AS claim that Alonso's team have all but given up on coming to an agreement, while the Euskaltel heads see it as "increasingly unlikely" that a deal may be reached.

Both parties, though, have not entirely given up hope, but it's understood Alonso and co. are already looking at other options - one of which is to create a brand new team from scratch.

With the UCI's 1st of October deadline coming up next Tuesday, the team's future will have to be decided upon in no more than a week.

Photo: The Guardian

Caja Rural best Naturgas in Lehendakari finale

Jaime Rosón of Caja Rural was Sunday crowned overall Torneo Lehendakari champion of 2013, overturning a one-point deficit on Naturgas Energía's Alain González in the competition's final race in Zaldibia.

The 20-year-old from Zamora, signed from Ávila-Smileekers last winter, got within touching distance of González's lead on Saturday by winning in Oñati.

With only one point separating the pair going into the last race, it was all set for a duel between the two teams in Sunday's decider.

The deciding moment came on the Gaintza climb topping out 5,8 clicks from the finish line. Rosón and team-mates Miguel Ángel Benito and Antonio Molina, Beñat Txoperena (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport) and Rafael Márquez (Lizarte) got a gap on the rest, with González being forced to give chase.

Márquez eventually came out tops in the race by besting Benito, Molina and Rosón in the sprint, but the green powerhouse team could still raise their arms in celebration, knowing González had been distanced by close to a minute.

The Naturgas Energía prodigy eventually had to make do with 10th on the day, losing the overall in the last race.

Results, III Zaldibia Sari Nagusia:
  1. Rafael Márquez (Lizarte), 2:36:02
  2. Miguel Ángel Benito (Caja Rural), s.t.
  3. Antonio Molina (Caja Rural), s.t.
  4. Jaime Rosón (Caja Rural), s.t.
  5. Beñat Txoperena (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 0:02
  6. Alex Aramburu (Ordiziako), 0:24
  7. Raul Martínez (Lizarte), 0:36
  8. Jorge Arcas (Lizarte), s.t.
  9. Ibai Daboz (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 0:58
  10. Alain González (Naturgas Energía), s.t.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Euskaltel solid at TTT Worlds

The team ended up 18th in the team time trial worlds in Firenze on Sunday.

As a team infamously at unease in collective races against the clock, the result is likely to please the team heads. Euskaltel ended up 18th out of the 35 teams present, finishing four minutes down on winners Orica-GreenEdge.

Ioannis Tamouridis, Ion Izagirre, Gorka Verdugo et al. were only narrowly beaten by Lampre-Meride, but did succeed in besting the likes of Agr2-La Mondiale and MTN Qhubeka.

Over in France, eight Euskaltel riders took on the GP Isbergues.

Arnaud Démare came out tops in the mass sprint, Steffen Radochla in 23rd being the team's top-placed rider.

Juan José Oroz, 18th on Saturday in GP Impanis - Van Petegem, crashed and had to abandon the race. It's unknown at this moment in time how seriously injured he is.

  • (1, Arnaud Démare (, 4:34:05)
  • 23, Steffen Radochla, s.t.
  • 45, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
  • 47, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 106, Miguel Mínguez, 4:55
Photo: BCPT

Oroz shows decent shape in GP Impanis

Juan José Oroz ensured the GP Impanis - Van Petegem wasn't a total write-off for Euskaltel on Saturday.

The versatile veteran came in a solid 18th, forming a part of the first chase group that came in 43 seconds down on winner Sep Vanmarcke. The rest of the Euskaltel contingent all came in almost ten minutes down - hardly a stellar showing in a relatively low-profile Belgian race.

  • (1, Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin), 4:21:48)
  • 18, Juan José Oroz, 0:43
  • 85, Garikoitz Bravo, 8:25
  • 87, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 89, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 90, Ricardo Mestre, s.t.
  • 97, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
  • DNF: Steffen Radochla, Pablo Urtasun
Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gorka Izagirre - Ion reunion at Movistar unlikely

The oldest of the Izagirres admits it's highly unlikely the brothers will team up at Movistar in 2014.

Gorka finally sealed his long-awaited move to Movistar earlier this week, bringing to an end a four-year spell in the orange jersey. Ion has, like most Euskaltel stars, been linked with numerous teams the last few months, but it appears likelier by the day that he'll stay put and form a key part of Fernando Alonso's new team.

