Wednesday, May 29, 2013

All guns blazing for Euskaltel at Dauphiné

Samuel Sánchez will lead a star-studded Euskaltel team at the upcoming Criterium du Dauphiné.

The dress rehearsal for the Tour de France commences this Sunday, and Euskaltel will field a team big on both experience and quality as they look for their third overall victory at the French stage race.

Leading the line to emulate Ibán Mayo and Iñigo Landaluze's victories of 2004 and 2005 respectively will be Samuel Sánchez, fresh off completing the Giro d'Italia.

By the team captain's side will be trusted domestique Egoi Martínez, ace climber Mikel Nieve, veteran all-rounder Mikel Astarloza, the ever-reliable Gorka Izagirre, French hope Romain Sicard and young duo Peio Bilbao and Ricardo García.

The race runs from Sunday 2nd of June through Sunday the 9th.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Euskadi gets Chinese reward

Apparently due to their recent run of success, Miguel Madariaga's Euskadi team has received invitations to the Tours of China later this year.

Related: – This win was for the team

"They invited us specifically, so this is great news", señor Madariaga tells the team's own website. "On one hand it adds a race to the team's calendar. On the other, it's a chance for us to ride against big teams - after all it's a 2.1-ranked race".

The Tour of China has since last year been staged as two separate ones: the Tour of China I and the Tour of China 2.

The first race will be staged from September 7-12, while the latter will be held from the 15th to the 23 of the same month.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This win was for team's future, says Larrinaga

Jon Larrinaga added to Equipo Euskadi's already impressive list of top results this year by taking a stage and the overall of the Tour de Gironde the past weekend.

It was a milestone in young Larrinaga's career, seeing as it was his first ever professional wins. For the 22-year-old, though, they carried even greater significance - that of his team's existence.

Like pretty much every single team in the Spanish peloton, the Continental-ranked Euskadi outfit is in a desperate hunt for sponsorship money.

Team head Miguel Madariaga said in February that the team might cease to exist by July if he doesn't succeed in convincing a new sponsor to come on board. In a few days it'll be June. In other words, the clock is ticking and fast.

"Miguel has already said it'll be hard if another sponsor doesn't show up. It'll be impossible to keep the team going. But now we're showing this team is solid and important", he tells Gara.

"We're motivated and eager to do well", he continues. "We're a tight-knit group, the ambience within the team is good and that shows in every race. I'll kill myself for one of the guys one day, and they'll do the same for me the next day".

According to the newspaper's knowledgeable scribe Joseba Iturria, the team has never started a season this well.

With only ten riders on the payroll, the team has grabbed three wins and 15 top ten placings courtesy of six of its riders - and we're only in May.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sánchez - My life of challenges

For once, Samuel Sánchez was not at his best when everyone expected him to be.

Touted as a podium contender going into the Giro d'Italia, the Euskaltel leader came up desperately short - a second place on stage 18 and 12th overall is all he has to show for his efforts.

Now, with the dust (not to mention the snow) settled and the first Grand Tour out of the way, the 35-year-old has decided to talk about what happened.

In a candid open letter, 'Samu' tells fans to trust him and his team-mates to put it right.

I put it into English. Here goes:

A life of challenges

The Giro finished yesterday. I'd like to congratulate and thank my team-mates and the staff for all their help and support during the 21 stages. They know I prepared thoroughly for the race and, though things didn't turn out as we would have hoped, they trusted me at all times and got involved. Even though they knew I wasn't at my very best they didn't give up. I'm proud of them and proud of having earned their respect, both when I'm winning and when I'm trying but can't do it. I value that greatly.

The life of an athlete is marked by challenges, by the desire to succeed. My first professional victory was a long time coming - I hit the posts a few times before I got my goal. In the Tour de France I also struggled at first. But I kept working, pushing myself, growing and, after a few years, came back to the 'Grand Boucle' and won a stage to the Luz Ardiden, finished on the podium, won a polkadot jersey that hadn't been captured since the days of Txomin Perurena... Before I could embark on that challenge, I had to master the Vuelta. And I twice finished on the podium there... And how about the Vuelta al País Vasco, a race so dear to us? I came so close to winning on so many occasions, but up until 2012 it wasn't happening. But then it did happen. Things have never come easy to me.

The last few years have been good for us. The team has reached important milestones when expectations were high. We have to put what happened in this year's Giro into perspective and trust this group which has given us so much joy. We have to keep working with professionalism, enthusiasm and desire. We look to the future optimistically. Experience tells me we're facing a new challenge. And we have overcome challenges before.

I'm not forgetting the sponsors, partners and fans. From my heart: eskerrik asko (Basque for thank you) for your support. We have given it our all for you to feel proud of our commitment to cycling, to this team. The results will come - of that I'm sure.

Samuel Sánchez

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Larrinaga bags the big one in Gironde

Jon Larrinaga took his second win in three days by triumphing overall in the Tour de Gironde on Sunday.

It brings to a close what's been a tremendous week for Equipo Euskadi. The Continental-ranked team took one win and a pair of second placings in last week's Ronde de l'Isard, and Larrinaga grabbed his very first professional victory in Gironde's second stage on Friday.

He successfully held on to the leader's jersey he acquired over the last pair of stages to claim the team's first general classification win in years.

The last stage, a 166,9km trek from Saint-Pierre d'Aurillac to Villenave, was taken out by Cycling Team Jo Piels rider Geert Van Der Weijst.

Full results for every stage can be found here!

Final general classification:
  • 1, Jon Larrinaga (Euskadi)
  • 2, Matthias Allegaert (Soënens-Construktglas)
  • 3, Nicky van der Lijke (Rabobank)
  • 4, Rick Zabel (Rabobank)
  • 5, Maarten van Trijp (Rabobank)
  • 11, Unai Iparraguirre (Euskadi)
  • 25, Aritz Bagües (Euskadi)
  • 99, Illart Zuazubiskar (Euskadi)

'Tamu' gives it a go as Giro fades out

Mark Cavendish and Vincenzo Nibali both raised their arms in celebration at the end of an uneventful final stage of the Giro d'Italia.

The former did as he pleased to grab his fifth win of the race - the latter stayed out of trouble to win his very first Giro crown.

It was a quiet day in the saddle for the guys in orange. Samuel Sánchez stayed in the pack to close the race out in 12th overall, while Ioannis Tamouridis once again showed up near the front when it came down to the dash for the line. The Greek, the first ever from his country to finish a Grand Tour, ended up 13th to round off his maiden three-week race on a solid note.

  • (1, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), 5:30:09)
  • 13, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 55, Samuel Sánchez, 0:14
  • 61, Jorge Azanza, 0:18
  • 78, Egoi Martínez, 0:44
  • 92, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 131, Miguel Mínguez, 1:38
  • 157, Robert Vrecer, 2:32
  • 167, Ricardo Mestre, 3:17
Final general classification:
  • (1, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), 84:53:28)
  • 12, Samuel Sánchez, 12:13
  • 22, Egoi Martínez, 37:14
  • 33, Jorge Azanza, 1:07:21
  • 64, Gorka Verdugo, 2:04:57
  • 92, Robert Vrecer, 2:38:43
  • 145, Ricardo Mestre, 3:39:17
  • 152, Ioannis Tamouridis, 3:47:23
  • 166, Miguel Mínguez, 4:24:54

Euskaltel file complaint as Lobato is pipped

Juan José Lobato gave added proof of his strong form by claiming second on Sunday's last stage of the Bayern Rundfahrt. His team bosses were everything but pleased, though, deciding to file a complaint against victor Heinrich Haussler's sprinting.

Th Euskaltel heads felt the IAM rider forced their man against the barriers, hindering him to come past the Australian.

The race commissaires didn't see anything irregular, though, and decided to uphold Haussler's triumhp.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Heinrich Haussler (IAM), 4:24:18)
  • 2, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 18, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 47, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • DNF: Jon Aberasturi, Jure Kocjan, André Schulze, Steffen Radochla
Final general classification:
  • (1, Adriano Malori (Lampre-Merida), 19:28:20)
  • 28, Mikel Nieve, 3:18
  • 45, Rubén Pérez, 15:59
  • 50, Juan José Lobato, 17:31
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Daboz breaks through for win

Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport's Ibai Daboz added further to his palmarès by sprinting to triumph from a small group in Sunday's Torneo Lehendakari-race in Markina, reports the Basque Cycling Federation.

The 22-year-old has been in a rich vein of form of late, his win in the Vuelta al Bidasoa stage over the Jaizkíbel one of many highlights in a consistent spring.

The key moment in the Memorial Sabin Foruria, as the race is officially known, was the last ascent of Lekoitz. A group of nine formed at the front of the race, and they would go on to hold off the pack.

