Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Samu gears up for Giro on Italian roads

Team captain Samuel Sánchez will headline Euskaltel's charge in the fast-approaching Tirreno-Adriatico as he bids to further both his form and his knowledge of racing in the country of his biggest goal this year: the Giro d'Italia.

'The race of the two seas' kicks off on March 6, and includes a team time trial, an individual race against the clock and the customary long, lumpy days in the saddle.

Sánchez will spearhead the team to be directed by Gorka Gerrikagoitia, and will be accompanied by Egoi Martínez, Miguel Mínguez, Jorge Azanza, Ricardo García, Garikoitz Bravo, Ioannis Tamouridis and Robert Vrecer.

Despite aiming to get a feel for Italian roads before the big rendezvous in May, Euskaltel will not take part in the coming weekend's Strade Bianche-Roma Maxima doubleheader. 

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cazaux hits the ground running

Despite departing Euskaltel and the pro scene on everything but good terms at the end of last season, Pierre Cazaux has not wasted his time in achieving success among the amateurs.

The erstwhile Francaise des Jeux rider, now competing for GSC Blagnac in his home country, came out tops in Sunday's Grand Prix d'Ouverture Pierre Pinel, reports Equipo Euskadi. The 28-year-old prevailed in a sprint finish against the promising Clément Saint-Martin, seven years his junior, of Océane U-Top 16, with fellow ex-pro Mathieu Perget, formerly of Movistar and now of US Montauban 82, closing out the podium.

Team-mate and fellow French-Basque Damien Branaa also took the start, but does not figure on the result sheet. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Galdeano - I'm not complaining

In four days, Euskaltel will once again have gone through the first two months of the year without a win to their name. While that might bother victory-craving supporters, it's not bothering the leader of the team.

Igor González de Galdeano expressed his contentment at his 'new' team's start to 2013 when speaking to El Diario Vasco on Monday.

"All the changes at the team delayed our season preparations a bit", he said, "That put us back, but it didn't stop us doing our best Tour Down Under ever. There are no complaints from me about the start to the season we're having.

"We didn't do badly at the Tour of the Med or in the Vuelta a Andalucía. In the latter race, Ion (Izagirre) had one bad day that impeded him from challenging the very best on GC. What's more, he was close to winning a stage".

Two of the most prominent riders so far this term have, unsurprisingly, been the ever-reliable pair of brothers that are Gorka and Ion Izagirre. The duo will both line up on Sunday for Paris-Nice, and Galdeano is expecting them to come up with the goods.

"Gorka, Ion and Mikel Nieve are all at a good level of form", he assured. "Astarloza is as well. We'll field a very competitive team. It's not strong enough to win the race, but for sure to fight it out on many of the stages. As always, the list of participants will be very strong in France, but we hope to get something out of the race".

Joining the quartet at the season's second WorldTour race will be Romain Sicard, Jure Kocjan, Gorka Verdugo and Rubén Pérez. At the same time, Samuel Sánchez will lead a contingent at the 'Race of the two seas'.

"We'll also head to Tirreno-Adriatico with a strong group. Samuel Sánchez will be there, Egoi Martínez, Jorge Azanza, Ioannis Tamouridis, Robert Vrecer... The riders on show in Italy will be in a less advanced state of form, though. Between all the riders racing in Paris-Nice and Tirreno we'll pick 12 for a Vuelta al País Vasco long-team".

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lobato closes in on first win

Budding sprinter Juan José Lobato snatched his best result in an Euskaltel jersey yet by taking fourth in Sunday's Clásica de Almería.

The race was largely animated by Basques right from the off, with Euskaltel's Pablo Urtasun and Euskadi's Mikel Bizkarra forming part of the day's main break along with fellow Spaniard and Catalan David de la Cruz of NetApp.

The trio, eventually joined by Lotto-Belisol's Jurgen van de Walle, were never close to staying away to the line, though, and Euskaltel duly went to the head of the pack once Urtasun and co. had been caught to set it up for their main man Lobato.

Team Blanco's Mark Renshaw proved too quick to handle in the sprint, besting Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Francesco Lasca and Lobato in that order.

Euskadi's speedy finisher Carlos Barbero also got in on the act and finished 11th, while Rubén Pérez ended up 15th. Samuel Sánchez continues to ease his way into rhythm by claiming 49th, eight seconds adrift.

Urtasun took the climber's prize, while Lobato won the 'Best regional rider'-award.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Mark Renshaw (Blanco), 4:30:14)
  • 4, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 11, Carlos Barbero (Euskadi), s.t.
  • 15, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 40, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 49, Samuel Sánchez, 0:08
  • 53, Juan José Oroz, 0:19
  • 64, Ricardo Mestre, 2:51
  • 65, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 76, Mikel Bizkarra, s.t.
  • 82, Aritz Bagües, s.t.
  • 90, Unai Iparraguirre, 3:51
  • 91, Mikel Iturria, 3:52
  • 92, Igor Merino, s.t.
  • 94, Illart Zuazubiskar, 5:57
  • 101, Tarik Chaoufi, s.t.
  • 103, Jon Larrinaga, s.t.

Over in France, the Euskaltel contingent on the start line of the Les Boucles de Sud Ardèche didn't manage to better or equal Ion Izagirre's third place from last year.

It wasn't for the lack of trying, though. After doing their part of the work at the head of the peloton after missing out on the breakaway, Ion's brother Gorka was in contention for the win in the latter stages of the race. When the decisive move went clear on the Sampzon climb some 15 clicks out, Gorka missed out though and had to settle for 15th on the line. Mikel Astarloza and Miguel Minguez both showed decent form as well, making the cut towards the end and finishing up 22nd and 30th respectively.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Mathieu Drujon (BigMat), 5:08:34)
  • 15, Gorka Izagirre, 0:31
  • 22, Mikel Astarloza, 2:14
  • 30, Miguel Minguez, 2:28
  • 46, Jure Kocjan, 8:38
  • 51, Garikoitz Bravo, 10:44
  • DNF: Steffen Radochla, Jon Aberasturi
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Estévez grabs podium in Copa de España opener

Imanol Estévez and Loïc Chetout made sure Naturgas Energía got a spectacular start to their Copa de España-campaign by finishing third and fifth respectively in Sunday's Circuito Guadiana in Don Benito, Extramadura.

Like last year, the Russians of Lokomotiv showed they'll be hard to beat this time around as well, Vadim Zhuravlev taking the spoils with a strong finishing kick. Local rider Daniel Sánchez nabbed the runner-up spot ahead of Naturgas prodigy Estévez, while Chetout also showed promise by taking fifth. In addition, the Frenchman won the mountains prize.

Eki Sport-Gipuzkoa's Ion Odriozola also showed himself in the sprint finish by taking 13th, with former Naturgas rider Fernando Grijalba, now donning the green of Caja Rural, taking 16th.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Vadim Zhuravlev (Lokomotiv), 3:02:57)
  • 3, Imanol Estévez, s.t.
  • 5, Loïc Chetout, s.t.
  • 57, Noel Gil, s.t.
  • 99, Pablo Comins, 2:25
  • 101, Álvaro Trueba, s.t.
  • 102, Francisco Javier Martín, s.t.
  • 135, Víctor Etxeberria, 3:27
Photo: Pascal Baudron

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Samu - Language is no barrier

Much has been made of the way the non-Spaniards have managed to communicate with the natives at Euskaltel after the change in philosophy at Igor González de Galdeano's outfit the past winter.

Tarik Chaoufi allegedly speaks no English or Spanish and needed a translator at the team's first off-season gathering. Reportedly, André Schulze and Steffen Radochla don't speak Spanish either, and the lingua franca with the Slovenians is said to be Italian. What's more, Igor Antón is even known to be taking English lessons.

Ever the diplomat, team captain Samuel Sánchez doesn't see it as a problem at all - to him, changes are more often than not positive.

