Monday, September 30, 2013

Euskaltel duo fail to finish Worlds

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Orbea

Iparragirre makes a name for himself in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Read that article here.

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

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

Photo: BCPT

New Basque team in the making

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

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

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

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

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

Euskaltel riders voice their dismay; Euskaltel hit back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: BCPT

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Castroviejo "satisfied" with Worlds TT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Antón - Hopefully Omega Pharma are still keen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: BCPT

Official report: Euskaltel and Alonso fail to reach an agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, September 23, 2013

Iturria - Everything went wrong at Worlds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report: Alonso-Euskaltel deal close to falling through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: The Guardian

Caja Rural best Naturgas in Lehendakari finale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Euskaltel solid at TTT Worlds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oroz shows decent shape in GP Impanis

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

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

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

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gorka Izagirre - Ion reunion at Movistar unlikely

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the entire interview here:

Photo: BCPT

Bagües makes his mark in China

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

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

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

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

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Radochla sprints into gear in Vlaanderen

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 20, 2013

Euskaltel send team to trio of one-day races

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

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

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


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Euskaltel pick Worlds VI

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

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

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

Photo: BCPT

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tamouridis keen to prolong Euskaltel stay

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

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

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

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

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

Neither does Tamouridis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Twitter

Official: Gorka Izagirre joins Movistar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Star Euskaltel duo picked for Worlds

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Chris Horner Racing

Monday, September 16, 2013

Euskadi start off strong in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Fundación Ciclista Euskadi

Concerns raised over "delay" in Euskaltel takeover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Sports Illustrated

Galdeano - This was the best way to say goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Izagirre shines in Montréal

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chetout lands podium in Alsasua

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Euskaltel crowned best team in final Vuelta appearance

Barring catastrophe on Sunday's final stage, Euskaltel will run away with the team prize in the final Grand Tour in their current guise.

Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón, Mikel Nieve et al. weren't able to fight for what would have been an emotional victory atop cycling's possibly hardest climb - the Angliru -  on the 20th and penultimate leg on Saturday, but the team's all-round consistency ensured they defended the lead in the team rankings with only the final processional stage left.

'Samu' did enough to rise to eighth overall, though, leapfrogging Leopold König courtesy of his 14th place finish. Euskaltel took control of the pack as the race closed in on the feared Angliru, but the riders in orange had no response to the vicious accelerations of eventual overall victor Chris Horner, runner-up Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde and company.

French youngster Kenny Elissonde courageously made it to the summit all alone to grab a career-defining win, while late bloomer Horner did enough and then some to score his first Grand Tour triumph at the ripe young age of 41.

Euskaltel will be the only team to complete the race with all nine riders tomorrow afternoon, despite Pablo Urtasun hitting the deck in full flight going down the Cordal climb prior to the Angliru.

The veteran all-rounder hurt his right knee and hip, but impressively got up and finished the stage.

  • (1, Kenny Elissonde (, 3:55:36)
  • 14, Samuel Sánchez, 2:26
  • 22, Mikel Nieve, 4:26
  • 27, Juan José Oroz, 6:13
  • 30, Igor Antón, 7:25
  • 40, Mikel Landa, 10:30
  • 60, Egoi Martínez, 15:10
  • 107, Gorka Verdugo, 24:25
  • 122, Jorge Azanza, 25:04
  • 138, Pablo Urtasun, 25:52
Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Pedrero wins as González holds onto lead

Antonio Pedrero handed Lizarte yet another win of what's been a dominant season for the team from Navarra in Friday's Circuito de Sollube.

The 21-year-old Catalan had way too much in the tank for everyone else in the Torneo Lehendakari race in and around Bermeo and centred on the famous Sollube climb, a 5,2km climb averaging approximately seven percent.

Pedrero came in six seconds ahead of his nearest challenger to claim his second win of the year - going on to claim post-race that he should have been selected for the sub-23 Worlds team.

Caja Rural's Jaime Rosón edged Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport's Jon Iriarte for second, while Naturgas Energía rider Alain González defended his overall race series lead with only two races left to go.

