Results-wise, the first half of 2013 have been one of the worst in the recent history of Euskaltel. If you're rooting for the riders in orange, you'd be forgiven for feeling a bit disillusioned with the Tour de France just around the corner.
It was an altogether different atmosphere surrounding the team ten years ago. Ibán Mayo had just dominated the opposition in the Vuelta al País Vasco and given Lance Armstrong an almighty scare with a masterful performance at the Dauphiné, while Davíd Etxebarría and David Herrero had picked up a win each in races on the national calendar. And then of course you had the likes of Haimar Zubeldia, Robert Laiseka, Iñigo Landaluze, Unai Etxebarría and a young Samuel Sánchez to call on.
Also in the team ranks back then were the brothers Flores, Igor and Iker. Both were mainstays of the team around the turn of the century, and the latter had shown immense promise by etching his name into the history books of the Tour de l'Avenir in 2000, the race affectionately known as the junior version of the Tour de France. None made the team in 2003, but both went on to complete the Tour in the years following that memorable edition.
Two weeks ahead of the Grand Départ, we caught up with Iker to hear what it was like to be a part of arguably the best Euskaltel team in history.
"Those were bad years. The truth is that Mayo, Zubeldia, Laiseka and those guys were bad people. No, no, no, I'm just kidding!", the now 36-year-old tells Basque Cycling News. "The truth is that those were very good years. I have to say that, with the group of guys we had, we all had a very good time. I have good memories of all of them.
"Those were glorious years for Euskaltel - there were so many great riders".
Do you still keep in touch with your former team-mates?
"Not with everyone. We've all gone our separate ways, but with some, like Gorka Verdugo, Egoi Martínez, Koldo Fernández de Larrea and some masseurs, yeah, we stay in touch. Some because they're close by, some I keep in touch with over the phone.
"When I meet up with one of my former team-mates, the truth is there's still that same feeling between us as when we used to ride together", he explains.
In his third and final Tour de France appearance in 2005, Iker finished dead last, or as the lantern rouge if you want. His brother did the same three years prior, and to date they remain the only brothers to have finished at the bottom of the general classification at the Grand Boucle.
In 2000, he finished at the very opposite end of the results sheet at the Tour de l'Avenir. It was to be his only professional win, and, not surprisingly, besting the likes of David Moncoutié and Floyd Landis to the prestigious overall crown ranks as one of his greatest moments on the bike.
"It was perhaps the best moment of my sporting career", he says 13 years later. "It's my only win, I was still very young back then, and I'd just started out as a professional, so to win a race that prestigious brought me much joy".
After hanging up his bike at the end of the 2007 season, Igor's become a father of two and now makes a living of selling cycling wear. He doesn't go riding too often these days, he admits, preferring to stay in shape through the more time-efficient sport of running.
Looking back at his career, the amicable younger Flores says he's pleased with what he achieved on two wheels.
"I think I achieved what I was capable of. When I was given the opportunity to ride for my own chances, I responded with performances within my means. When I was asked to work for the team, I gave it my all and dedicated myself fully so that my team-mates could win. I never minded working for other riders. I think that was my role, and it's a satisfying feeling when a team-mate you've worked for wins a race.
"I'm pleased with how I did. I can say that I've done the biggest races on the professional calendar. I'm not bitter towards anyone or anything, because I dedicated myself to the sport for nine years to the best of my abilities", he concludes.
Photo: Capture the Peloton