"I think the integration of the new riders have gone well", he told the team's website yesterday. "The truth is that I see a lot of myself in them when I first joined the team. The team management staked a lot on me when I went from amateur to pro. Therefore I see a lot of my own situation in theirs. When you join a new, big team whose riders you don't know, you feel a bit lost. But now I think all the riders are doing their part in making sure the newcomers fit in.

"The language does not represent a problem", he argues. "It's good for us: we can practice our English, while it should be enriching for them to learn a new language. I'd say all changes for the better are welcome. Evolution is always a good thing".

All the new riders, bar Alexandre Serebryakov, have gotten their bows in the orange jersey already, and 'Samu' himself kick-started his campaign in Murcia earlier today. 2013 represents the 2008 Olympic champion's 14th consecutive year with the team, making him the team's longest-serving rider. He insists staying motivated is not a problem, though.

"I'm just as motivated this year as if it was my first year", he said. "I think that's the secret - no more, no less. When a cyclist passes 30, his mentality changes a bit, but I want to remain at the top of the sport. You need to have the motivation and the will to go out on your bike. Without that motivation, it's impossible (to keep going year after year)."

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Antón almost there in Murcia

Igor Antón showed his season is on track on Saturday with a strong sixth in the one-day Vuelta a Murcia.

Antón is aiming to reach top form this season earlier than in years past and showed he's close to achieving just that by climbing with the likes of Valverde and Mollema in the south of Spain.

The race finished with a short, sharp cat.3 climb that was supposed to be the decider, but Dani Navarro, who'd attacked some 20 clicks out with five other riders, just about managed to hold off Mollema and Valverde to claim an unlikely victory for his new French team, Cofidis. Antón was in close attendance in sixth at the same time, while Rubén Pérez grabbed 21st and Samuel Sánchez - on his season debut - took 25th.

The Euskadi team made sure their race was a success early on by placing Jon Larrinaga in the day's main break, but Aritz Arberas' charges were never close to mixing it up with the big boys, Mikel Bizkarra's 37th being their top placing. Euskaltel's Pablo Urtasun tried to bridge the gap to Larrinaga's group early on, but fell short and was caught by the pack before posting a DNF.

Euskaltel debutant Tarik Chaoufi also failed to complete the race.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), 4:40:32)
  • 6, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 21, Rubén Pérez, 0:49
  • 25, Samuel Sánchez, 0:53
  • 28, Ricardo Mestre, 1:11
  • 37, Mikel Bizkarra, 6:37
  • 46, Juan José Oroz, 11:57
  • 48, Aritz Bagües, 17:22
  • 49, Carlos Barbero, s.t.
  • 55, Igor Merino, s.t.
  • 58, Mikel Iturria, 20:38
  • 62, Illart Zuazubiskar, s.t.
  • DNF: Unai Iparragirre (Euskadi), Pablo Urtasun, Tarik Chaoufi, Juan José Lobato (Euskaltel)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gorka looking to emulate Ion in France

Ion Izagirre grabbed a noteworthy third at the Les Boucles de Sud Ardèche early last season. This year, brother Gorka will head up Euskaltel's challenge in France.

The team, to be directed by Óscar Guerrero, will take on two French one-dayers this weekend, starting with the newly-created Drôme Classic on Saturday and Sud Ardèche on Sunday.

The following seven riders will don the Euskaltel jersey across the border:
  • Jon Aberasturi
  • Mikel Astarloza
  • Garikoitz Bravo
  • Gorka Izagirre
  • Jure Kocjan
  • Miguel Mínguez
  • Steffen Radochla
Both races are held on circuits, at least partly, and so should suit the explosive Gorka, newcomer Kocjan and on-form Mínguez.

Naturgas rev up for amputated weekend

Naturgas Energía will hope to continue their season in a strong manner this Sunday in the Copa de España - the most prestigious race series they annually take part in.

The Fundación's sub-23 team were originally slated for an appearance on Saturday as well, but the Trofeo Lehendakari-ranked race in Soraluze has been called off due to the risk posed by the adverse weather likely to affect the Gipuzkoa region this weekend. Instead they'll now channel all their energies on Sunday's big one in Don Benito, the first Copa de España race of 2013.

According to the Fundación Euskadi's website, the team will consist of the following seven riders:
  • Loïc Chetout
  • Pablo Comins
  • Imanol Estévez
  • Víctor Etxeberria
  • Noel Gil
  • Francisco Javier Martín
  • Álvaro Trueba
Photo: Pascal Baudron

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"I'm on the right path"

Ace climber Mikel Nieve has gotten his season off to a strong start, taking third at a stage in the Tour of the Med before going on to place 12th overall in the Vuelta a Andalucía yesterday.

Hitting the gas so early in the year represents a marked change for the 28-year-old. The former Orbea rider has usually eased his way into competition in order to peak for the Giro d'Italia and, later on, the Vuelta a España - but that's all out the window as he for the first time centers his season around the Tour.

"This year I've started out pretty strong, and a little change from the ordinary motivates me", he told Gara.

"At the moment I'm feeling good. I didn't have the best of days yesterday (Tuesday, finishing 15th on the final stage in Andalucía), but I'm feeling good in training and I think I'm on the right path. Let's hope I keep improving in the next races. I intend to be among the frontrunners at Paris-Nice and further improve my shape to have a good first half of the season".

After completing the prestigious French one-week race, Nieve will set his sights on the Volta a Catalunya, GP Miguel Indurain, Vuelta a Castilla y León and the Tour de Romandie.

"Focussing on one-week stage races is another way to do things for me, and it's something I have to learn", the Grand Tour expert said. "They are races that could be well suited to me. I've got a nice racing schedule and I have to take advantage of it. I'd love to get a top overall placing in one of them and win a stage in either Paris-Nice, the Volta or in Romandie".

Together with Igor Antón, the double Grand Tour stage victor will spearhead the orange charge on French roads in July. Leadership duties bring with them both positives and negatives, he claims.

"It's got its good and bad points, but it means I can get there, reach top form and give it my all", he concluded.

Track Worlds Day 1: Spain goes 4th in Team Pursuit Finals

The Spanish Team Pursuit squad, which includes Basque riders Unai Elorriaga and Asier Maeztu, rode to a surprising fourth place at the UCI World Track Cycling Championships in Minsk, Belarus. The team itself did not include some of the bigger Spanish pursuiting names like David Muntaner so while expectations for the squad were high, they were not expecting any miracles.

Yet a miracle came for the Spanish squad during qualifying. The powerful Russian team, which had brought their A team from the Olympics, suffered a catastrophe as Artur Ershov crashed within the first kilometer and left them with only three men for the final 3 kilometers. The Spanish, thanks to a very quick final kilometer, snuck into 4th place and qualified for the bronze final.

While Spain ran into the strong Danish squad in the bronze final, 4th place is a commendable feat for a team that was not supposed to be challenging for a medal.

Coverage of the World Track Championships will continue all week long. Unai Elorriaga should be lining up for the men's omnium, which is where he got himself a bronze medal in the Glasgow World Cup this season.

Euskaltel and Euskadi set for weekend double-header

Euskaltel and Euskadi are both set to take part in two races this weekend; the Vuelta a Murcia and the Clásica de Almería.

It'll be a big weekend for Euskaltel captain Samuel Sánchez as he makes his first competitive appearance of the season, while Tarik Chaoufi is also in line to get his Euskaltel bow.

Euskadi will field much of the same riders that recently took part in the Challenge Mallorca, sending eight riders to both races.

Both teams will line up the same riders for both one-day races in the south of Spain.