Daboz bested Egoitz Fernández of Seguros Bilbao and Antonio Pedrero of Lizarte to the line to etch his name into the race's roll call of winners.


  • 1, Ibai Daboz (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 2:36:55
  • 2, Egoitz Fernández (Seguros Bilbao), s.t.
  • 3, Antonio Pedrero (Lizarte), s.t.
  • 4, Jaime Rosón (Caja Rural), s.t.
  • 5, Mario González (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), s.t.
  • 6, Diego León Cuervo (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), s.t.
  • 7, Beñat Txoperena (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), s.t.
  • 8, Ariel Sivori (Supermercados Froiz), 0:09
  • 9, Marc Soler (Lizarte), 0:18
  • 10, Paul Usabel (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), 0:29

Last chance goes begging as Sánchez goes missing

There was to be no fairytale ending to Euskaltel's troubled Giro d'Italia campaign as Samuel Sánchez failed to put the finishing touches to his team-mates' relentless work on the road to the snowy summit of Tre Cime di Lavaredo.

The team directors ordered all orange-clad riders to the front of the pack once the day's break had built up a decent gap, hoping to set up their team captain for what would have been a famous win atop a mythical ascent.

And for quite some time it didn't look all that unlikely. 'Samu', protected by Gorka Verdugo, Egoi Martínez and Jorge Azanza, looked to be going well on the penultimate climb of Tre Croci, positioning himself near the front.

Then, out of the blue a few clicks from the top of the Lavaredo, he was gone. Just like that. For fans spoiled by his ever-consistent and reliable performances for the better part of a decade, it was quite a shock. After all, he'd placed second in a hill time trial two days prior and seemed, unquestionably so, to have been on the up after a lacklustre first week and a half of the race.

Naturally, rumours of the 35-year-old being hit by mechanical trouble started to gather pace, but, as it turned out, nothing in particular had happened. Believe it or not, Samuel Sánchez just didn't have the legs.

As Vincenzo Nibali showed why he's just about as deserving a Grand Tour winner as you'll ever see by cantering to the stage win and the overall to go with it, Sánchez's woes increased by every ten metres. Eventually, with his face visibly exhausted and a body as drained of energy as can be, he came across the finish line in 21st place, more than two minutes in arrears.

For a team leader more grateful and appreciative of his team-mates' work than most, he must surely have felt awful upon realizing his domestiques had squeezed out every possible bit of watt from their legs all day long for nothing.

There was no word or explanation from the man himself afterwards.

Team boss Igor González de Galdeano did talk to the press, though, and praised his charges despite the lack of results.

"The team has been really strong in this last week of the race. Sánchez has been very combative, but the victory has escaped us", he said. "Today the team did a perfect job. We put all our eggs in one basket for Samuel, but he couldn't pull it off. And when a rider does his best but just can't make it, all you ask is that he soldiers on and doesn't give up.

"Things haven't gone as well as we'd hoped here in Italy. In addition, luck hasn't been on our side. Urtasun crashed the first day, another crash followed, we punctured in the team time trial... The Giro is over, though, and we can't go back".

An off-colour performance in the first Grand Tour of the year was preceded by an equally lacklustre first few months of the season leading up to it. Galdeano admits his team hasn't been up to much.

"The first part of the year concluded with the Giro d'Italia. I won't deny that we're not happy with the results", he stated. "The Giro has reflected the season as a whole: we've fought, but we haven't gotten the results. The objectives were clear: reach the start of the Giro with four wins to our name and hopefully grab a few more here and aspire to a high overall placing. We haven't reached our goals.

"The first big challenge of the year was the Vuelta al País Vasco. We came to that race winless and with the pressure that brings with it. In "our" race, we didn't manage to shine until the penultimate stage when Sánchez finished second on the queen-stage into Beasain. Later that week we ran second in the GP Indurain and the Clásica Amorebieta. The victories have kept eluding us. We bounced back with consecutive stage wins in the Vuelta a Castilla y León, but we haven't been at our best".

  • (1, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), 5:27:41)
  • 21, Samuel Sánchez, 2:05
  • 35, Egoi Martínez, 4:11
  • 40, Gorka Verdugo, 5:13
  • 46, Jorge Azanza, 6:20
  • 136, Ioannis Tamouridis, 19:02
  • 155, Robert Vrecer, 20:45
  • 162, Ricardo Mestre, 21:53
  • 166, Miguel Mínguez, 23:37
General classification:
  • (1, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana),  79:23:19)
  • 12, Samuel Sánchez, 11:59
  • 23, Egoi Martínez, 36:30
  • 33, Jorge Azanza, 1:07:03
  • 64, Gorka Verdugo, 1:04:13
  • 90, Robert Vrecer, 2:36:11
  • 143, Ricardo Mestre, 3:36:00
  • 153, Ioannis Tamouridis, 3:47:23
  • 166, Miguel Mínguez, 4:23:16

Lizarte dominate in Igantzi

Lizarte did as they pleased in Igantzi on Saturday as Víctor Martín took his umpteenth victory of the year ahead of team-mate Higinio Fernández.

Martín was easily the strongest rider on the ascents in the Torneo Euskaldun-ranked race, soloing in a handful of seconds ahead of former professional Fernández. Closing out the podium was Seguros Bilbao's David Casillas, reports the Basque Cycling Federation.

Kanpazar Harrobia's Sergio Tejada was crowned regional champion of Navarra as he was the first local rider across the line.

  • 1, Víctor Martín (Lizarte), 3:16:10
  • 2, Higinio Fernández (Lizarte), 0:05
  • 3, David Casillas (Seguros Bilbao), s.t.
  • 4, Antton Ibarguren (Telco'm-Conor), 0:15
  • 5, Unai Elorriaga (Eustrak), s.t.
  • 6, Erik Altuna (Telco'm-Conor), s.t.
  • 7, Ander Plazaola (Lizarte), s.t.
  • 8, Joseba Del Barrio (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), s.t.
  • 9, Beñat Txoperena (Gipzukoa-Eki Sport), 0:26
  • 10, Carlos Antón Jiménez (Caja Rural), 0:41

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Euskaltel the big losers in Bayern time trial

Mikel Nieve and co. ceded several minutes and with it any chance of decent overall placings in the Bayern Rundfahrt's individual time trial on Saturday.

Lampre-Merida's Adriano Malori grabbed a commanding win over the 31,2-kilometre course to move into the overall lead ahead of Sunday's concluding stage.

Nieve, Euskaltel's top man on GC, dropped to 32nd overall after finishing 63rd on the stage more than three minutes in arrears.

Results (full results here):

  • (1, Adriano Malori (Lampre-Merida), 38:19)
  • 63, Mikel Nieve, 3:11
  • 65, Rubén Pérez, 3:16
  • 102, Juan José Lobato, 4:56
  • 115, Jon Aberasturi, 5:27
  • 117, Steffen Radochla, 5:34
  • 125, Jure Kocjan, 6:06
  • 133, André Schulze, 7:14 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Larrinaga hands Euskadi win number two

Jon Larrinaga took the first victory of his budding professional career in Friday's second stage of the Tour de Gironde.

Larringa enjoyed a breakthrough third year with Naturgas Energía last season, and was duly rewarded with a chance in the big league in 2013. Today he showed the sports directors at Equipo Euskadi were right to trust him as he claimed a classy win on day two in Gironde.

The 22-year-old crossed the line alone, arms aloft, 20 seconds ahead of the nearest challengers to not only win the stage, but also take inherit the leader's jersey from stage 1 victor and overnight yellow jersey Maarten van Trijp.

To close out a superb day for Aritz Arberas' charges, Unai Iparraguirre grabbed fifth in the sprint for second.

Results (full results here):
  • 1, Jon Larrinaga (Euskadi), 4:00:9
  • (2, Sylvain Pandele (GSC Blagnac), 0:19
  • (3, Johim Ariesen (Cyclingteam Jo Piels), s.t.
  • 5, Unai Iparraguirre (Euskadi), s.t.
  • 28, Igor Merino (Euskadi), s.t.
  • 39, Illart Zuazubiskar (Euskadi), s.t.
  • 45, Aritz Bagües (Euskadi), s.t.

Misplaced Lobato misses out

Juan José Lobato failed to replicate his podium placing two days ago in Friday's third leg of the Bayern Rundfahrt.

Gerald Ciolek emerged victorious in Kelheim after riding almost 197 clicks from Viechtach, besting Arnaud Démare and Heinrich Haussler.

Euskaltel's man for the sprints, Lobato, failed to fire and ended up 17th, out of the fight for the top places. Rubén Pérez tried his luck in a break today, but the veteran's group didn't make it to the line.