Speaking to ETB, Gorka says he has "difficulty" seeing Ion making the move to Movistar as well.

"It's the truth - it looks difficult", he said. "Both parties would have to come to an agreement. Time will tell, but there's no rush".

He further reveals he was offered the chance to be a part of Alonso's squad next year, but says that he'd by then already made up his mind.

"I had the chance to stay on, but I had already made my decision. The negotiations with Movistar were already at an advanced stage. I finished what I started and signed for two years".

Watch the entire interview here:

Photo: BCPT

Bagües makes his mark in China

Equipo Euskadi closed out the Tour of China I on a high on Friday.

Young hopeful Aritz Bagües claimed fifth on the sixth and final stage, having featured in a late-race move that was only brought to a halt inside the last click. His fifth on the stage was enough to secure him fifth overall as well, topping off a day that also saw the team come away with the best team prize overall.

"The team has worked well together and we've achieved top results", a pleased Fundación Ciclista Euskadi president Miguel Madariaga told the team's website. "This has been a big step forward for the foundation", he added of the team's maiden foray into Asian racing.

The eight-day Tour of China II commences this Monday, and the team will field the same riders.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Radochla sprints into gear in Vlaanderen

Steffen Radochla grabbed his best result in an Euskaltel jersey in Friday's Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen.

The German veteran has struggled for results and consistency in his first - and probably last - season with the team, but finally showed signs of form when given the chance yesterday. The 192km Europe Tour event came down to a sprint finish, and Belgian Jens Debusschere emerged victorious to take his very first win in the professional ranks.

Radochla, aided by the young Jon Aberasturi, came through for a decent seventh - his first top ten in his short Euskaltel career. Aberasturi eventually came in 21st.

  • (1, Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol), 4:25:31)
  • 7, Steffen Radochla, s.t.
  • 21, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 25, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
  • 51, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 53, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 67, Ricardo Mestre, s.t.
  • 70, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 94, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
Photo: BCPT

Friday, September 20, 2013

Euskaltel send team to trio of one-day races

While six riders will be heading to Florence and the World Championships this weekend, an Euskaltel octet will take on three minor one-day races outside of Spain from Friday to Sunday.

The three races in question are the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen (today, Friday), the GP Impanis - Van Petegem (Saturday) and the GP Isbergues - Pas de Calais (Sunday).

Óscar Guerrero will lead the following riders:
Pablo Urtasun, Jon Aberasturi, Steffen Radochla, Robert Vrecer, Garikoitz Bravo, Miguel Mínguez, Ricardo Mestre and Juan José Oroz.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Euskaltel pick Worlds VI

Euskaltel will send six of their strongest riders against the clock to the World Championships Team Time Trial in Florence this weekend.

The 56,8km event kick-starts the Worlds on Sunday 22. September, and Euskaltel will send a team featuring three different nationalities.

Greek time trial king Ioannis Tamouridis will be present, and so too will Frenchman Romain Sicard. Accompanying the duo will be veterans Mikel Astarloza, Gorka Verdugo and Jorge Azanza, while Ion Izagirre will be the team's youngest, yet possible strongest, rider on the start line.

Photo: BCPT

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tamouridis keen to prolong Euskaltel stay

Prior to this year, only the keenest of cycling aficionados would have known much about Ioannis Tamouridis.

Fast forward eight months, and 'Tamu' - as he's become affectionately known - has become an impressively popular rider at Euskaltel and a rider the knowledgeable and dedicated fans in Euskadi have taken to their hearts.

Yet times are hardly good for the Greek - just as times aren't good for any of the riders whose contracts expire this season. While the news of Fernando Alonso wanting to buy the team and fund it into the foreseeable future was met with almost universal appraise at home and abroad, it changed little for the riders who were on the look-out for a ride in 2014.

The Spanish Formula 1 star has confirmed all 14 riders under contract will feature on his new set-up, but as of yet - and we're already in late September - there's been no word on what's to happen with the riders on one-year deals.

Some are likely to be handed a new deal, the majority seems likely to be let go. As expert directeur sportif Gorka Gerrikagoitia put it so succinctly in Madrid on Sunday: "No one knows anything about what the future holds".