  • Samuel Sánchez
  • Igor Antón
  • Juan José Oroz
  • Rubén Pérez
  • Pablo Urtasun
  • Tarik Chaoufi
  • Ricardo Mestre
  • Juan José Lobato
  • Aritz Bagües
  • Illart Zuazubiskar
  • Carlos Barbero
  • Mikel Bizkarra
  • Unai Iparragirre
  • Mikel Iturria
  • Jon Larrinaga
  • Igor Merino
Photo: Fondo

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Izagirre goes for broke in Andalucía finale

Just like he did at the recently-concluded Tour of the Med, Ion Izagirre put it all on the line in Wednesday's concluding Vuelta a Andalucía stage, trying to salvage a low-key race for his team.

The youngest of the Izagirres got into a dangerous-looking break on the last day in the French race and was in contention for springing a big surprise before eventually falling short. On today's hilly 182,7km ride from Lucena to Rincon de la Victoria, he did the same and got much closer.

After watching team-mate Mikel Landa dynamiting the field but blowing up on the last climb moments earlier, Izagirre got into the right move and crested the summit 14 clicks from the line along with seven others.

A few other riders bridged the gap on the descent, meaning 12 riders made it to the line together. Wary of the threat posed by Valverde in a sprint finale, the native of Ormaiztegi jumped under the two-kilometres-to-go banner. It wouldn't stick, though, and the Movistar leader duly went on to take both stage and general classification spoils.

Izagirre eventually came in 10th, while Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve ensured the team a good final performance by placing 14th and 15 respectively at only ten seconds.

Nieve's consistency throughout the race netted him a 12th on GC, while Izagirre and Antón followed close by in 15th and 17th.

Speaking on his way to the Malaga airport, Izagirre told the team's website that "the legs felt good today. I was in the fight for the win and I'm pleased with that.

"I wasn't as strong as I had hoped on the first stage - I didn't feel good and ceded time. But today I struck back and wind up the race feeling happy, though I'm aware I have to keep improving and strive for better results".

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 4:45:28)
  • 10, Ion Izagirre, s.t.
  • 14, Igor Antón, 0:10
  • 15, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 19, Mikel Landa, 1:39
  • 37, Gorka Verdugo, 3:07
  • 65, Ioannis Tamouridis, 12:14
  • 79, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
Final general classification:
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 13:47:27)
  • 12, Mikel Nieve, 0:53
  • 15, Ion Izagirre, 1:45
  • 17, Igor Antón, 2:20
  • 23, Mikel Landa, 3:46
  • 40, Gorka Verdugo, 13:08
  • 64, Ioannis Tamouridis, 24:19
  • 84, Juan José Lobato, 30:25
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

In six months, this team might be bust

When the Fundación Euskadi's Continental team was unveiled in January, it was widely met with approval for its simple name and iconic jersey reminiscent of yesteryear. What the Equipo Euskadi team was a result of, though, was the futile search for a title sponsor.

Speaking yesterday, foundation president Miguel Madariaga revealed the outlook for the team is bleak - revealing it might be gone before the summer.

"The financial situation is bad", he told Vavel. "Right now we're below minimum, and we're looking for a sponsor. If we don't find one in the coming six months, this team will have to disband".

Madariaga says he's "pulled all the strings I could have pulled", but that the dire economic state makes investing in sport teams a no-go for companies all across Spain.

What's more, the current climate in cycling doesn't make the sport all that attractive.

"To find a sponsor, our project needs to be a good one. But the economic state and all the doping mess isn't doing anyone any favours", he stated.

The alma mater of modern Basque cycling says times are tough for his foundation and his teams, but adds that it's not even close to being the worst that's happened to him.

"The worst moments of my time in cycling is without a doubt the death of Víctor Cabedo and Iñaki Lejarreta", he concluded.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lobato comes up short on home roads

It was the day he'd been looking forward to, but it wasn't to be: local rider Juan José Lobato was not on his best day when it came to decide the winner of the third stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía on Tuesday.

The host city of the 195km stage, Trebujena, is the place the young Euskaltel sprinter calls home, and the new orange recruit was naturally eyeing a tilt at a top result on the slightly lumpy ride to Montilla.

There was no coming around Jonathan Hivert on the finishing straight, though, with the Frenchman taking consecutive stage wins for his Sojasun team. The field galloping for the line was markedly short on top-level sprinters, but Euskaltel's protected man for the day had to settle for 13th. He was closely followed by Ion Izagirre in 18th, while Igor Antón, Mikel Nieve and Mikel Landa also came in with the reduced peloton.

Gorka Verdugo had a day to forget, crashing 15 clicks out and ceding a massive, yet totally insignificant, eight minutes. He was allegedly banged and bruised up, but there's so far no reports on the veteran sustaining any serious injuries.

Heading into tomorrow's deciding queen-stage, Mikel Nieve is the team's top rider in 14th overall.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Jonathan Hivert (Sojasun), 4:48:37)
  • 13, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 18, Ion Izagirre, s.t.
  • 27, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 43, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 49, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 56, Ioannis Tamouridis, 0:30
  • 110, Gorka Verdugo, 8:09
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Nieve climbs with the best in Andalucía

True to his word, Mikel Nieve has reached a promising state of form early on this year. On Tuesday's stage two of the Vuelta a Andalucía, the climbing ace grabbed tenth in Ubrique at the end of a mountainous day in the saddle.

The 163,9km leg took in three categorized climbs, with the last one, the cat.1 Las Palomas climb, topping out some 30 clicks from the line. A 21-man strong group formed at the front of the race as the climbs took their toll, among them the Euskaltel rider and the likes of Valverde, Gesink, Brajkovic, Fuglsang, Mollema and eventual winner Jonathan Hivert of French outfit Sojasun.

The latter beat Valverde and Mollema to the line, with Nieve coming in seven seconds down along with Fuglsang, De Clercq and Navarro. Thanks to this ride, he's now 14th overall.

Igor Antón looked in decent shape as well on the last climb, taking fifth as the peloton crossed the KOM prize, but faded towards the end an ceded 1:33 along with Landa, Verdugo and I Izagirre.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Jonathan Hivert (Sojasun), 4:06:22)
  • 10, Mikel Nieve, 0:07
  • 28, Mikel Landa, 1:33
  • 31, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 36, Ion Izagirre, s.t.
  • 37, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 64, Ioannis Tamouridis, 11:08
  • 106, Juan José Lobato, 17:42

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Injury postpones Euskaltel wonderkid's season

Much was expected of a barely-turned 21-year-old called Peio Bilbao when he joined Euskaltel after only two months with then-feeder team Orbea in the early stages of 2011. For impatient on-lookers, not much has happened since. Despite an encouraging second place at the Tour de Vendée at the back end of that 2011 season, results have been hard to come by.

A large part of that is down to injuries, and, disappointingly for the Gernika-native, this year has been much of the same. The now-23-year-old is yet to turn a pedal this year due to a knee injury, and it might be another few weeks before he'll be back at the races.

"If everything goes well, I'll be back in two or three weeks", he told Deia's Aner Gondra.

While much has been made of his all-round ability and future Grand Tour general classification pedigree, Bilbao sees himself heading in a slightly different direction once he gets back in the saddle.

"I told Igor González de Galdeano that I liked it at the one-day races last year, and that's what I'll focus on this year", he revealed. "If there's a leader I'll have to work for him, but it's obvious the team needs points and any way we get them will do. In the classics where there's no clear leader I'll look for my chance and try to grab a few".

With a new philosophy at the team came a bigger roster during the off-season, and the lanky youngster thinks that might lead to a role-change for him.

"During the first two years I learned my way around a bit and, now, in a team with 29 riders, my role will change a bit", he said. "Now I need to take responsibility. In your third season you're supposed to be there".

Bilbao's racing schedule is yet to be unveiled, but he's more than likely to be handed a calendar that alines with his goals. The 'new Euskaltel' has been slow to get into gear this year with the victories still eluding the team, but Bilbao only had words of gratefulness for the team's backers.

"We have to thank Euskaltel", he said. "There's a lot of people who don't know when to be thankful, but ultimately they're continuing to support the grassroots through us".