On GC, everything stayed more or less the same. Ciolek leads the race ahead of tomorrow's decisive individual race against the clock - Mikel Nieve is Euskaltel's top representative in 24th, 16 seconds back.


  • (1, Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka), 5:10:15)
  • 17, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 60, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 66, Steffen Radochla, s.t.
  • 67, Jure Kocjan, s.t.
  • 79, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 81, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 133, André Schulze, 8:19

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nieve on the ascendancy

Mikel Nieve offered encouraging signs of improving form in the Bayern Rundfahrt's queen-stage on Thursday.

The 193 kilometres from Mühldorf to Viechtach included both a category one-ranked climb and one of the second category, meaning the speedy riders in attendance were in for a tough time. Most sprinters, including Euskaltel's own Juan José Lobato, were shelled out the back, but a select few managed to stay with the lead group.

One of them, Daryl Impey, managed to pip another one, Gerald Ciolek, to the stage win from a group counting 28 riders. Among those 28 riders were Mikel Nieve, who seems to be on the mend just in time for the Tour de France after an allergy-hit and sub-par first few months of the campaign.

Nieve was the only orange-clad rider in that first group - Rubén Pérez, who earlier on in the day had formed part of an eventually unsuccessful breakaway, trailed in almost 13 minutes back in the company of Lobato.

  • (1, Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge), 4:41:30)
  • 16, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 56, Juan José Lobato, 12:38
  • 59, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 82, Jon Aberasturi, 23:00
  • 98, Jure Kocjan, s.t.
  • 127, Steffen Radochla, 27:00
  • 128, André Schulze, s.t.

Time trial heartbrake for Samuel Sánchez

Samuel Sánchez put on his best performance of the year in Thursday's cronoescalata in the Giro d'Italia, but there was no denying Vincenzo Nibali a barnstorming win.

Sánchez's time of 45:27 on the 20,6-kilometre course from Mori to the summit of the climb of Polsa was enough to lead the race for almost an hour, as one general classification contender after another fell short of the mark put down by the Euskaltel captain.

With only one rider still out on the road, 'Samu' was still holding the lead. But that last rider wasn't just any rider, though, and Vincenzo Nibali showed why he's posed to win the first Giro d'Italia of his career by crushing Sánchez's time by almost a minute to grab his first stage victory of this year's race and pad his overall lead significantly.

Unsurprisingly, Sánchez looked downbeat as the cameras zoomed in on him as Nibali came across the line. As per tradition, though, he didn't let his disappointment show when talking to the press afterwards, instead going on to praise his Italian rival.

"Nibali was very strong - he beat me by almost a minute", he said. "He's the maglia rosa, Italian, this is his race, he's in an enviable state of form... He had that little extra bit of motivation and he did a great ride. I can only congratulate him. He was the best.

"As for us, today was a chance for us to bag a win and we were in the fight right up until the end. We were close - it would have been a very nice win", he concluded.

The coveted stage win might have escaped him, but it was still a fruitful day for Sánchez: He rose from 15th to tenth overall, and is now only three minutes off the top five.

  • (1, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), 44:29)
  • 2, Samuel Sánchez, 0:58
  • 49, Jorge Azanza, 4:11
  • 55, Miguel Mínguez, 4:26
  • 59, Egoi Martínez, 4:35
  • 67, Robert Vrecer, 4:54
  • 78, Gorka Verdugo, 5:10
  • 118, Ricardo Mestre, 6:17
  • 143, Ioannis Tamouridis, 7:13
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shoe-less Lobato grabs podium in Bayern opener

Juan José Lobato returned to competition with a bang on Wednesday, taking third on stage one of the Bayern Rundfahrt.

The speedy 24-year-old hasn't pinned on a race number since abandoning the Tour de Romandie almost a month ago, but he showed he hasn't only been lying on the couch since then.

Lobato was only beaten to the line in Mülhdorf by Garmin-Sharp's Alex Rasmussen and Sky's Ben Swift, holding off the likes of Gerald Ciolek, Arnaud Démare and Yauheni Hutarovich to claim his fourth top five-placing of the year.

While the stage and the result itself is likely to have satisfied the rider, the hours leading up to the race did everything but.

Lobato arrived in Germany without his luggage, Vueling apparently losing track of it prior to his flight from Seville. His shoes were naturally in the briefcase that went missing, but, at the last minute, he succeeded in getting hold of a pair he could borrow.

His new shoes evidently suited him well, though, and the erstwhile Andalucía rider now looks to be a shoo-in (lame put intended) to mix it up in the sprints for the remainder of the race.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Sharp), 4:34:05)
  • 3, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 41, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 52, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 65, Jure Kocjan, 0:16
  • 98, Jon Aberasturi, 0:43
  • 102, Steffen Radochla, 0:54
  • 112, André Schulze, 2:33

Hunt for glory continues as Sánchez and Azanza come up short

Euskaltel made their moves yet ended up empty handed once again in another chaotic and entertaining finish in the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday.

Both Samuel Sánchez and Jorge Azanza did their utmost to bag the team's first win in this year's race with numerous sorties off the front in the final 20 clicks of stage 17.

Anarchy reigned as the peloton tackled the final climb of the day, attacks going left, right and center. Only one man made his move stick, though, with Giovanni Visconti giving his Movistar team its third stage win on the bounce, and his second in four days, in Vicenza.

The Euskaltel duo came in with the first group of favourites 19 seconds back, but the battle for GC will now firmly take a back seat within the team with the riders' traditionally preferred terrain coming up en masse over the next few days: the high mountains (weather permitting, of course).

  • (1, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), 5:15:34)
  • 22, Samuel Sánchez, 0:19
  • 33, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 75, Egoi Martínez, 1:37
  • 82, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
  • 130, Gorka Verdugo, 8:09
  • 142, Ricardo Mestre, 9:33
  • 144, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 157, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.

Euskadi on the hunt for win number two

Having recently taken their maiden win of 2013, the Continental-ranked Euskadi outfit will be looking for more success when they travel to France towards the end of this week.

The Tour de Gironde will be staged May 23-26, and the following sextet will be looking to emulate Carlos Barbero's heroics at the Ronde de l'Isard:
Jon Larrinaga (pictured), Unai Iparraguirre, Aritz Bagües, Igor Merino, Mikel Bizkarra and Illart Zuazubiskar.

Photo: Ciclismo a fondo

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sánchez keeps the attacks coming in Italy

He might be out of overall contention at the Giro d'Italia, but Samuel Sánchez refuses to lay his weapons down. On Tuesday's 16th stage he attacked relentlessly in search of the team's first stage win in the race.

The finale of the 238-kilometre trek from Valloire to Ivrea was littered with attacks. The climb of Andrate, situated less than 20 kilometres from the line, saw several big-name riders try their luck with daring moves off the front on the descent as well as on the ascent.

The Euskaltel captain was one of the protagonists, darting off the front of the small select group that had formed after the day's break had been caught numerous times, hunting the win that would make him a victor in all three Grand Tours. Despite being joined by riders of the calibre of Carlos Betancur in some of his tries, luck wasn't forthcoming for Sánchez as the favourites refused him much lee-way.

Instead it was left to former team-mate Beñat Intxausti to raise his arms in jubilation as he took stage honours after besting Tanel Kangert (Astana) and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) in a three-way sprint. The trio managed to hold off the chasing first group of favourites - of which Sánchez was a part - by a few seconds after attacking inside the final pair of clicks, leading the Movistar rider to claim his third, and easily biggest, win of his professional career.

On GC it was mainly a case of status quo, except for Mauro Santambrogio dropping from fourth to sixth after ceding two minutes. Sánchez rose to 15th.

  • (1, Beñat Intxausti (Movistar), 5:52:48)
  • 13, Samuel Sánchez, 0:14
  • 24, Egoi Martínez, 1:51
  • 27, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 46, Jorge Azanza, 3:31
  • 98, Ioannis Tamouridis, 10:53
  • 114, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
  • 145, Miguel Mínguez, 16:16
  • 157, Ricardo Mestre, 17:10
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pérez back to the scene of his greatest triumph

Rubén Pérez will be one of a bunch of fast-men that Euskaltel will send to the upcoming Bayern Rundfahrt.

The German stage-race is special to Pérez, of course, as stage one of the 2010 edition was the scene of his first, and to this date only, professional victory. He's been back at the race every year since, but he's yet to find the same success.

Joining him in the hunt for the team's third win of the 2013 season will be pretty much every sprinter in Euskaltel's ranks, including an ace climber looking to bounce back from a disappointing first half of the season.

Full line-up:
Jure Kocjan, André Schulze, Steffen Radochla, Jon Aberasturi, Rubén Pérez, Juan José Lobato and Mikel Nieve.