Neither does Tamouridis.

"Except for the 14 riders under contract next year, no one knows if they'll be part of the new team or now", the reigning Greek national road race and time trial champion tells Basque Cycling News. "For sure I want to stay here. This team is like a family, and I would like to stay on.

"The news of Alonso coming on board is good not only to us on the team, but to the sport in general. It would be sad to see a country like Spain only left with one single WorldTour team. No one knows what they'll be doing next year, but I'd be very happy to get the opportunity to stay on for a second year".

Some of Euskaltel's foreign recruits (read: Tarik Chaoufi and Alexandre Serebryakov) struggled to adapt to the level of racing, the new surroundings and their new team-mates, but 'Tamu' - who still calls Thessaloniki in his native country home - has adapted to the rigours of the WorldTour with apparent ease.

Talking about his first year at the top level of the sport, it's clear he's enjoyed himself.

"My first year's been great. It's been a pleasure and a great experience", he says. "The team accepted me from day one and made me feel comfortable. That's one of the reasons I'd like to be around here next year as well.

"Obviously the first year in the WorldTour is difficult for a 'rookie'. The level is of a whole different level to what I was used to, and at the start I have to say I was a bit scared! Despite the fact that I didn't grab any top results, I aimed to be active at most races and to follow the team's instructions. I think I did  that well".

Tamouridis' exploits on the bike this year has caught the attention of the mass media in his home country. If Alonso indeed is to come on at the team's new owner, he predicts the interest in his home country will soar.

"A guy like Alonso can certainly improve the team and raise the team's profile", he says. "As I've already noticed here in Greece, Alonso taking over will get even more people interested in the sport".

Photo: Twitter

Official: Gorka Izagirre joins Movistar

Movistar on Wednesday unveiled the signing of Gorka Izagirre from Euskaltel Euskadi.

The rider has penned a two-year deal with the powerhouse WorldTour squad.

The oldest of the Izagirre brothers has been linked with Eusebio Unzúe's outfit for quite some time, ever since the team's future was cast into doubt prior to the Tour de France. Gorka thus ends his four-year association with the team, having come on board from Contentpolis-AMPO ahead of the 2010 season.

His first season, including wins at the Tour of Luxembourg and the Clásica de Ordizia, was a resounding success, and, though the big wins might have eluded him the last three years, he's become an integral part of the team and shoo-in for the team's biggest events.

The 25-year-old enjoyed a breakout appearance at the Tour de France in 2012 and is likely to be a key domestique for Movistar's many leaders in the years to come.

It's unknown at this time whether Gorka's move will have any implications on his brother Ion's future with Fernando Alonso's 'new Euskaltel' squad. 

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Star Euskaltel duo picked for Worlds

Samuel Sánchez and Egoi Martínez have both been selected to ride the World Championshio road race in Florence, the Spanish Cycling Federation announced earlier on Wednesday.

The Euskaltel pair feature in Spain's nine-man selection and will join Alberto Contador, Katusha duo Joaquim Rodríguez and Daniel Moreno, Movistar trio Alejandro Valverde, José Herrada and Jonathan Castroviejo and Belkin's Luis León Sánchez.

The latter two will also line up in the time trial.

Martínez, widely heralded as one of the peloton's most reliable domestiques, will line up at cycling's biggest showpiece event for the very first time, while 'Samu' of course is - and has been for years - a mainstay of the Spanish team.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rumour mill round-up: Horner's wage demands, González linked

According to some sources, Chris Horner is demanding quite the extravagant wage if he's to come on board Fernando Alonso's yet to be named new team in 2014.

The recent Vuelta victor is said to be asking for 1,5 million euro yearly. At soon to be 42, he's naturally keen on a final, big pay day, but it remains to be seen if Alonso's men can afford that kind of outlay - especially in their first year and with UCI deadlines fast approaching.

Another rider linked to the new team is hotshot Mario González Salas.

The young man from Cantabria, born in June 1992, has enjoyed a breakout year on the Spanish amateur circuit this year under the tutelage of a certain David Etxebarría at Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos.