  1. Antonio Pedrero (Lizarte), 2:11:17
  2. Jaime Rosón (Caja Rural), 0:06
  3. Jon Iriarte (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), s.t.
  4. Antonio Molina (Caja Rural), 0:34
  5. Miguel Ángel Aguilera (Lizarte), s.t.
  6. Miguel Ángel Benito (Caja Rural), s.t.
  7. Diego Rubio (Caja Rural), 0:41
  8. Rafael Márquez (Lizarte), s.t.
  9. Imanol Estévez (Naturgas Energía), s.t.
  10. Ander Plazaola (Lizarte), s.t.

Friday, September 13, 2013

No Euskaltel success in Canada

The first of the two WorldTour races in Canada went by without any of the Euskaltel riders managing to animate the racing.

Robert Gesink's incredibly slow, yet powerful long-distance sprint finish handed Belkin an impressive win against the odds in Québec. Euskaltel fielded a capable team featuring the likes of the Izagirre brothers, but none of them were on their a-game and thus struggled to be competitive.

Peio Bilbao did get into the main break of the day, but the youngster and his two breakaway companions never looked like running away with the race and were swept up well in time for the decisive part of the race.

Romain Sicard ended being the team's best rider in 31st place, eight seconds down. Just behind him was Ion Izagirre and Miguel Mínguez.

  • (1, Robert Gesink (Belkin), 4:58:13)
  • 31, Romain Sicard, 0:08
  • 32, Ion Izagirre, 0:15
  • 33, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
  • 44, Adrián Sáez, 0:57
  • 45, Ricardo García, s.t.
  • 71, Gorka Izagirre, 1:40
  • DNF: Peio Bilbao and Rubén Pérez
Photo: BCPT

Sánchez shows up on home roads

Samuel Sánchez claimed a creditable fourth place on the 19th stage of the Vuelta a España on Friday.

The stage, ending atop the famed Naranco climb close to Sánchez's home city of Oviedo in Asturias, was ideally suited to pocket rocket Joaquim Rodríguez, and the Katusha leader delivered and then some by cantering to the win.

No one was able to get even remotely close to grabbing hold of his wheel, but 'Samu' paid homage to his friends and family lining the roadside by launching a powerful attack inside the last click. For a while he looked a good bet for second on the stage, but he was eventually passe by both Diego Ulissi and Daniel Moreno, meaning he had to make do with fourth on the day.

Not much changed on GC. Heading into the last decisive stage on Saturday, the Euskaltel leader occupies ninth overall.

  • (1, Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), 4:16:13)
  • 4, Samuel Sánchez, 0:11
  • 14, Mikel Nieve, 0:41
  • 17, Egoi Martínez, 0:51
  • 28, Gorka Verdugo, 1:29
  • 33, Mikel Landa, 1:57
  • 48, Juan José Oroz, 4:19
  • 66, Jorge Azanza, 9:31
  • 69, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 143, Pablo Urtasun, 21:10
Photo: BCPT

Martínez continues chase for elusive win

The seemingly never-tiring Egoi Martínez was once again in the thick of the action in Thursday's stage of the Vuelta a España.

The 35-year-old has been present in numerous dangerous breaks thus far in the race, but the veteran and his team is still looking to be rewarded.

Vasil Kiryienka handed Sky a deserved win with a sensational solo move in the closing 40 clicks of the 18th stage from Burgos to the top of the brutal Peña Cabarga climb. The Belarusian had far too much in the tank for Martínez and the rest of the riders that made up the big break of the day, the Euskaltel rider eventually claiming fifth on the day.

"I made it into the right break again, but once again it wasn't to be", he said post-stage. "Kiryienka was very strong, and I knew it'd be hard to win if I didn't manage to cling onto his wheel. On his day he's so strong, and he was impossible to beat.

"Once I realized I wouldn't be able to catch up with him, I kept going at it for the sake of the team classification. We had a chance to gain time, so I emptied myself to take as much time as possible".

Martínez's efforts were not in vain. Due to his fifth on the stage, coupled with Samuel Sánchez's 15th and Igor Antón's 19th, Euskaltel solidified their place atop the team rankings. Heading into the last three stages, the team holds a 4:35 lead on Movistar.