The race runs from May 22-26.

Photo: Kevin Remmerie

Euskaltel's reliable duo at it again

Samuel Sánchez and Egoi Martínez both went on the offensive during the weather-shortened stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday.

The 144-kilometre ride started out in Cesare Torinese, as planned, but the peloton wasn't able to climb the Galibier over the border in France in its entirety, the appalling weather shortening the final ascent by  some four kilometres.

That didn't stop Egoi Martínez and Samuel Sánchez in trying to make a race of it, though, with both Grand Tour veterans making sorties off the front.

First Martínez jumped clear along with the likes of Robert Gesink and Robert Kiserlovski on the Télégraphe, before team captain 'Samu' made a dash for it inside the last five kilometres of the stage.

Sánchez drew with him Liquigas' Damiano Caruso, but with Giovanni Visconti up the road heading for success and Caruso not in a very cooperative mood it was soon doomed to fail.

They were duly reeled in, and Visconti soloed to a memorable stage win a minute or so ahead of the main general classification contenders. Heading into the second rest day and the last week of the Giro, Sánchez is 17th overall.

  • (1, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), 4:40:48)
  • 16, Samuel Sánchez, 1:06
  • 36, Egoi Martínez, 2:58
  • 43, Gorka Verdugo, 3:41
  • 57, Jorge Azanza, 9:53
  • 73, Ricardo Mestre, 14:04
  • 99, Robert Vrecer, 21:15
  • 126, Ioannis Tamouridis, 27:54
  • 136, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.

Iturria secures breakthrough result

Mikel Iturria clung on to his seventh place overall on the Ronde de l'Isard's final day to grab his best result in the pro ranks.

The youngster joined Euskadi from Naturgas Energía in the off-season and showed himself worthy of the chance with a strong ride in the prestigious French stage-race.

The last stage, a 161,3km trek from Foix to Saint-Girons, was won by Dutchman Gertjan De Vos. Haritz Orbe, who led the race after the first pair of stages, came in a strong fifth, while Iturria came in just a places further back in 16th.

  • (1, Gertjan De Vos (Ovyta-Eijssen-Acrog), 4:38:01)
  • 5, Haritz Orbe, 0:52
  • 16, Mikel Iturria, s.t.
  • 51, Mikel Aristi, 20:20
  • 52, Carlos Barbero, s.t.
Final general classification:
  • (1, Juan Ernesto Chamorro (4 72 Colombia), 16:34:40)
  • 7, Mikel Iturria, 0:47
  • 16, Haritz Orbe, 7:17
  • 38, Carlos Barbero, 36:00
  • 45, Mikel Aristi, 40:32
Photo: Fundación Euskadi

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jiménez bests González in Bergara

Carlos Jiménez made it back to back wins for Caja Rural this weekend as he came out tops in Bergara, Gipuzkoa, on Sunday.

Miguel Ángel Benito handed the prolific team the win in Beasain on Saturday, and Jiménez followed that up nicely with a win of his own a day later after emerging as the fastest sprinter from a 20-something group that formed in the closing clicks.

Strong climber Ander Plazaola of Lizarte tried to go it alone with a ferocious attack the last time going up the Asentzio climb, but it all came back together for a small sprint finish.

Alain González of Naturgas Energía had to make to with second, while Paul Usabel of Cafés Baqué, eighth yesterday, closed out the podium.

  1. Carlos Jiménez (Caja Rural), 3:03:41
  2. Alain González (Naturgas Energía), s.t.
  3. Paul Usabel (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), s.t.
  4. Imanol Díaz (Seguros Bilbao), s.t.
  5. Igor Romero (Ikolan), s.t.
  6. Cristian Astalts (Reyno de Navarra), s.t.
  7. Jokin Etxabe (Debabarrena), s.t.
  8. Miguel Ángel Benito (Caja Rural), s.t.
  9. Beñat Etxabe (Debabarrena), s.t.
  10. Antonio Molina (Caja Rural), s.t.

Sánchez strikes back

Samuel Sánchez showed he's still got a few cards to play in Italy with a gutsy fourth-place finish in Saturday's summit finish at Jafferau.

The Euskaltel team leader displayed all of the determination and never-say-die attitude we've been accustomed to see from him over the years as he battled the elements en route to a result that will boost his confidence ahead of the demanding last week of racing in this year's Giro d'Italia.

Stage 14 of the race will always be remembered for the torrential rain and freezing temperatures that saw to it that the route was altered and made the day miserable for the majority of the riders out on the roads.

Vincenzo Nibali cemented his position at the top of the standings by coming in second at the same time as winner Mauro Santambrogio of Vini Fantini, with third going to the wily and ever-present Carlos Betancur of Ag2r. In fourth, at less than half a minute and ahead of such riders as Cadel Evans, Michele Scarponi, Beñat Intxausti, Rafal Majka and Robert Gesink, was 'Samu', showing his form is still there or thereabouts despite a less than stellar opening two weeks of the race.

Sánchez is still way down in 17th overall, but is now 'only' two and a half minutes down on Intxausti in tenth.

Another rider in orange who enjoyed a strong day in the saddle was Egoi Martínez. Despite crashing out of the break of the day he had once again managed to infiltrate, the veteran went on to finish 30th on the day and as a result climb to 27th on GC.

  • (1, Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini), 4:42:55)
  • 4, Samuel Sánchez, 0:26
  • 30, Egoi Martínez, 4:01
  • 48, Jorge Azanza, 5:50
  • 80, Robert Vrecer, 12:59
  • 83, Ricardo Mestre, 13:31
  • 116, Gorka Verdugo, 20:32
  • 134, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 137, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Orbe blows lead in Ronde de l'Isard

Equipo Euskadi held the first two positions overall going into Saturday's third and penultimate Ronde de l'Isard stage, but Haritz Orbe and Carlos Barbero can now count themselves well out of GC contention after the Colombians stole the show in France.

Heiner Parra led a Colombia one-two by besting compatriot Juan Ernesto Chamorro at the summit of Carla Bayle after a taxing 164,5-kilometre stage.

Haritz Orbe, not a shabby climber on his day, was wearing the leader's jersey but could only finish 36th at almost eight minutes, while Barbero, who's more noted for his skills on flat and less hilly terrain, ceded more than a quarter hour.

First-year pro Mikel Iturria was consequently left to fly the flag for the team and did so convincingly, claiming eighth on the line and rising to seventh on GC.


  • (1, Heiner Rodrigo Parra (4 72 Colombia), 3:43:42)
  • 8, Mikel Iturria (Euskadi), 0:33
  • 36, Haritz Orbe (Euskadi), 7:51
  • 68, Carlos Barbero (Euskadi), 16:51
  • 77, Mikel Aristi (Euskadi), 18:09

Benito pads lead with Beasain win

Caja Rural's Miguel Ángel Benito gave added proof of his unquestionable talent by powering to victory in a Torneo Lehendakari-ranked race in Beasain on Saturday.

The 19-year-old has been in superb form of late and followed up his victory in Natxitua last weekend with another solo win in Beasain. As a result, Benito added to his overall series lead and should, if he avoids injuries, take home the big trophy at the end of the year.

Francisco Medina made sure the green team had two representatives on the podium by coming home third, Héctor Sáez of Seguros Bilbao finishing second.


  • 1, Miguel Ángel Benito (Caja Rural), 3:05:58
  • 2, Héctor Sáez (Seguros Bilbao), 0:02
  • 3, Francisco Medina (Caja Rural), 0:12
  • 4, Beñat Txoperena (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 0:23
  • 5, Peio Goikoetxea (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), 0:41
  • 6, Ion Iriarte (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 1:22
  • 7, Igor Romero (Ikolan Lanaldi), s.t.
  • 8, Paul Usabel (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), s.t.
  • 9, Unai Intziarte (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), s.t.
  • 10, Fernando Grijalba (Caja Rural), s.t.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Barbero gives Euskadi first win of 2013

Carlos Barbero continued his fine run of form by handing Equipo Euskadi its first win of the year on Friday.

The young allrounder has been in fine fettle all season and capped it off on the second stage of the prestigious Ronde de l'Isard by besting team-mate, and new overall leader, Haritz Orbe into Carla-Bayle.

Watch how it all unfolded here:

The day prior, Orbe had again been second with Barbero third, meaning the Continental-ranked team has racked up four podiums, one win and a leader's jersey in only two days of racing.

General classification:
  • 1, Haritz Orbe (Euskadi), 8:11:31
  • 2, Carlos Barbero (Euskadi), 0:15
  • 15, Mikel Iturria (Euskadi), 0:48
  • 23, Mikel Aristi (Euskadi), 3:32

Azanza makes race of it in Cherasco

Jorge Azanza made a rare, but eventually futile, move off the front on Friday's 13th stage of the Giro d'Italia as Euskaltel continue to hunt their first win in the race.