Riding on the same team as his brother José Manuel, Mario has finally delivered on his undoubted potential this year, taking a number of big wins and being a key part of the Spanish sub-23 set-up. The reigning national road race and Vuelta a Bidasoa champion recently took part in the Tour de l'Avenir, and will soon be heading to Florence to ride the World Championships.

Whether there's any truth to the rumours remain to be seen, though, mind you.

Photo: Chris Horner Racing

Monday, September 16, 2013

Euskadi start off strong in China

Equipo Euskadi have gotten their maiden participation in the Tour of China off to a solid start on the first three days.

Illart Zuazubiskar and Unai Iparraguirre have been the stand-out performers up until now, the former grabbing ninth in Saturday's informal individual time trial (a stage not counting towards the overall) and going close to winning solo on Tuesday's second stage.

The powerful rouleur made his move inside the last two clicks but was reeled in with some 500 metres to go. In the deciding sprint finish, Iparraguirre ended up 12th, improving on his 13th from the day before and resulting in him lying a lofty fourth overall after two of six stages.

A content Aritz Arberas, the team's sports director, offered the following soundbite post-race.

"We've been aggressive and brave", he told the team's website. "Tuesday was a very hard day. 80 kilometres of the stage was covered in 50 km/h".

The race continues on Wednesday with a 151km trek from and to Chengdu Pengzhou.

Photo: Fundación Ciclista Euskadi

Concerns raised over "delay" in Euskaltel takeover

The team of Fernando Alonso have expressed their concern over the time it is taking to reach an agreement with the current holders of Euskaltel Euskadi's WorldTour license.

Despite reports to the contrary, Alonso and his men are yet to actually purchase the license. According to a report in El Comercio on Sunday, negotiations are dragging on for two reasons.

The first and biggest issue appears to be the contracts of the Euskaltel staff. Alonso has confirmed that the deals of the 14 riders under contract will be respected next year, but the main sticking point is the contracts of the backroom staff: the mechanics, soigneurs, masseurs and sport directors.

Current General Manager at Euskaltel, Igor González de Galdeano, has repeatedly stressed the importance of saving the jobs of his current staff, but Alonso's men appear keen on bringing in new personnel.

It's believed mechanics Senén Pintado (Movistar) and Alejandro Torralbo (Saxo Tinkoff), as well as masseur 'Chopi' González (Astana), are all wanted at the new team - partly because they all hail from Asturias, Alonso and Samuel Sánchez's home region and likely headquarter of the new team.

The newspaper claims de Galdeano will not hinder a deal being reached if Alonso opts to not bring him into the new set-up, but, admirably, the former pro doesn't want to leave his staff on the street.

de Galdeano told the team's website that talks are proceeding "slower than expected", but that they still hope to reach a deal "in the next few days".

Kiko García, the former ONCE pro set to lead the new squad, told Cyclingnews' Alisdair Fotheringham that "the documents are all there, but the final agreement has not been signed".

"I don't doubt the huge goodwill on all sides, and I'm sure it will all be fine. And it's the same when you buy a car; you want to be really sure of everything.

"But the process is taking quite a while, a little more than I would like, above all because of the deadlines", García continued, referring to the UCI's 30th of September deadline - the day all WorldTour teams need to confirm their continuation into the coming season.

The second issue hindering negotiations is the tax laws in Spain.

Companies pay a substantial smaller tax in the Basque Country compared to Asturias and the rest of Spain, casting the moving of the team's headquarters out of Euskadi into doubt. This issue is not thought to be jeopardizing the team's future, though.

As pointed out by Cyclingnews, Catalan newspaper El Periodico claims a deal with a new main sponsor has already been reached.

The morning daily reports that Italian car manufacturer FIAT is set to be the team's main backer, but García refused to comment on what yet appears to be rumours and just that. García also refrained from commenting on reports that Cervélo are leading the race to become the team's bike supplier, as well as claims Chris Horner is set to sign for the team.

The recent Vuelta victor's contract with his current employer expires at the end of the year, and the American has not denied he's on the look-out for a team.

Photo: Sports Illustrated

Galdeano - This was the best way to say goodbye

Euskaltel Euskadi concluded their final Grand Tour by winning their first ever team classification prize on Sunday.

The final stage of the Vuelta a España was as expected decided in a mass sprint finish in downtown Madrid, meaning the team easily held onto their lead in the team rankings.