On GC, 'Samu' maintained his ninth overall.

  • (1, Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), 4:46:48)
  • 5, Egoi Martínez, 1:42
  • 15, Samuel Sánchez, 2:36
  • 19, Igor Antón, 2:49
  • 41, Mikel Nieve, 5:26
  • 64, Jorge Azanza, 8:49
  • 68, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 79, Juan José Oroz, 11:09
  • 97, Gorka Verdugo, 12:13
  • 138, Pablo Urtasun, 22:16
Photo: BCPT

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Alonso to punish dopers on 'new Euskaltel'

Aiming to make sure his foray into the world of professional cycling doesn't end abruptly and with a tarnished reputation, Fernando Alonso has decided to insert an anti-doping clause into the contracts of the riders that will make up his team in 2014.

So reports Bilbao-based daily El Correo this morning. Euskaltel were hit hard by the positive test of Alexander Serebryakov earlier this year, and the Formula 1 star seems intent on avoiding a similar case.

If a rider fails a test, he'll be forced to compensate the team out of his own pocket for ruining the team's image. How much the riders will be forced to pay is, for now, unknown.

To make sure he's bought a team that is indeed doing things the right way already, El Correo claim Alonso's manager, Luis García Abad, called up the director of the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency, Ana Muños Merino, to make sure nothing suspicious is going on at the team.

Euskaltel, like most modern teams, of course have a history not entirely bereft of doping scandals.

The team have somehow avoided getting caught up in the biggest doping investigations over the last few years, but the cases of Txema del Olmo, Iñigo Landaluze, Gorka and Aitor González, César Solaun, Aitor Kintana, Aketza Peña, Mikel Astarloza, the aforementioned Serebryakov and of course the connections to infamous team doctors Jesús Losa, José Ibarguren and Iñaki Arratibel, have at various times tarnished the team's reputation.

As El Correo point out, rumours circulated not long after the Serebryakov case that Tarik Chaoufi was also in trouble with the UCI. What those "troubles" actually consisted of, and whether there indeed was any "trouble with the UCI", is unknown, though, and Chaoufi should then naturally be given the benefit of the doubt.

Photo: The Telegraph

Equipo Euskadi embark on last journey

Equipo Euskadi will most likely write the final chapter of a what's been a long and successful story in China the coming weeks.

The team's economic woes have been known for quite some time, and the likelihood of a new sponsor coming onboard Fernando Alonso-style is diminishing by the hour.

The team heads appear to have accepted defeat in the hunt for a new backer, and team head and alma mater Miguel Madariaga admitted the team's upcoming participation in the Tours of China might very well turn out to be their final participation in a bike race ever.

"We're eager to start the race", he told the team's website. "We're sure we'll put on a good performance in our last race of the year, a race that might also be the last race in our history".

The nine-day race in Asia commences on Friday with a 5,8km prologue, and Arberas has naturally decided to field six of his strongest charges.

Unai Iparraguirre, Mikel Aristi, Jon Larrinaga, Aritz Bagües, Mikel Bizkarra and Illart Zuazubiskar will lead the team in its first Asian adventure.

Photo: Pedalierweb

'Samu' survives wind scare

For a change, Euskaltel were not caught out when the wind made an appearance in Wednesday's 17th stage of the Vuelta a España.

While Domenico Pozzovivo, Thibaut Pinot and a host of sprinters were left reeling their inattentiveness, team leader Samuel Sánchez made the cut and came home safe and sound inside the first group. Pablo Urtasun tried his hand in the sprint finish, but a surprise move by Bauke Mollema caught everyone off guard and made sure Team Belkin escaped with the stage win.

Saying Euskaltel weren't caught out at all isn't correct though. Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve once again failed to place themselves well, coming in several minutes back.

Heading into a trio of demanding stages, Sánchez is 9th overall, Antón 15th and Nieve 28th.