The 254 kilometres between Busseto and Cherasco was a fairly straightforward stage as far as the general classification was concerned, meaning there was ample opportunity for some of the domestiques to get their time in the sun.

Jorge Azanza, who enjoyed a brilliant first week in Italy, showed his form is still very much there as he broke off the front of the pack with some 12 clicks to go alongside a host of strong roleurs. Azanza drove the pace at the head of the group for an impressive amount of time, but the sprinters got their way as the escapees were brought to a halt well in time for the dash for the line.

Mark Cavendish did as he pleased and racked up yet another triumph. Samuel Sánchez had no trouble in staying with the first main group and now sits 17th overall.

  • (1, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), 6:09:55)
  • 56, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 58, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 70, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 116, Robert Vrecer, 3:47
  • 138, Ricardo Mestre, 16:32
  • 140, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 141, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 156, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tamouridis shows sprinting legs yet again

Ioannis Tamouridis grabbed his third top 15-placing in the Giro d'Italia by sprinting to 9th on Thursday's 12th stage.

The Greek national time trial champion once again used his skills honed on the track to good effect on the 134-kilometre track from Longarone to Treviso.

While there was no stopping Cavendish taking his third win of the race, 'Tamu' did enough to hold off the likes of Bennati, Appollonio, Hunter and Bole to grab a creditable stage placing for the team.

As for team captain Samuel Sánchez, the 35-year-old had no trouble staying with the pack in the torrential rain that put an end to Bradley Wiggins' overall ambitions.

Heading into Thursday's leg, 'Samu' is still 18th overall.

  • (1, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), 3:01:47)
  • 9, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 64, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 82, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 106, Jorge Azanza, 1:07
  • 146, Gorka Verdugo, 1:59
  • 178, Ricardo Mestre, 4:24
  • 179, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
  • 185, Miguel Mínguez, 4:27
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Martínez attempts to rescue team's Giro

With Euskaltel's general classification ambitions all but out the window at the race's halfway stage, canny veteran Egoi Martínez made his traditional breakaway appearance in the Giro d'Italia's 11th stage in an effort to give his team-mates a much-needed boost.

The lumpy 182-kilometre trek from Cave di Predil to Vajont had written 'successful break' all over it, and birthday boy Martínez, turning 35 today, was unsurprisingly the team's man for the occasion. The former Discovery Channel rider was one of the lucky 20 who got a free pass to hunt glory, but no one could match Garmin-Sharp's Ramunas Navardauskas who cantered to the win ahead of BMC's Daniel Oss and Stefano Pirazzi of Bardiani Valvole.

"This was one of the stages where we had to be in the break, and we did just that", he said upon completing the stage in seventh place. "We knew the group would have a good chance of staying away on a day like this, so we had to get into the move to stand a chance of winning. But in a group this big it's always difficult to surprise the rest and win. A top rider, who was wise enough to attack before the last climb, came out tops".

Back among the favourites, Sánchez managed to stay with the frontrunners, but he was the only orange-clad rider in the 40-something group.  Jorge Azanza came in 20 seconds or so back, while Gorka Verdugo continues to struggle, coming in 13 minutes in arrears. He was accompanied in that group by most of his team-mates, including Robert Vrecer who earlier on had made an ill-fated attempt to bridge the gap to the breakaway.

  • (1, Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp), 4.23:14)
  • 7, Egoi Martínez, 3:07
  • 43, Samuel Sánchez, 5:41
  • 49, Jorge Azanza, 6:00
  • 105, Ricardo Mestre, 13:35
  • 112, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
  • 125, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 136, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 138, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sánchez blows up on first test

Euskaltel will have to regroup and stake out new goals after team captain Samuel Sánchez, barring a miracle, lost all chances of a top overall placing on the first day in the high mountains of Italy.

And the warning signs came early on the 167-kilometre stage from Cordenons to the summit of the cat.1-ranked Altopiano de Montasio.

'Samu' lost contact already on the penultimate climb, the Passo Cason de Lanza, and, while some trademark descending brought him back up to the lead group in time for the last ascent, his general classification ambitions were already hanging by a thread.

He was quickly shelled out the back when the road tilted upwards again, as Vincenzo Nibali stamped his authority on the race by placing third and padding his overall lead.

Sánchez, riding within himself to limit his losses, came in 26th on the stage a full 4:22 down on winner Rigoberto Urán of Team Sky, and thus tumbled to 18th overall.

The 35-year-old didn't talk to the press afterwards, but his team manager did.

"Today, our chances of fighting for the general classification were reduced quite a bit", Igor González de Galdeano said. "It was a goal for the whole team, but there's nothing you can do when the legs aren't there. But we've still got a big say in this race. I'm pleased with the team. Today we were out of it - it was impossible.

"We'll continue to fight, though. Our goal of winning a stage is still intact and we'll give our all to reach that objective. Two weeks of hard racing remains and we've got to pick ourselves up. There's still a lot for us to do in this race. We prepared for this race carefully, in detail. It was a big goal and, though our podium chances have taken a big hit, the hope of winning a stage is still very much alive. I expect a lot of this team", he concluded.

Galdeano gives little away as to why Sánchez, for once, seems to be off-colour when the team is relying on him. The same can be said of the usually reliable Egoi Martínez and Gorka Verdugo: strong climbers who've been pale shadows of their former selves thus far in Italy.

The same can be said of a number of the team's biggest riders throughout this season, prompting the inevitable question as to what the riders were doing in the off-season.

While Galdeano has publicly criticized some of his charges for simply not riding their bikes enough and keeping their weight in check, some have speculated in the media that the new training regime put in place by Iñigo Mujika over the winter is the source of the problem.

Whatever the reasons for these subdued first four months of the 2013 season, Sánchez et al. for sure won't go down without a fight in the year's first Grand Tour.

Watch this space.

  • (1, Rigoberto Urán (Sky), 4:37:42)
  • 26, Samuel Sánchez, 4:22
  • 42, Egoi Martínez, 9:46
  • 43, Gorka Verdugo, 10:32
  • 54, Robert Vrecer, 14:51
  • 69, Jorge Azanza, 20:53
  • 98, Ricardo Mestre, s.t.
  • 159, Miguel Mínguez, 28:33
  • 161, Ioannis Tamouridis, 28:33

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sánchez stays in the hunt in rainy Italy

Samuel Sánchez got through another rainy and potentially dangerous stage in the Giro d'Italia to head into the first rest day with his pre-race goals intact.

Ryder Hesjedal was the day's big loser, ceding more than a minute to his main overall rivals. 'Samu' stayed attentive throughout to finish stage nine in the first group accompanied by super domestique Egoi Martínez.

Ricardo Mestre once again tried his hand in a breakaway, but the Portuguese Grand Tour debutant could not stay the distance and could not prevent Katusha's Maxim Belkov soloing to the stage win.

Heading into Monday's rest day, Sánchez is 14th overall.

  • (1, Maxim Belkov (Katusha), 4:31:31)
  • 13, Samuel Sánchez, 1:03
  • 33, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 66, Jorge Azanza, 8:42
  • 90, Gorka Verdugo, 12:35
  • 141, Ioannis Tamouridis, 17:45
  • 142, Ricardo Mestre, s.t.
  • 150, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
  • 162, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Benito conquers Natxitua

Caja Rural are firing on all cylinders these days. Just an hour or so after Amets Txurruka secured the professional team the overall win in the Vuelta a Asturias, the amateur outfit took yet another victory courtesy of young Miguel Ángel Benito.

He might just be 19, but he'll be on the radars of numerous professional teams come the end of the year after a barnstorming season. On Sunday he triumphed in the Clásica Natxitua, besting Naturgas Energía's Alain González and Ibai Daboz, a recent victor at the Vuelta al Bidasoa, at the top of the final climb.

Benito thus inherited Marc Soler's overall Torneo Lehendakari lead.

  • 1, Miguel Ángel Benito (Caja Rural), 2:57:38
  • 2, Alain González (Naturgas Energía), 0:05
  • 3, Ibai Daboz (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 0:08
  • 4, Egoitz Fernández (Seguros Bilbao), s.t.
  • 5, Raúl Martínez (Lizarte), 0:17
  • 6, Josú Zabala (Reyno de Navarra), 0:22
  • 7, Eddy Valdespino (Ibaigane Opel), s.t.
  • 8, Diego Rubio (Caja Rural), s.t.
  • 9, Ander Plazaola (Lizarte), s.t.
  • 10, Sergio Rodríguez (Seguros Bilbao), s.t.
Photo: Team Caja Rural

Txurruka does the double

Some people claim good things always come in twos. For Amets Txurruka, that most certainly seems to be the case.