Strong start in Andalucía for Izagirre

Ion Izagirre once again showed his pedigree against the clock with a strong prologue at the Vuelta a Andalucía on Sunday.

The 59th edition of the race kicked off with a six-kilometre long prologue in San Fernando de Cádiz, a discipline of course not traditionally suited to Galdeano's charges. Ion Izagirre showed he's still going strong after a solid start to the year, clinching 13th at only 12 seconds from victor Alejandro Valverde.

Gorka Verdugo also posted a respectable time with 36th, while crono specialist Ioannis Tamouridis came in 59th.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 6:46)
  • 13, Ion Izagirre, 0:12
  • 36, Gorka Verdugo, 0:19
  • 59, Ioannis Tamouridis, 0:27
  • 72, Juan José Lobato, 0:29
  • 86, Mikel Landa, 0:34
  • 90, Mikel Nieve, 0:36
  • 92, Igor Antón, 0:37
Over in Portugal, Miguel Minguez rode a creditable time trial of his own to finish a decent 21st overall at the Volta ao Algarve. The 24-year-old placed a noteworthy 12th on Saturday's mountain top finish, but his 36th over the 34,2km ITT saw him finish just outside the top 20.

Ricardo García, enjoying a rich vein of form, was the team's top rider in 32nd place.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), 45:09)
  • 32, Ricardo García, 4:43
  • 36, Miguel Minguez, 4:57
  • 44, Ricardo Mestre, 5:23
  • 55, Egoi Martínez, 6:10
  • 64, Jorge Azanza, 6:38
  • 125, Jure Kocjan, 9:41
  • 128, Steffen Radochla,  10:00
Final general classification:
  • (1, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Steo), 15:36:26)
  • 21, Miguel Minguez, 5:03
  • 47, Ricardo Mestre, 8:24
  • 48, Jorge Azanza, 8:25
  • 52, Egoi Martínez, 8:48
  • 94, Ricardo García, 15:04
  • 126, Jure Kocjan, 33:35
  • 128, Steffen Radochla, 33:54

Minguez climbs to prominence

Miguel Minguez showed some of the best form of his career by taking 12th in Saturday's Volta ao Algarve queen-stage.

There was no denying Sky's Sergio Henao escaping with the stage and the overall lead, but an Euskaltel outfit without its top climbers on show did their best to get in on the act.

Jorge Azanza and Ricardo Mestre both got into the day's main break, hoping to spring a surprise from afar. Despite the presence of many strong climbers in the escape group, among them a certain Arkaitz Durán, it wasn't to stick. Mestre, eager to impress in front of his people, hung in there for a long time, though, only being reeled in inside the last five clicks.

Henao eventually proved the strongest of the overall favourites, holding off home rider Rui Costa of Movistar and Vacansoleil's lanky Dutchman Lieuwe Westra.

Minguez stayed with the likes of Klöden, Martin and Kwiatkowski for the majority of the ascent of the Alto do Malhão, and came in 12th at only 24 seconds. This strong showing results in the Bilbao-native occupying the same place on GC.

On a less positive note, Jon Aberasturi abandoned. The young sprinter has been struggling with a cold for a couple of days, and today decided to throw in the towel.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Sergio Henao (Sky), 4:53:15)
  • 12, Miguel Minguez, 0:24
  • 52, Jorge Azanza, 2:05
  • 63, Egoi Martínez, 2:56
  • 72, Ricardo Mestre, 3:19
  • 104, Ricardo García, 7:43
  • 137, Jure Kocjan, 24:12
  • 141, Steffen Radochla, s.t.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Barbero - I'd like to improve my sprint

He might not be Basque, but for years he's been touted as one of the next big things coming out of Spain's cycling hotbed and a future Euskaltel star in the making. Burgos-born Carlos Barbero has for the last four years been given his cycling education under the Fundación Euskadi's umbrella, riding two years for Naturgas Energía before taking the step up to Orbea and debuting in the pro ranks last year.

The 21-year-old enjoyed an equally solid and unspectacular 2012 season, his best results being second and fifth on stages in Portuguese stage-race GP Internacional Torres Vedras - Joaquim Agostinho. Speaking after making his season debut at the Challenge Mallorca, Barbero reflected on his first year among the big guys.

"My first year was better than expected", he told Sprint Especial. "Granted, going from the amateur ranks to the professional ranks is a big move, but I felt good all year round and managed to be consistent. You always want a little bit more, but in general I'm happy".

Thus far in his career he's mostly made a name for himself in smaller-sized bunch sprints, and that's also where he'll be looking to improve in 2013.

"I'd like to become an even better sprinter - you have to build on what you're already good at", he said. "If you have a strong side it's important to exploit it to stand out from the rest".

Barbero didn't succeed in showcasing his fast-twitch muscle fibres on Mallorca with 20th on day one being his best result, and he's got a job on his hands to make the switch to Euskaltel in the future now that Euskaltel and the Fundación Euskadi's relationship is up in the air. The Equipo Euskadi rider doesn't necessarily see the break-up as a bad thing, though.

"To be honest I don't think it'll close any doors", he said. "I think people will notice you if you do well and show your worth. What's more, I think it might make us more competitive and make us try harder".

Photo: La Fundación Euskadi

Early-season struggles continue at Algarve

The search for a first win of the year goes on for Euskaltel: Today's second stage of the Volta ao Algarve saw another subdued performance from Galdeano's team.

Theo Bos came out tops at the end of the 195km leg from and to Lagoa, the Team Blanco rider ousting Giacomo Nizzolo of RadioShack and the surprise of the day, Carmim-Tavira's Bruno Matos. German speedster Steffen Radochla was Euskaltel's best man in 14th - posting his best result of the year.

Hoping to avoid the eventual mass sprint, Euskaltel wisely put Ricardo García in the day's main break alongside Basque Caja Rural prodigy Omar Fraile and eight others. Despite their strength in numbers, though, the peloton kept them in check and never let them get too far up the road.

Ahead of Saturday's hilly third leg to the top of the Alto do Malhão, Radochla is the team's highest-placed rider on GC, lying in 31st at 14 seconds.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Theo Bos (Blanco), 4:50:15)
  • 14 Steffen Radochla, s.t.
  • 31, Ricardo García, s.t.
  • 35, Jure Kocjan, s.t.
  • 54, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 65, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 71, Miguel Minguez, s.t.
  • 150, Ricardo García, 2:56
  • 152, Jon Aberasturi, 4:05 
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Euskaltel survive first Algarve stage

Euskaltel flew under the radar on Thursday's Volta ao Algarve opener, but all the riders made it safely in with the pack.

The 198,8km opening leg from Faro to Albufeira was somewhat surprisingly taken out by Blanco's Paul Martens, who managed to just hold off a charging peloton after jumping along with RadioShack's Tiago Machado inside the final kilometre.

Neither Radochla, Kocjan, Aberasturi nor anyone else managed to mix it up in the sprint, but all eight 'carrots' avoided ceding any time and are thus still in overall contention.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Paul Martens (Blanco), 5:07:29)
  • 46, Ricardo Mestre, s.t.
  • 47, Steffen Radochla, s.t.
  • 50, Miguel Minguez, s.t.
  • 57, Ricardo García, s.t.
  • 63, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 66, Jure Kocjan, s.t.
  • 82, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 100, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Martínez ready to kick-start season

Egoi Martínez will get his first feel of competition later this week as he spearheads Euskaltel's Volta ao Algarve charge.

The Portuguese stage-race, running Thursday through Sunday this week, will see eight Euskaltel riders on show and, as is becoming increasingly normal by now, a host of nationalities donning the orange jersey. Veteran Martínez, who enjoyed a stellar 2012 season, will be back in action for the first time this year, and will lead the following team:
  • Aberasturi, Jon
  • Azanza, Jorge
  • Garía, Ricardo
  • Kocjan, Jure
  • Martínez, Egoi
  • Mestre, Ricardo
  • Minguez, Miguel
  • Radochla, Steffen
It'll naturally be a special occasion for Portuguese recruit Mestre, who'll be looking to shine on home roads.