  • (1, Bauke Mollema (Belkin), 4:44:28)
  • 13, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 16, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 20, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 28, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 45, Igor Antón, 1:31
  • 84, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 115, Mikel Landa, 5:39
  • 116, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 117, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
Photo: Orbea

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Euskadi trio gets green light for Worlds

If Equipo Euskadi does cease to exist, at least they're going out with a bang.

The Continental-ranked team has enjoyed a stellar season so far, something national sub-23 team boss Pascual Momparler naturally has noticed. Spain's team for the World Championships was today revealed, and Equipo Euskadi riders take up three of the five spots available.

Joining recent Tour de l'Avenir victor Rubén Fernández (Caja Rural) and national sub-23 road race champion Mario González (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos) in Italy will be Carlos Barbero, Haritz Orbe (pictured above as a young hopeful) and Mikel Iturria.

González and Iturria will also line up in the time trial.

Photo: Orbea

Alonso set to go big with Euskaltel in 2015

While Euskaltel fans are excited and rightly so to see what's in store for 2014, Fernando Alonso's new team is only expected to fully take shape in 2015.

The news of the Formula 1 star - second in Monza this past weekend - taking over the reins at Euskaltel has been met by almost unanimous praise in the cycling community. However, few, if anyone, really knows what the team will look like.

What is clear, though, is that all 14 riders with a contract in place for next year are almost guaranteed to stay on into 2014 and beyond. These 14 riders are: Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón, Juan José Lobato, Mikel Nieve, Jon Aberasturi, Peio Bilbao, Mikel Landa, Ion Izagirre, Rubén Pérez, Romain Sicard, Egoi Martínez, Gorka Verdugo, Garikoitz Bravo and Miguel Mínguez.

All of them will likely be on Alonso's books next year, but seeing as several of the aforementioned riders have been negotiating with other teams lately, that's still to be formally decided. Two of them, Juan José Lobato and Igor Antón, are thought to have opted to stay despite being in advanced negotiations with other teams prior to Alonso buying the team's license.

Former pro Kiko García will, though still not officially hired, be one of the team heads alongside Igor González de Galdeano.

Speaking to BiciCiclismo, García says the 14 riders on contracts will form the backbone of the team next year, and that, if necessary, they'll take on riders with UCI points to their name in the winter to fulfill the UCI's sporting criteria.

García was coy on what will happen with the riders whose contracts expire this year, only saying that "we'll for sure bring in 10-12 new riders".

As we're already in September, those riders are unlikely to be big-name GC contenders or sprinters. As a consequence, 2014 will by all accounts be a transitional year.

"For us it's about doing the best we can with what we've got in 2014, and then make a big leap forward in 2015 towards a bigger and more international project".

Rumours have it that Alberto Contador is keen on joining 'Samu' and Alonso on their 'super-team', but that appears to be more likely in 2015 at the earliest.

According to Alonso himself, "it's important we go step by step. Hopefully we'll be able to create a solid and professional team, a team that's capable of attracting big-name riders", he wrote on his Twitter account the other day.

As for what the future holds for Euskaltel's current staff and back room employees, no one knows at this moment in time.

The same goes for the team's location. Initial reports had it that the team would be based out of Asturias, where both Sánchez and Alonso hail from, but that won't necessarily be the case.

According to Luis García Abad, one of Alonso's representatives, nothing's been decided.

"It's premature to talk about that", he told El Correo. "The team's headquarters is right now in Bilbao, and we'll opt for the place that makes the most sense from a logistical viewpoint once we've got sponsors on board. If an American sponsor comes on board, for example, it would be logical to go to the US".

Colnago have been linked with supplying the team with bikes, but that's also nothing but rumours, says García Abad.

"We haven't decided anything - absolutely nothing. We'll figure that out when we're in a position to make a decision".

A decision is also yet to be taken on who'll manufacture the team's jerseys. Euskaltel's current provider, Bio Racer, inked a two-year deal with the team last winter, meaning they might well stay on into 2015.


Monday, September 09, 2013

Euskaltel now Vuelta's best team

Euskaltel may once again have failed in fighting for the triumph on stage 16 of the Vuelta a España, but Igor González de Galdeano's pupils can at least take comfort in now leading the team rankings.