The ever popular climber from Etxebarria backed up his maiden professional win on Saturday by claiming the overall of the Vuelta a Asturias courtesy of his seventh-place finish in today's second and final stage of the Vuelta a Asturias, also known as the Subida al Naranco.

That makes it two wins in two days for the Caja Rural rider, and just like that his palmarès isn't as sad a sight as it used to be.

The stage win was reserved for Movistar's Javier Moreno, the 2011 victor of this race, who bested Mikel Landa and Txurruka's team-mate André Cardoso at the summit of the mythical Naranco climb. Landa's third place yesterday and second today landed him second overall, with the last place on the podium going to today's winner.

It could so nearly have been more for Landa's team, though. Adrián Sáez, in some of his finest form these days, attacked at the base of the final climb and was only reeled in under the flamme rouge, while Garikoitz Bravo and Landa himself had been in dangerous-looking breaks earlier on.

Another Euskaltel youngster seemingly on the mend is Peio Bilbao. The 23-year-old has been having a hard time of it lately, finding both results and form hard to come by. He seems to be on the right path now, though, with two top 10s this weekend netting him seventh overall - easily his best result since October 2011.

Results (Equipo Euskadi in cursive):
  • (1, Javier Moreno (Movistar), 4:04:55)
  • 2, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 8, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
  • 12, Adrián Sáez, 0:12
  • 16, Haritz Orbe, 0:46
  • 20, Aritz Bagües, 1:20
  • 21, Igor Merino, 1:28
  • 29, Mikel Iturria, 4:30
  • 30, Mikel Bizkarra, s.t.
  • 40, Jon Larrinaga, 7:26
  • 54, Ricardo García, 15:45
  • 55, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 59, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
  • 66, Jure Kocjan, 21:30
  • 69, Mikel Aristi, 24:26
  • DNF: Unai Iparraguirre
Final general classification:
  • (1, Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), 8:25:48)
  • 2, Mikel Landa, 0:03
  • 7, Peio Bilbao, 0:14
  • 11, Haritz Orbe, 1:13
  • 14, Igor Merino, 2:33
  • 17, Adrián Sáez, 5:26
  • 25, Aritz Bagües, 9:19
  • 30, Mikel Bizkarra, 12:29
  • 36, Garikoitz Bravo, 16:50
  • 43, Mikel Iturria, 20:38
  • 47, Ricardo García, 25:13
  • 54, Jon Aberasturi, 35:18
  • 58, Jon Larrinaga, 38:12
  • 63, Mikel Aristi, 43:59
  • 68, Jure Kocjan, 52:38
Photo: Team Caja Rural

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The day that almost never came for Txurruka

After almost eight years of trying, Amets Txurruka finally got the reward he's been craving by taking his very first professional victory in Saturday's Vuelta a Asturias.

Rarely has there been a more deserving winner of a bike race. Sensing the opportunity to take Euskaltel and Movistar by surprise, the diminutive climber attacked the peloton after the last climb of the day some five clicks from the line in Pola de Lena.

For once, he wasn't to be caught. The Caja Rural rider soloed across the line four seconds ahead of a select group lead home by Jorge Martín Montenegro (Louletano) and Mikel Landa of Euskaltel.

"I feel an immense joy right now", he tells the team's website. "I thought I would retire without ever getting to win a race, but finally, here in Asturias, it's come to fruition. I'm so happy".

Along with Euskaltel, Txurruka's Caja Rural animated the racing throughout by continuously sending riders up the road. For the former, the likes of Jon Aberasturi and Adrián Sáez both made sorties off the front, not to mention the prodigious Mikel Aristi of farmer team Euskadi.

The team once again eluded 'the Carrots', but they'll head into tomorrow's decider well placed on GC given Landa's third place and Peio Bilbao's 10th.

Results (Euskadi riders in cursive):
  • (1, Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), 4:21:03)
  • 3, Mikel Landa, 0:04
  • 10, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
  • 12, Haritz Orbe, 0:17
  • 21, Garikoitz Bravo, 0:55
  • 22, Igor Merino, s.t.
  • 24, Adrián Sáez, 5:04
  • 41, Mikel Bizkarra, 7:49
  • 43, Aritz Bagües, s.t.
  • 46, Ricardo García, 9:18
  • 58, Mikel Iturria, 15:58
  • 73, Jon Aberasturi, 19:23
  • 76, Mikel Aristi, s.t.
  • 79, Jon Larrinaga, 30:36
  • 90, Unai Iparraguirre, 30:58
  • 98, Jure Kocjan, s.t.
  • 102, Carlos Barbero, s.t.
  • DNF: Tarik Chaoufi

Time trial nightmare for Sánchez

Samuel Sánchez's podium ambitions took a big hit in Saturday's individual time trial.

With Wiggins, Nibali, Evans, Henao, Scarponi et al. finishing within a minute of winner Alex Dowsett, Sánchez proved the big loser of the day by ceding a damaging 3:17.

The Italian TV producers made sure to avoid putting 'Samu' on the screen even once during his ride, but replays of him crossing the line showed a totally spent Euskaltel team leader, the pain obvious across his face.

A mid-race puncture certainly didn't help Samu's cause, but the 35-year-old, ever the optimist, wasn't downbeat upon finishing the stage.

"It was a very hard time trial, a time trial in which big gaps could be opened up", he said. "I wasn't feeling superb, and my puncture didn't help either, but we managed to get through a decisive stage and we've still got out pre-race goals within reach.

"We came here with the objective of winning a stage and fighting for an elevated GC placing, and we're still in that fight after the first week".

One who struggled even more was overnight leader and one-time team-mate Beñat Intxausti. The affable Amorebieta-native can be considered an expert in the discipline on his day, but the Movistar rider looked to be running on empty right from the off and ended up finishing way back in 41st place, more than four minutes in arrears.

As a consequence, Intxausti dropped to 14th overall, one place and seven seconds ahead of Sánchez.

Euskaltel's top man on the day, Egoi Martínez, came in a decent 27th, but he'll be left to rue what might have been hadn't it been for a crash halfway through.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Alex Dowsett (Movistar), 1:16:27)
  • 27, Egoi Martínez, 3:03
  • 29, Samuel Sánchez, 3:17
  • 82, Robert Vrecer, 5:58
  • 84, Jorge Azanza, 6:01
  • 117, Gorka Verdugo, 7:11
  • 122, Ricardo Mestre, 7:18
  • 166, Ioannis Tamouridis, 9:12
  • 181, Miguel Mínguez, 10:42

González takes it all in Bidasoa

Mario González of Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos turned the Vuelta al Bidasoa on its head by taking both the stage win and overall crown on Saturday's final stage.

González was lying in sixth, 25 seconds off leader Marcos Altur, heading in to the last day. The stage, taking in the Erlaintz climb before the finish in Irún, resulted in a trio of riders sprinting for the win, a group from which Cantabrian González emerged the fastest.

Third on the stage, Supermercados Froiz's Martin Lestido, finished second overall, while third was reserved for Lizarte's Santiago Ramírez.


  • 1, Mario González (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), 2:05:01
  • 2, David Dalmau (Coluer), s.t.
  • 3, Martin Lestido (Supermercados Froiz), s.t.
  • 4, Vadim Zhuravlev (Lokosphinx), 0:17
  • 5, Fernando Grijalba (Caja Rural), s.t.
  • 6, Alexander Vdovin (Lokosphinx), s.t.
  • 7, Santiago Ramírez (Lizarte), s.t.
  • 8, Diego León Cuervo (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), s.t.
  • 9, Imanol Estévez (Naturgas Energía), s.t.
  • 10, Alberto Molina (Caja Rural), s.t.
Final general classification:
  • 1, Mario González (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos)
  • 2, Martin Lestido (Supermercados Froiz)
  • 3, Santiago Ramírez (Lizarte)
  • 4, Imanol Estévez (Naturgas Energía)
  • 5, Alexander Vdovin (Lokosphinx)
  • 6, Diego León Cuervo (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos)
  • 7, Júlen Amezqueta (Seguros Bilbao)
  • 8, Fernando Grijalba (Caja Rural)
  • 9, Marcos Altur (GSport-Valencia Terra i Mar)
  • 10, David Dalmau (Coluer)

Time trial start times

Is he on course for another Grand Tour podium? We'll get the first real indication if Samuel Sánchez is up for the fight in Saturday's 54,8km ITT from Gabicce Mare to Saltara.

Miguel Mínguez will as usual be one of the first riders off, while 'Samu' will get the go-ahead late in the afternoon.