"I'm very eager to compete in the region I've ridden my bike since I was a kid, dressed in a jersey of such a great WorldTour team as Euskaltel", he told the team's website. "I'm from Castro-Marin and I've grown as a cyclist on these roads, so to ride the Volta ao Algarve for Euskaltel is an honour".

Mestre showed flashes of form while representing his national team recently, taking eighth in a domestic one-day race, but is adamant he's not in the necessary shape to chase top results for himself.

"Though my form is improving gradually, I'm not in the shape to dispute the race", he explained. "I'll try to help my team as much as possible and be as far ahead as I can".

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mestre impresses - but not in orange

Ricardo Mestre grabbed one of Euskaltel's top results of the year this weekend, but didn't do so while representing his new trade team.

Somewhat atypically, Mestre decided to swap his iconic orange outfit for that of his country for Sunday's Prova de Abertura, and ended up a solid eighth. According to the team's website, the Euskaltel newbie got into the right break alongside his more fast-finishing team-mates André Cardoso and Tiago Machado. Mestre was duly left to ride for his compatriots, and didn't have enough zip in his legs in the sprint to bag a podium for himself. First through third went to Carlos Oyarzun of Louletano-Dunas Douradas, Mestre's team-mate André Cardoso and Basque Arkaitz Durán, riding in the colours of his new team Efapel-Glassdrive.

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Naturgas shows fighting spirit at Essor opener

Naturgas continued where they left off last season by putting on an aggressive showing at their first race of the year, the Essor Basque.

The red and white team took part in the first two stages of the event over the weekend, and came away with their honour intact if not the results.

Last year's revelation, Imanol Estévez (pictured avobe), got his campaign off to a decent start by taking 12th in Saturday's Boucles de l'Essor, a race taken out by Frenchman Olivier Le Gac. The 20-year-old took sixth from a bunch sprint in a group coming in 1:12 down on the victorious Frenchman, in a peloton that also included recent crash-victim Karl Baudron.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Olivier Le Gac (Bic 2000), 2:42:50)
  • 12, Imanol Estévez, 1:12
  • 24, Víctor Etxeberria, s.t.
  • 40, Karl Baudron, s.t.
  • 43, Javier Martín, s.t.
  • 71, Pablo Comins, s.t.
  • 73, Álvaro Trueba, s.t.
  • 99, Loïc Chetout, s.t.
Things didn't go quite as well on Sunday in the Circuit de l'Essor, with the team failing to put a rider in the break and Chetout's 45th being their best result. Speaking post-race, DS Ion Lazkano lamented missing out on the move of the day.

"We didn't have much luck on Sunday", he told the Euskadi foundation's website. "We didn't manage to infiltrate the break, so we've got work to do there".

The Basque Federation also fielded a bunch of riders at the event, but none of them were even close to mixing it up with eventual winner Samuel Plouhinec, the former professional taking his second consecutive win at the Circuit de l'Essor.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Samuel Plouhinec (Team Peltrax-CS Dammarie-lès-Lys), 2:46:22)
  • 45, Loïc Chetout, 2:48
  • 49, Mikel Hernández (Euskadi), s.t.
  • 57, Víctor Exteberria, s.t.
  • 71, Mickael Guichard (Euskadi), s.t.
  • 78, Noel Gil, s.t.
  • 81, Markel Antón (Euskadi), s.t.
  • 85, Igor Merino (Euskadi), s.t.
  • 90, Imanol Estévez, s.t.
  • 96, Jon Ander Insausti (Euskadi), s.t.
  • 104, Eder Sáez de Ocariz, s.t.
Photo: Deia

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nieve shows early sign of life at Tour Med

Mikel Nieve showed a somewhat surprisingly advanced state of form at his very first race of the year, taking third on the last stage as Euskaltel went for broke.

The team's sub-par performance over the first three stages left them adrift of the top ten on general classification, and Álvaro González de Galdeano's charges set about correcting that on Sunday's 192km concluding leg.

Best young rider Ion Izagirre put the team of leader Maxime Monfort, RadioShack, under pressure by infiltrating the day's big break, leaving his team-mates free to concentrate of taking care of Nieve. Izagirre showed all the aggressiveness and tenacity he's become known for over the last 12 months, attacking out of the lead group in the closing stages to increase his chances of staying away. It wasn't to be, though, as the peloton reeled in the recently-turned 24-year-old and his fellow escapees 10 clicks or so from the line.

The team wasn't done, though, and Nieve soon went to the fore with a strong ride on the last climb to clinch third on the line, and consequently grab the team's first podium of the year. He had no response to winner Roelandts or Androni's Francesco Reda, but had enough in the tank to hold off the likes of Mollema, yesterday's victor Peraud and eventual overall winner Lövkvist.

"I'm pleased with the race", was Nieve's reaction post-stage. "I didn't feel good the first two days and hoped to do better on Mont Faron, but after today's race I go home happy - I've gotten better day by day. This third place boosts my morale ahead of my next race, the Vuelta a Andalucía. There, I hope to be even stronger".

DS Galdeano was similarly pleased, praising "safe bet" Nieve.

"It's his first race of the year, and already he's contesting races", he said. "We've done very well the last pair of days, and we're starting to see the hard work we did in the off-season turn into results".

Romain Sicard, Juan José Lobato, Pablo Urtasun and Garikoitz Bravo all posted DNFs.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Jürgen Roelands (Lotto-Belisol), 4:54:49)
  • 3, Mikel Nieve, 0:13
  • 43, Jorge Azanza, 5:42
  • 50, Rubén Pérez, 5:48
  • 65, Ion Izagirre, 5:58
Final general classification:
  • (1, Thomas Lövkvist (IAM), 12:27:24)
  • 26, Mikel Nieve, 4:12
  • 33, Ion Izagirre, 7:26
  • 52, Jorge Azanza, 11:00
  • 54, Rubén Pérez, 11:56

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Izagirre shows form on mythical Mont Faron

Ion Izagirre showed budding early-season form on Saturday's Tour of the Med queen-stage to the top of the Mont Faron.

The fourth leg of the French race ended as usual atop the climb overlooking Toulon, and was again likely to be decisive in the fight for overall honours.

Euskaltel got off to a good start by placing Pablo Urtasun in the break, but the French teams naturally weren't keen on letting the race slip away from them just like that and kept the escape artists on a tight leash. In time for the climb it was all back together.

Euskaltel three main men, the aforementioned Izagirre, Mikel Nieve and Romain Sicard, all showed decent climbing legs on the Faron, but none of them were even close to responding to Jean-Christophe Peraud's attack five clicks out.

Peraud went on to claim his first road win in some style, while Maxime Monfort moved into the race lead.

Izagirre crossed the line in a fine 10th place, 44 seconds down, while Nieve and Sicard ended up 33rd and 42nd respectively.

As a result of his strong climbing, the younger Izagirre moved into the lead of the youth classification, and DS Álvaro González de Galdeano only had praise for his protégé post-stage.

"Pablo Urtasun getting into the break was a good move, as it allowed for the rest of the riders to look out for Ion", he told the team's website. "On the last climb, Ion showed he's on strong form and managed to clinch a noteworthy tenth place, as well as climbing up on the podium as the leader of the youth classification. We were very active and animated the racing".

Sunday's final leg takes the riders 192 kilometres from Bandol to Grasse.

  • (1, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r), 3:33:12)
  • 10, Ion Izagirre, 0:44
  • 33, Mikel Nieve, 1:31
  • 42, Romain Sicard, 2:22
  • 66, Jorge Azanza, 3:54
  • 78, Rubén Pérez, 4:57
  • 92, Pablo Urtasun, 8:49
  • 119, Juan José Lobato, 11:55
  • 120, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Saturday, February 09, 2013

In two weeks he'll be rolling

Samuel Sánchez has decided to take on a pair on Spanish one-day races before he makes his debut at the Tirreno-Adriatico.