While a stage win and an overall podium placing eluded the team, a visibly emotional Igor González de Galdeano expressed his delight at bowing out by taking "the best win possible".

"Going into the race, we had set ourselves three goals: a stage, a podium place for Samuel Sánchez and the team rankings", the team head explained. "We've reached both goals in years prior, but we'd never succeeded before now to win the team classification in a Grand Tour. This is the best win and the best way to say goodbye", he continued somewhat philosophically.

While the season - and with it Euskaltel Euskadi as we know it - is by now means over just yet, de Galdeano felt a rush of emotions while up on the stage.

"I've always emphasized team work and being solid as a unit - that everyone forming part of the team feels a part of the success. We achieved that on our last try", he said. "I felt a lot of feelings going through me while we enjoyed ourselves on the podium. Images, pictures, memories, feelings... Everything went through my mind so quickly. Questions everywhere... It was a very special moment", he concluded.

Team leader Sánchez closed out his final Grand Tour appearance in an orange jersey with a respectable eighth place finish, leading the way ahead of Igor Antón in 20th and Mikel Nieve in 23rd.

A win might have escaped the team, but winning the team prize perhaps feels even sweeter - if only because it puts the focus on the team and not one single individual. More than anything, it's always been about the team at Euskaltel.

  • (1, Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), 2:44:00)
  • 26, Gorka Verdugo, 0:03
  • 32, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 35, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 40, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 43, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 49, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 51, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 62, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 63, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
Final general classification:
  • (1, Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard), 84:36:04)
  • 8, Samuel Sánchez, 9:51
  • 20, Igor Antón, 33:05
  • 23, Mikel Nieve, 49:36
  • 30, Egoi Martínez, 1:12:18
  • 39, Mikel Landa, 1:37:26
  • 46, Juan José Oroz, 1:48:50
  • 63, Gorka Verdugo, 2:20:01
  • 90, Jorge Azanza, 3:03:39
  • 122, Pablo Urtasun, 4:08:50

Izagirre shines in Montréal

Ion Izagirre showed flashes of his pedigree for hilly one-day races by powering to an eighth place finish in the GR Montréal on Sunday.

The talented puncheur formed part of the select group that formed in the closing stages of the second of the two Canadian WorldTour races, joining the likes of eventual winner Peter Sagan, Ryder Hesjedal, Rui Costa and Greg Van Avermaet in the race's deciding move.

No one was able to go with "The Hulk" when he turned on the turbo, but the youngest of the Izagirres stayed with the group behind the lone Cannondale rider as they sprinted for fourth behind late escapees Simone Ponzi and the aforementioned Hesjedal.

Eventually Izagirre had to make do with ninth, while his team-mates Miguel Mínguez, Peio Bilbao and Romain Sicard all came in with the main chase group at 26 seconds.

  • (1, Peter Sagan (Cannondale), 5:20:07)
  • 9, Ion Izagirre, 0:09
  • 36, Miguel Mínguez, 0:26
  • 38, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
  • 43, Romain Sicard, s.t.
  • 63, Adrián Sáez, 4:25
  • 75, Gorka Izagirre, 6:25
  • DNF: Rubén Pérez, Ricardo García

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chetout lands podium in Alsasua

Loïc Chetout continued his strong run of results by sprinting to third in the last Torneo Euskaldun race of the year in Alsasua on Sunday.

Lizarte's Rafael Márquez grabbed an impressive win, coming in a second ahead of former pro Ion Pardo and the Naturgas Energía Frenchman.

Chetout's team-mates Imanol Estévez and Karl Baudron spent the majority of the day up ahead in the break, claiming the mountains and intermediate sprints classifications respectively.

Higinio Fernández led the overall rankings going into the race and successfully defended his lead to be crowned overall victor of the Torneo Euskaldun 2013.

  1. Rafael Márquez (Lizarte), 2:56:59
  2. Ion Pardo (Entente Sud Gascogne), 0:01
  3. Loïc Chetout (Naturgas Energía), s.t.
  4. Unai Elorriaga (Eustrak), 0:06
  5. Miguel Ángel Benito (Caja Rural), 0:11
  6. Antonio Pedrero (Lizarte), s.t.
Photo: Iñaki Azanza


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