Here are the start times, CET:
  • Miguel Mínguez - 12:16
  • Ricardo Mestre - 12:40
  • Ioannis Tamouridis - 12:56
  • Robert Vrecer - 13:55
  • Gorka Verdugo - 14:10
  • Egoi Martínez - 14:39
  • Jorge Azanza - 14:56
  • Samuel Sánchez - 15:30
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Friday, May 10, 2013

Intxausti dons pink as Samu moves up

Once upon a time hailed as Spain's next big thing in Grand Tour racing, Beñat Intxausti might just be about to step up to the plate.

At the end of another rainy and crash-filled stage of the Giro d'Italia on Friday, the Movistar rider was able to put on the 'maglia rosa' of overall leader as both Luca Paolini and Rigobert Urán, lying in first and second respectively heading into stage stage seven, ceded time.

It might not make his a favourite to stand on the overall podium when the peloton reaches Brescia, but the thrills and spills of stage six certainly hasn't diminished his chances of causing an upset.

Both Vincenzo Nibali and Bradley Wiggins hit the tarmac as a late downpour made every single curve a lottery, and the latter didn't manage to catch back on and lost a potentially decisive one minute and 24 seconds.

Euskaltel leader Samuel Sánchez stayed out of trouble, though, cruising home with the group of favourites alongside Egoi Martínez 1:07 down on breakaway winner Adam Hansen.

The Antipodean formed part of the break of the day along with five others, among them the active Ioannis Tamouridis, and lasted the distance to claim a famous, and not least well deserved, win.

Samu's consistent opening week has landed him 11th overall heading into Saturday's long individual time trial, 52 seconds off Intxausti's time.

Before today, Bradley Wiggins was expected to put quite a few minutes into his biggest rivals in the 54,8km race against the clock. Now, though, given his lacklustre showing on Friday, he's a big unknown going into what many is expected to be a decisive day in the race for the overall podium.

No matter his travails, Samu says he's the man to beat.

"I think we all expect Wiggins to beat us with something to spare", he says. "Anything else would be a surprise. He's a specialist, and he looks to me to be in shape, despite losing some time today. It's a taxing course and 55 kilometres is a lot. It's Wiggins' chance to open up a gap and tip the race in his favour.

"We'll try to lose as little time as possible", he continues. "I don't want to put a number on anything, we'll see how the race goes."

  • (1, Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), 4:35:49)
  • 20, Samuel Sánchez, 1:07
  • 27, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 51, Jorge Azanza, 2:31
  • 85, Robert Vrecer, 6:54
  • 103, Ricardo Mestre, 11:07
  • 107, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 113, Gorka Verdugo, 13:41
  • 174, Miguel Mínguez, 18:45

Daboz holds off Naturgas train to win penultimate Bidasoa stage

Ibai Daboz secured a popular home win when he soloed to glory on the third stage of the Vuelta al Bidasoa on Friday.

The Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport rider has consistently been up there all year and today grabbed the biggest win of his budding career by crossing the line in Hondarribia nine seconds ahead of a select group lead home by a trio of Naturgas Energía riders.

In that select group was overnight leader Marcos Altur who thus hung on to his overall lead ahead of Saturday's decider.

The stage took in the famed Jaizkíbel, but the tough climb didn't separate the overall contenders a great deal. Heading into tomorrow's final leg, 17 riders are within 31 seconds of Altur's lead.

Results (full results here):
  • 1, Ibai Daboz (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 3:00:30
  • 2, Loïc Chetout (Naturgas Energía), 0:09
  • 3, Alain González (Naturgas Energía), s.t.
  • 4, Imanol Estévez (Naturgas Energía), s.t.
  • 5, Fernando Grijalba (Caja Rural), s.t.
  • 6, Martin Lestido (Supermercados Froiz), s.t.
  • 7, Santiago Ramírez (Lizarte), s.t.
  • 8, Adrián González (Ibaigane Opel), s.t.
  • 9, Beñat Txoperena (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), s.t.
  • 10, Mario González (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), s.t.
Photo: Fundación Ciclista Euskadi

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Speedy 'Tamu' puts Greece on the map

In the absence of a fully-fledged sprinter in the team's ranks, a veteran track specialist from 'the Land of Gods' is doing his best to give Euskaltel some representation in the high-speed finishes at the Giro d'Italia.

He grabbed 13th on the race's opening day, and on Thursday's sixth stage Ioannis Tamouridis finished a creditable 15th.

Mark Cavendish prevailed with some superiority in what was a fairly chaotic dash for the line in Margherita di Savoia after an almost pancake-flat 169km ride from Mola di Bari.

The guys in orange spent most of the day looking out for team captain Samuel Sánchez's interests. And they did that reasonably well, keeping their leader close to the front at the key points of the stage and avoiding the mass pile-up that held up close to 50 percent of the peloton on the first of the two 16km finishing circuits.

In the finale, 'Tamu', as he's become affectionately known among his team-mates, was given a free pass to ride for his own chances and ended up beating the likes of Francisco Ventoso, John Degenkolb and Sacha Modolo to grab another top 20 result.

It might not indicate a sprint win if forthcoming any time soon, but it does go some way to prove he's merited the chance he's been given at WorldTour level this year.

Speaking post-race, the first Greek ever to ride a Grand Tour says he's doing it all for the team.

"I lack the top speed, but I handle constant high speed quite well. That's down to my track background", he said. "I try to take advantage of that to help the team out, support 'Samu' on the flat parts of the stages or to get a good finishing position in order for our team car to get a better position in the queue".

No matter the reason, he's putting his name, and his country at that, out there.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), 3:56:03)
  • 15, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 62, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 97, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 108, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 111, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 152, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
  • 160, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 200, Ricardo Mestre, 7:01

Chetout loses lead as Zhuravlev solos to day two Bidasoa triumph

Loïc Chetout had to hand over his overall leader's jersey to Marcos Altur at the end of the Vuelta al Bidasoa's second stage on Thursday afternoon.

The stage was taken out by Russian powerhouse Vadim Zhuravlev, the Lokosphinx rider soloing to the line in Doneztebe two seconds ahead of the new leader. Third, at six seconds, was Basque Iñigo Ojeda of Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos.

Chetout could only muster 11th on the day, coming in with a big group at 24 seconds, but is still very much in overall contention. Heading into the last two stages, the Naturgas Energía Frenchman is seventh at 22 seconds.

Results (full results here):
  • 1, Vadim Zhuravlev (Lokosphinx), 2:56:05
  • 2, Marcos Altur (Gsport-Valencia Terra i Mar), 0:02
  • 3, Iñijo Ojeda (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), 0:06
  • 4, Santiago Ramírez (Lizarte), 0:14
  • 5, Paul Usabel (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), 0:24
  • 6, Davide Martinelli (Debabarrena), s.t.
  • 7, Alexander Vdovin (Lokosphinx), s.t.
  • 8, Unai Intziarte (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), s.t.
  • 9, Beñat Txoperena (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), s.t.
  • 10, Sergey Vdovin (Lokosphinx), s.t.
Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Landa and Bilbao looking to emulate Sicard

Euskaltel will send two of their brightest talents to a weekend double-header filled with climbing action.

Romain Sicard made a name for himself as a future Grand Tour contender back in 2009 by taking out, first, the Tour de l'Avenir and, then, the World Championships. Prior to that, though, he'd made waves in Spanish cycling by cantering to the win at the Subida al Naranco, a mountainous one-day event boasting such names as Koldo Gil, Ibán Mayo, Leonardo Piepoli, Roberto Heras and Abraham Olano on its roll of honour.

The 47th running of the race takes place this Sunday, this year, like in the last two seasons, as part of the amputated Vuelta a Asturias.

On Saturday the peloton will tackle a 156km recorrido taking in two cat.1-ranked ascents, while Sunday's race will as per tradition finish atop the Naranco, affectionately knows as Cima José Manuel Fuente - "El Tarangu".

Representing Igor González de Galdeano's team will be:
Garikoitz Bravo, Jure Kocjan (who'll make his first appearance since withdrawing from Paris-Nice with illness in early March), Peio Bilbao, Adrián Sáez, Mikel Landa, Tarik Chaoufi, Jon Aberasturi and Ricardo García.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Euskaltel come through crash-marred finale

Samuel Sánchez and his team-mates emerged unscathed from the massive pile-up that wreaked havoc in the peloton in the final 1000 metres of the Giro d'Italia's fifth stage on Wednesday.

Just when the sprinters were preparing to rev up their engines and sprint for glory in Matera, a 90-degree bend on slippery tarmac took down a whole bunch of riders. Argos-Shimano's John Degenkolb just about escaped the carnage to take his very first Giro win, while most of the overall contenders came through unhurt and with their pre-race goals intact - Sánchez thus remains in 19th place overall.