The 34-year-old had been contemplating not starting his season before the 'Race of the two seas' at March the sixth, but, according to BiciCiclismo, he'll in fact be back in action in two weeks' time.

The 2008 Olympic champ will put on a bib number for the first time this year at the rapidly-diminishing Vuelta a Murcia, set to be staged as a one-day race this year on February 23. He'll follow that up with an appearance at next day's Clásica de Almería.

After giving Tirreno a go, 'Samu' will head straight home to the Basque Country to defend his overall Vuelta al País Vasco crown from last year, and only after that is he likely to decide whether he'll line up for the Ardennes Classics.

No matter what races he opts for, though, it's still with the goal of being in top shape for May's Giro d'Italia.

Watch the video below to see an entertaining video of Samu and his son at their home in Güeñes, Vizcaya.

Photo: Orbea

Friday, February 08, 2013

Naturgas set for first race of 2013

Naturgas Energía will make their first competitive appearance of the season in France on Saturday and Sunday, sending nine riders to the Essor Basque in France.

The Essor Basque, the traditional kick-off race for the Fundación Euskadi's sub-23 team, will be held over six days, with teams and riders free to choose which ones to take part in.

The red and whites will toe the line in the first pair of races: Cambo-Tarnos, les boucles de l'Essor (Saturday), and Ustaritz-Ustaritz, le circuit de l'Essor (Sunday).

As per tradition, team management is more looking for the ridrs to learn from the event rather than to gt results.

"In this first race of the year, the goal for all the riders, especially so for those who'll make their first appearance in the amateur category, is to learn what it's like to ride in France", said DS Ion Lazkano. "It's another cycling culture to the Spanish one".

The roster reads as follows:
  • Chetout, Loic
  • Comins, Pablo
  • Estévez, Imanol
  • Etxeberría, Víctor
  • Gil, Noel
  • González del Campo, Óscar
  • Martín, Javier
  • Sáez de Ocariz, Eder
  • Trueba, Álvaro
It'll be Gil, González del Campo, Sáez de Ocariz and Trueba's debuts with their new team.

Photo: Fundación Euskadi

From Naturgas to Wiggins

Roughly 12 months ago, a fresh-faced 19-year-old called Mikel Iturria was getting ready to embark on his first season in the jersey of sub-23 outfit Naturgas Energía, having joined from Belca a few months prior. Fast forward a year, and he was lining up for his professional debut alongside such distinguished names as Bradley Wiggins, Alejandro Valverde and Robert Gesink.

Turning professional only a year after joining the red and whites was a surprise to most - including himself. Some last-minute negotiations with a firm from Gipuzkoa ensured Miguel Madariaga got some much-needed cash in the bank account off his renamed Equipo Euskadi team, and he duly brought on Iturria and 24-year-old sprinter Unai Iparragirre.

Fresh off his first race at the top level, the native of Tolosa was quietly content with how he'd fared - even though he had no time to prepare for the event.

"It was a surprise. Two weeks ago I had no idea I would turn professional", he told Gara's Joseba Iturria. "I went to Mallorca with a lot of respect, and it went better than I expected it to. My legs felt good, but I noticed the difference when they stamped on the gas. They were going so fast! There was a lot of tension inside the last 50 clicks, everyone's touching everyone, but I enjoyed it, especially so Tuesday's race with its beautiful landscapes".

"Tuesday's race" of course refers to the mountainous Trofeo Serre de Tramuntana - a race taking in the picturesque hills of Mallorca's north-western mountain range. Iturria crossed the line alongside team-mates Haritz Orbe and Igor Merino in 69th place, having finished 66th the day prior and 88th on the opening leg. He ended up dead last on the last day's Trofeo Alcúdia, but, more than the results themselves, the race was a chance to learn from the very best in the business.

"I rode close to Bradley Wiggins a lot", he revealed. "He looked serious and respectful, though he mainly went about his own business. The older Basques gave us a lot of advice when we rode alongside them, though, and we tried to listen and learn."

Considering the pace he's been learning at so far in his career, don't be surprised to see young Iturria having taken another few steps in 12 months' time.

Photo: Pascal Baudron

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Naturgas Energía: the class of 2013

The Fundación Euskadi's sub-23 outfit, Naturgas Energía, was today presented to the public, and the red and white team will be made up of 17 riders in the fast-approaching season.

Ten riders will stay on from the 2012 batch, with seven riders coming over from other teams. These signings, which have been reported on extensively throughout the winter, have been brought in from all over Spain, and thus gives the team a somewhat more domestic, instead of regional, feel to it.

The full roster is as follows:
  • Ardaiz, Eduardo (21, Óbanos)
  • Barrón, Alberto (19, Trucíos)
  • Baudron, Karl (21, Lons, France)
  • Chetout, Loïc (21, Bayonne, France)
  • Comins, Pablo (20, Castellón)
  • Estévez, Imanol (20, Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • Etxeberría, Víctor (20, Estella-Lizarra)
  • Font, Bernat (19, Barcelona)
  • Gil, Noel (19, Villarreal)
  • González, Alain (21, Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • González del Campo, Óscar (19, Dainiel)
  • Martin, Francisco Javier (20, Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • Morales, Aitor (20, Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • Sáez de Ocariz, Eder (19, Etxebarri-Urtupiña) 
  • Sánchez, Oier (20, Bilbao)
  • Santamaría, Alain (20, Santo Domingo de la Calzada)
  • Trueba, Álvaro (20, Polanco)
Ion Lazkano drove the team car a few times last season, and will be the main sports director this campaign. He'll be assisted by trainer Iñigo Urretxua.

After a successful 2012, in which Imanol Estévez took out the overall Torneo Lehendakari-series, the team will hope to see another few riders move into the professional ranks in 2014. Mikel Iturria and Jon Larrinaga both 'graduated' to Orbea this off-season, while Jon Aberasturi followed in the footsteps of Ricardo García and Mikel Landa this year in going through the entire Fundación Euskadi system by signing for Euskaltel.

The team will start its season in France this weekend, while the Basque season kicks off in Soraluze on the 24th of February.

Photo: Pascal Baudron

Crono no-show in Tour of the Med

Euskaltel continued their rather dismal start to the season by failing to place a rider inside the top 40 in today's demanding individual time trial in the Tour Méditerranéen.

The 24km race against the clock was, what with it's 2,5km beast of a climb at the end, suited to the orange featherweights on show - on paper. As it turned out, though, Mikel Nieve, Romain Sicard, Ion Izagirre et al. all failed to shine, with the latter being the best on the day in 47th place.

The youngest of the Izagirres ended up a full 2:19 in arrears on victor Lars Boom, with Sicard just behind and Nieve a full four minutes down.

  • (1, Lars Boom (Blanco), 32:25)
  • 47, Ion Izagirre, 2:19
  • 53, Romain Sicard, 2:28
  • 67, Pablo Urtasun, 2:42
  • 70, Rubén Pérez, 2:46
  • 82, Jorge Azanza, 2:59
  • 103, Juan José Lobato, 3:34
  • 121, Mikel Nieve, 4:03
  • 141, Garikoitz Bravo, 4:58
Photo: Deia

Vrecer - I've got time to recover

Crashing and breaking your collarbone on your debut for your new team might have made any bike rider downhearted, but Robert Vrecer is anything but. The Slovenian sustained the fracture on his first outing at the Challenge Mallorca, but he does not fear it'll compromise his season all that much.

"I've got plenty of time to recover, train and compete", he told Velo Futur. "My motivation is really high, and I might be at the start at Tirreno-Adriatico if everything goes well".

Vrecer's big aim in his maiden season at the top table is of course the Giro d'Italia in the spring, but his participation in the Italian GT is in no way in question.

He'll have an operation on his right collarbone in Bilbao in the near future.

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Nieve and co. enjoy quiet Med opener

Euskaltel's brigade in the south of France did like their team-mates over at Mallorca have been doing the last few days, staying out of the limelight on today's first stage of the Tour Méditerranéen.

The 141km trek from Limoux to Gruissan was one for the sprinters, and André Greipel duly went on to claim yet another win of what's been a barnstorming start to the season. None of the Euskaltel riders on show tried to mingle with the speedsters, preferring to cruise home mid-pack.

Mikel Nieve, making his first appearance of 2013, came in safe and sound in 107th place. We'll get a good indicator of his early-season form tomorrow, with the riders set to tackle a 24km ITT ending with an ascent of the Mont Saint-Clair.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), 3:25:23)
  • 37, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 38, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 46, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 50, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 62, Romain Sicard, s.t.
  • 107, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 110, Ion Izagirre, s.t.
  • 135, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Astarloza aggressive in Alcúdia

Having not even come close to a result in the first three days of racing on Mallorca, Euskaltel tried from afar on the fourth and penultimate leg on Wednesday. Mikel Astarloza's breakaway attempt was of no use, though, leaving the team empty-handed at the Challenge Mallorca.

The 33-year-old veteran was one of 13 riders to make it into the defining break of the day in the Trofeo Alcúdia, but the break was always unlikely to stick with several sprinters in attendance and the not too taxing parcours.

Leigh Howard was the one able to raise his hands in the air, having out-sprinted Blanco's Maarten Wynants and Davide Cimolai of Lampre at the end of the 169,8 kilometres. A small group came in three seconds down on the Orica-GreenEdge pocket rocket, among them Miguel Minguez (17th) and Gorka Verdugo (21st).

Equipo Euskadi DS Aritz Arberas, who beforehand had praised his riders' performances on the opening days, didn't see too much of his young charges today, Igor Merino being the team's top man in 77th, a full 8:25 in arrears.

Juan José Oroz, who crashed yesterday, took the start, but failed to complete the race due to pain in his hip and back. Igor Antón was today's Euskaltel rider to hit the deck, but he came away unscathed.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge), 4:15:29)
  • 17, Miguel Minguez (Euskaltel Euskadi), 0:03
  • 21, Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 46, Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel Euskadi), 3:49
  • 48, Mikel Landa (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 52, Igor Antón (Euskaltel Euskadi), 5:19
  • 77, Igor Merino (Equipo Euskadi), 8:25
  • 78, Aritz Bagües (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 80, Mikel Bizkarra (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 99, Carlos Barbero (Equipo Euskadi), 12:39
  • 111, Illart Zuazubiskar (Equipo Euskadi), 24:43
  • 114, Jon Larrinaga (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 120, Haritz Orbe (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 121, Jon Aberasturi (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 138, Mikel Aristi (Equipo Euskadi), 25:00
  • 139, Mikel Iturria (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Nieve set to start campaign

Tour de France-bound Mikel Nieve will kick-start his 2013 season at the Tour Méditerranéen tomorrow, Euskaltel's website reports.

The team revealed the native of Leitza, Navarra, will toe the line alongside the following seven riders:
  • Azanza, Jorge
  • Bravo, Garikoitz
  • Izagirre, Ion
  • Lobato, Juan José
  • Pérez, Rubén
  • Sicard, Romain
  • Urtasun, Pablo
As such it will also mark the season start for Jorge Azanza, while the others have already competed this season. Álvaro González de Galdeano will direct the riders from the car.

The French stage-race will run from Wednesday, February 6, to Sunday, February 10. 

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Euskaltel try but come up short in Tramuntana

The mountains were on the menu in Tuesday's third leg of the Challenge Mallorca, but Galdeano's disciples were once again forced to settle for intent instead of results in the Trofeo Tramuntana.

Racing in the mountains of Tramuntana on Mallorca's northwestern coast is always a challenge for a peloton just getting back to racing, and today's race was no exception with the inclusion of, among other climbs, the Alto de Sóller and, above all, Mallorca's most mythical one: the steady but arduous Puig Major.

The terrain was like made for Euskaltel and Euskadi's aggressive and lightweight riders, and the former team duly got their man in the break. Gorka Izagirre eventually made it into the decisive nine-man group that animated the day's racing, but, once the big names jumped off the front on the mighty Puig Major, all hope was out for the breakaway.

Movistar duo Valverde and Rui Costa, along with Sky's diminutive Colombian Henao and Blanco's Gesink, quickly caught and passed Izagirre and co. and built a decent lead over the remnants of the pack.

Euskaltel's top man was Mikel Landa, and the youngster was only 20 seconds down on the leading riders at the summit.

The chase was everything but concerted, though, and the quartet went on to fight it out for the win among them. Valverde unsurprisingly came out tops, while a small group, including Landa in 15th, came in 1:15 in arrears.

Igor Antón had an easy day in the mountains and came in more than six minutes back, while Equipo Euskadi had an anonymous performance after the heroics on the first pair of stages. Mikel Bizkarra was their top rider in 60th, ten minutes down.

The bad news of the day was Juan José Oroz's crash. The veteran all-rounder allegedly hit a stone and then the tarmac, but he still managed to get up and finish the stage. According to the team, he should be fit to race tomorrow's fourth and concluding race.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 4:04:57)
  • 15, Mikel Landa (Euskaltel Euskadi), 1:15
  • 33, Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi), 2:33
  • 37, Igor Antón (Euskaltel Euskadi), 6:41
  • 38, Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 55, Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel Euskadi), 9:59
  • 60, Mikel Bizkarra (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 69, Mikel Iturria (Equipo Euskadi), 12:48
  • 70, Miguel Minguez (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 72, Haritz Orbe (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 74, Igor Merino (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 94, Juan José Oroz (Euskaltel Euskadi), 12:55
  • 102, Aritz Bagües (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 115, Mikel Aristi (Equipo Euskadi), 21:50
  • 124, Carlos Barbero (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 125, Jon Larrinaga (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 149, Illart Zuazubiskar (Equipo Euskadi), 27:40
  • 150, Unai Iparragirre (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Serebryakov set to spearhead team in Classics

Euskaltel's Russian recruit will as expected be given leadership duties at his new team for the spring classics this year.

The 25-year-old came over from Team Type 1 with a solid reputation as a budding sprinter, but has also built a decent name for himself in one-day races. Not surprisingly, his schedule of races for the upcoming months is mostly made up of one-day races suited to sprinters and rouleurs.

He'll make his Euskaltel bow at the one-day Vuelta a Murcia later this month, and will then embark on one Northern-European classic after the other, aiming to get into shape for the three big ones: Gent-Wevelgem, the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix.

According to, he's set to take the start in the following races:
  • Vuelta a Murcia
  • Clásica de Almería
  • Ronde van Drenthe
  • Dwars door Drenthe
  • Nokere Koerse
  • Handzame Classic
  • E3 Harelbeke
  • Gent-Wevelgem
  • Ronde van Vlaanderen
  • GP de l'Escaut
  • GP Pino Cerami
  • Paris-Roubaix
  • Paris-Camembert
  • GP de Denain
It's yet to be decided whether he'll form part of a Grand Tour squad this season.

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Euskaltel stars turn out for Ruta del Sol

Euskaltel will field some of its biggest-named riders at the Vuelta a Andalucía later this month.

The four-day event, affectionately known as the Ruta del Sol, will take place from February 17-20, and will see some of the world's best riders on show. Keen to get a result for themselves, Euskaltel have decided to send the follow septet:
  • Antón, Igor
  • Izagirre, Ion
  • Landa, Mikel
  • Lobato, Juan José
  • Nieve, Mikel
  • Tamouridis, Ioannis
  • Verdugo, Gorka
It's now surprise to see Lobato included in the line-up giving he's born in Trebujena, the host city of the second stage.