One Euskaltel rider who didn't make it to the line, though, was Pablo Urtasun. The combative veteran decided enough was enough after struggling with the after-effects of his stage 1-crash, abandoning the race early in today's proceedings.

"It's a shame to quit a race I've been preparing for with the utmost motivation", he says. "I've worked a lot to get here in top shape, but the sacrifices that I've made won't pay off. I won't get to see the results of the work I've laid down.

"It's a big let-down. I'm feeling flat. I took the start today as abandoning was the last thing on my mind, but it reached the stage where I couldn't pedal anymore. It's a shame for both me and the team".

Urtasun has suffered from pain in his knee, elbow and hip, but as of yet a timescale on his recovery has not been set.

In a long day of racing, the Euskaltel riders were once again up for a fight. First it was Ricardo Mestre's turn to waive the team's flag by joining the break of the day, before Robert Vrecer jumped with Ag2r's Ben Gastauer in the closing stages of the race in an attempt to scupper the plans of the teams looking for a sprint finish.

Vrecer and Gastauer were eventually joined by noted breakaway specialist Lars Ytting Bak of Lotto-Belisol, but the trio were never afforded much leeway and were relatively quickly brought to a halt.

In the end, five of the eight riders in orange still in the race came in with the first group.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), 4:37:48)
  • 53, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 78, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 79, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
  • 81, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 82, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 130, Ioannis Tamouridis, 6:37
  • 159, Ricardo Mestre, 12:40
  • 183, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Chetout takes out Bidasoa opener

Loïc Chetout took his biggest win to date by sprinting to glory on the Vuelta al Bidasoa's first stage.

The stage-race's opening leg from and to Irún, Juan Manuel Garate´s birthplace in the region of Gipúzkoa, saw several threatening moves go off, the last of which, featuring Ibaigane Opel's Eddy Valdespino and Alejandro Arribas of Gomur, was reeled in just in time for the teams to get their sprinters in position.

Naturgas Energía's Frenchman proved unbeatable from an eight-man group that formed in the finale, besting Debabarrena's Davide Martinelli, the 19-year-old son of Astana sport director Giuseppe, and 22-year-old Basque Paul Usabel of Cafés Baqué.

The majority of the overall favourites came in nine seconds down, including the likes of Grijalba, Salas, Álvarado, Ramírez, Zhuravlev and Molina.

Results (full results here):
  1. Loïc Chetout (Naturgas Energía), 2:45:57
  2. Davide Martinelle (Debabarrena), s.t.
  3. Paul Usabel (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), s.t.
  4. Rafael Márquez (Lizarte), s.t.
  5. Imanol Estévez (Naturgas Energía), s.t.
  6. Javier García (Coluer), s.t.
  7. Marcos Altur (GSport-Valencia Terra i Mar), s.t.
  8. Ibai Daboz (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), s.t.
  9. Mario González (Cafés Baqué), 0:03
  10. Carlos Jiménez (Caja Rural), 0:09

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Sánchez makes up time on Wiggins

Samuel Sánchez inched closer to pre-race favourite Bradley Wiggins on Tuesday's fourth stage of the Giro d'Italia.

The Euskaltel captain, 14th across the line in Serra San Bruno at the end of a hilly 246km trek from Policastro, profited from gaps that opened up on the short, but wet and slippery descent to the line to claw back 17 seconds on the Team Sky leader.

"It was another dangerous day", he said upon crossing the line. "It was a hard finale, and the rain augmented the risk. Stages like these are stages you need to get through unscathed, be concentrated and  at your game. The team did all that very well. Miguel Mínguez and Ioannis Tamouridis got into the break and the rest of the team protected me very well".

The duo he mentions infiltrated the day's seven-man break, pleasing the team' sponsors by putting their logos on the screen for hours.

While the break never looked like making it to the line, Miguel Mínguez made the most of his day in the spotlight with a delightful attack inside the last 50 kilometres.

Having followed Ag2r's Julien Berard's initial acceleration, despite having his shirt full of water bottles as he prepared to aid his team-mates in the likely scenario of being caught, Mínguez proceeded to go it alone with some climbing reminiscent of fans favourites like Amets Txurruka and Egoi Martínez.

The Bilbao-native quickly distanced his breakaway companions and looked to be going strong, but the incessant pace in the bunch was always going to be his downfall.

With 42 clicks to go he was reeled in, paving the way for Enrico Battaglin to sprint to a surprise victory in the slight uphill drag to the line.

Save for Wiggins' slight time loss, the GC saw no big changes.

Results (full results here):
  • (1, Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole), 6:14:19)
  • 14, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 33, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 82, Egoi Martínez, 6:14
  • 104, Gorka Verdugo, 10:25
  • 115, Robert Vrecer, 16:53
  • 193, Ioannis Tamouridis, 22:55
  • 197, Ricardo Mestre, s.t.
  • 201, Pablo Urtasun, 25:44
  • 202, Miguel Mínguez, s.t. 
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi

Star-studded field for Vuelta al Bidasoa

The best sub-23 riders in the country will convene in the Basque Country tomorrow as the prestigious Vuelta al Bidasoa commences.

The four-day race will as usual take in stages around the river of Bidasoa, with the two final stages yet again likely to decisive.

The third stage, starting and finishing in Hondarribia, takes in the climb of climbs in the region, the mythical Jaizkíbel, only ten kilometres from the goal line. The final leg to Irún takes in three cat.1 ascents, meaning it's likely to once again stay tight on GC until the very last day.

Last year's champion, Alexey Rybalkin, will not be back to defend his crown, but his team, Lokosphinx, most definitely will. The team has taken out the last four (!) editions of the race, and they'll bring plenty of overall candidates this time around as well - not least in the shape of Vadim Zhuravlev and the Vdovin brothers, Sergey and Alexander.

The Russians aren't likely to have it all their own way, though, as numerous on-form domestic riders will line up.

The recently crowned overall Copa de España victor, Fernando Grijalba, will spearhead a strong Caja Rural team featuring the likes of Ibai Salas, Antonio Molina and Jaime Rosón.

The young Gonzalo Serrano and ever-reliable Argentine Ariel Sivori will be present in the colours of Supermercados Froiz, Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport will field dangerous pair Beñat Txoperena and Ibai Davoz, David Etxebarría's Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos outfit will include Mario González and Iñigo Ojeda, while Adrián Alvarado will be one of the biggest favourites for the overall crown when he lines up for Bicicletas Rodríguez-Extremadura.

Further, GSport-Valencia Terra i Mar duo Manuel Sola and cyclo-cross specialist Marcos Altúr might throw up a surprise, and the same goes for the strong climber from Catalonia, Arnau Sole of Coluer.

The team to beat appears to be Lizarte, though. The pink squad has racked up win after win lately, and will send both Santi Ramírez, Antonio Pedrero and Dayer Quintana to the race.

On their part, Naturgas Energía will count on Víctor Etxeberría, eighth last year, and Loïc Chetout, who last week finished up the Copa de España in fourth overall.

"Víctor Etxeberría was laid low by bronchitis a month ago and still isn't at a 100 percent, but I hope he can be up there", DS Ion Lazkano says to El Diario Vasco. "What's more, Loïc Chetout might go well. We bring a potent team that can fight for the stage wins".

Visit the race's homepage for more info on stages, start lists and whatnot here  

Monday, May 06, 2013

Galdeano - Nieve hasn't been lucky

It's been a checkered year so far for Mikel Nieve.

The usually ever-reliable climber showed flickers of early-season form back in February when he finished third on a hard stage of the Tour Méditerranéen, but has since then found top results hard to come by due to persistent struggles with allergies.

Read: Allergies suspend Nieve's season

To get his season back on track, the 28-year-old opted out of the Tour de Romandie to "recover and start thinking about the second half of the season".

To perform up to expectations in that latter part of the season, Nieve will today travel to the thin air of Sierra Nevada along with a sizeable contingent of team-mates.

"He'll be back racing in the Bayern Rundfahrt and then the Dauphiné", team manager Igor González de Galdeano says. "Mikel has suffered from bad luck in this first part of the season, but he's now recovering from the health problems which hindered him. I hope he'll be back, fully competitive, by June and July".

Igor Antón, who'll co-lead the team with Nieve at this summer's Tour de France, is yet to decide on where he'll rev up for the big event.

"We still have to decide whether Igor goes to the Dauphiné or to the Tour de Suisse", de Galdeano explains. "We'll see how he does at the training camp and how he's going physically before deciding which race he'll line up in. There's plenty of time to take the right decision".

Joining the two ace climbers will be Romain Sicard, Juan José Oroz, Gorka and Ion Izagirre, Mikel Astarloza and Juan José Lobato.


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