The race will also see a few other Basque pros in attendance, namely Juanma Garate of Rabobank, former Euskaltel stalwart Iker Camaño (now of NetApp-Endura) and Imanol Erviti of Movistar. Former Naturgas Energía prodigy Efrén Carazo will also be riding, representing hometown team Burgos BH-Castilla y León. 

Despite its ever-presence on the cycling calendar, Euskaltel have only tasted triumph at the Vuelta a Andalucía once: in 2001, when Mikel Artetxe (now working alongside former team-mate David Etxebarria at Cafés Baqué) took one of his five wins while with the team on stage five, besting Félix Manuel García and Dave Bruylandts in Granada. 

Several Basque riders have won the event though, those being Markel Irizar (RadioShack) in 2011, Julián Gorospe in 1993 and 1984 (with Banesto and Reynolds respectively), Alan Pérez's nephew Roberto Lezaun (Banesto) in 1991, Ramóm Mendiburu (Fagor) in 1967, Jesús Aranzabal (Fagor) in 1966, Antón Barrutia (KAS-Kaskol) in 1963, José Antonio Momene (KAS) in 1962 and Hortencio Vidaurreta (Real Union-Palmera) in 1957.

This year's course:
  • 17. February: Prologue - San Fernándo, 6 kilometres
  • 18. February: Stage 1 - San Fernándo - Ubrique, 163,9 kilometres
  • 19. February: Stage 2 - Trebujena - Montilla, 190,7 kilometres
  • 20. February: Stage 3 - Lucena - Rincón de la Victoria, 182,7 kilometres.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Euskadi outperform Euskaltel at Mallorca

Euskaltel were for the second day running second best to their Equipo Euskadi counterparts at leg two of the Mallorca Challenge, the Trofeo Campos, on Monday.

Euskaltel enjoyed a quiet and low-key start to the domestic season in Sunday's Trofeo Palma, while Miguel Madariaga's newly-renamed Equipo Euskadi were active off the front and closer in the final bunch sprint.

That proved to be the case again over Monday's 167,1 kilometres. Neo-professional Jon Larrinaga assured his Euskadi team was once again visible on the screen by forming part of the day's eight-man break, alongside former Euskaltel rider and fans' favourite Amets Txurruka.

Larrinaga even bested Txurruka over the day's categorized climbs to win the mountains competition - in only his second ever race among the pros.

The teams of Dehaes, Farrar, Swift et al. had designs on a sprint finish, though, and they got their wish by reeling in the breakaway artists in good time before the line.

Leigh Howard grabbed the win by out-sprinting Farrar and Movistar's JJ Rojas, while Euskadi's Unai Iparragirre was the best of the two Basque teams in 21st.

Euskaltel's top representatives were Jon Aberasturi and Igor Antón in 30th and 37th respectively, seven seconds down.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge), 3:56:24)
  • 21, Unai Iparragirre (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 30, Jon Aberasturi (Euskaltel Euskadi), 0:07
  • 37, Igor Antón (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 45, Steffen Radochla (Euskaltel Euskadi), 0:15
  • 56, Haritz Orbe (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 66, Mikel Iturria (Equipo Euskadi), 1:02
  • 69, Aritz Bagües (Equipo Euskadi), 1:07
  • 70, Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 71, Juan José Oroz (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 113, Mikel Bizkarra (Equipo Euskadi), 3:13
  • 130, Mikel Landa (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 131, Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 132, Illart Zuazubiskar (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 133, Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 139, Miguel Minguez (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 149, Igor Merino (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 159, Carlos Barbero (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 160, Mikel Aristi (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 174, Jon Larrinaga (Equipo Euskadi), 4:15

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Euskaltel go missing in Bessèges time trial

Euskaltel concluded their Etoile de Bessèges participation in an anonymous manner on Sunday afternoon, failing to place a rider inside the top 40 in a short individual time trial.

While all general classification hopes had gone out the window beforehand thanks to five low-key performances earlier in the week, there was still ample opportunity to finish the race with a fling considering the modest participation in the French event.

That wasn't to be, though, as Ricardo Mestre's 45th place was as good as it got for Galdeano's riders. Team captain Romain Sicard had an average day in the saddle, coming home two places further down en route to 34th overall.

Jure Kocjan's four Europe Tour points (courtesy of his fifth-place finish on today's morning stage) were the sole points accumulated by the team at the race.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Anthony Roux (Francaise des Jeux), 14:45)
  • 45, Ricardo Mestre, 1:23
  • 47, Romain Sicard, 1:25
  • 48, Pablo Urtasun, 1:26
  • 52, Rubén Pérez, 1:31
  • 88, Jure Kocjan, 2:24
  • 93, Ricardo García, 2:38
General classification:

  • (1, Jonathan Hivert (Sojasun), 16:29:35)
  • 34, Romain Sicard, 1:33
  • 44, Pablo Urtasun, 1:50
  • 66, Ricardo Mestre, 2:35
  • 69, Jure Kocjan, 2:48
  • 94, Rubén Pérez, 13:50
  • 98, Ricardo García, 15:31
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Vrecer breaks collarbone on debut

Robert Vrecer got the most unlucky of Euskaltel debuts today, crashing and breaking his collarbone in the Trofeo Palma.

The 32-year-old hit the ground inside the last three laps of the ten loops that made up the Challenge Mallorca opener, and was immediately taken to a nearby hospital. While reports suggest he's yet to actually be diagnosed with a clavicle fracture, everything points towards it.

The Slovenian is thus likely to have to take a few days off the bike before resuming training. There's been no communiqué from the team as of yet, though, so all reports are at this time unofficial.

Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

19-year-old Aristi making waves at Mallorca

Equipo Euskadi youngster Mikel Aristi was active off the front in his very first professional race at the Trofeo Palma on Sunday.

The 19-year-old teamed up with Equipo Euskadi in the off-season after just a solitary year at the sub-23 level, and has consequently been labelled a future star in the making. He showed what all the talk is about at the Trofeo Palma, the first of the four standalone one-day races that make up the Challenge Mallorca, on Sunday, breaking clear of the peloton for the majority of the day.

Europcar's Perrig Quemeneur was the day's main escape artist, staying out ahead for some 80 clicks. Caja Rural's Fran Moreno tried to give chase for a while but was hindered by a puncture, before young Aristi decided to give it a go among stars he could only have dreamed about riding alongside a few months ago.

The erstwhile Debabarrena protégé was eventually reeled in, but did more than enough to raise eyebrows and put his name out there. The anticipated sprint finish materialized in Palma, with Lotto-Belisol's Kenny Dahaes somewhat surprisingly besting more fancied powerhouses Tyler Farrar and Ben Swift.

Fellow Equipo Euskadi debutant Unai Iparragirre tried to mix it up with the big boys and eventually crossed the line in 16th.

On a day in which Euskaltel were comprehensively out-shone by their affiliate team, Steffen Radochla was the orange team's top rider in 21st. Stars Igor Antón and Mikel Landa all got safely through their first race of the young season.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Kenny Dahaes (Lotto-Belisol), 2:39:07)
  • 16, Unai Iparragirre (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 20, Carlos Barbero (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 21, Steffen Radochla (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 35, Jon Larrinaga (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 38, Juan José Oroz (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 43, Haritz Orbe (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 46, Jon Aberasturi (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 50, Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 66, Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 75, Igor Antón (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 81, Mikel Landa (Euskaltel Euskadi), 0:10
  • 87, Illart Zuazubiskar (Equipo Euskadi), 0:18
  • 88, Mikel Iturria (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 93, Miguel Minguez (Euskaltel Euskadi), 0:49
  • 129, Aritz Bagües (Equipo Euskadi), 1:29
  • 133, Igor Merino (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 134, Mikel Bizkarra (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
  • 149, Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
  • 173, Mikel Aristi (Equipo Euskadi), 4:06
Photo: Fundación Euskadi


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