Samuel Sánchez was yet again up there with the very best and cemented his top ten placing, while Igor Antón also showed decent form by coming in just a few seconds further back.

Warren Barguil once again exhibited his precocious talent by taking another stage from the day's main break. Not surprisingly, Egoi Martínez formed part of that move, but the veteran was unable to keep up when the young Frenchman upped the pace. Martínez eventually had to settle for 14th.

  • (1, Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano), 3:43:31)
  • 14, Egoi Martínez, 1:13
  • 21, Samuel Sánchez, 1:56
  • 23, Igor Antón, 2:04
  • 35, Mikel Nieve, 3:09
  • 39, Pablo Urtasun, 4:00
  • 45, Juan José Oroz, 4:53
  • 46, Mikel Landa, 5:24
  • 59, Gorka Verdugo, 6:14
  • 91, Jorge Azanza, 17:53
Photo: Orbea

Samuel Sánchez enters top ten

The Euskaltel leader put in a stellar ride to enter the top ten for the first time in this year's Vuelta a España on Sunday.

The 35-year-old finished up 12th on the brutally hard 15th stage from Andorra la Bella to the summit of the feared Peyragudes. The stage included more than 5000 metres of climbing, 225 kilometres of racing and four category.1 climbs - meaning it was no surprise to see the top riders cement their place at the top of the general classification.

While talented Frenchman Alexandre Geniez grabbed the biggest win of his young career by breaking free from his breakaway companions and soloing to the line, main contenders Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Horner, Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodríguez and Domenico Pozzovivo stayed together to the finish. Despite riding seemingly on his limit, Euskaltel's main go-to guy Sánchez bravely attacked the group of favourites a couple of times on the final climb. While he wasn't successful in distancing them, he limited his losses well enough to rise from 11th to ninth overall.

Coming in not far behind in 17th was Igor Antón, the popular climber now occupying a healthy 15th overall.

  • (1, Alexandre Geniez (, 6:20:12)
  • 12, Samuel Sánchez, 3:56
  • 17, Igor Antón, 5:24
  • 24, Mikel Landa, 7:24
  • 36, Egoi Martínez, 13:06
  • 50, Juan José Oroz, 16:23
  • 88, Mikel Nieve, 26:49
  • 127, Jorge Azanza, 35:09
  • 140, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 144, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
Photo: Orbea

Weak Euskaltel come up short in Fourmies

Euskaltel completed a weekend to forget in Belgium and France by slipping off the radar in the GP de Fourmies on Sunday.

The team only managed to place on of its riders in the first group in Brussels the day prior. In Fourmies 24 hours later, not one orange representative was to be seen in the main pack.

While Nacer Bouhanni bested André Greipel and Bryan Coquard to take the win, the Euskaltel riders trailed in 4:23 back. Jure Kocjan posted consecutive DNFs, still struggling to rediscover his health and form.

  • (1, Nacer Bouhanni (, 4:37:29)
  • 70, Mikel Astarloza, 4:23
  • 86, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 87, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
  • 88, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 89, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
  • 113, Steffen Radochla, s.t.
Photo: BCPT

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Chetout keeps the wins coming

Loïc Chetout put his fast-finishing legs to good use in Urduliz, Biscay, on Sunday, taking his fifth win of the season.

The Naturgas Energía rider, set to temporarily switch the red and white for Equipo Euskadi's red, white and green attire at the Tour du Gévaudan later this month, bested Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos' impressive Antonio Angulo (a recent victor in Lekeitio) and Gopar-Ikolan's on-song Peio Olaberria to the top gong in Urduliz.

His team-mate Alain González headed up the overall Torneo Lehendakari standings prior to the race, and the speedy youngster did his chances of taking home the crown come the end of the season no harm by claiming sixth.

No single rider was successful in breaking clear of the pack on the 106,4km parcours, leading to a sprint finish in which Chetout emerged victorious. Last year's victor, Caja Rural's Antonio Molina, had to make do with fourth.

  1. Loïc Chetout (Naturgas Energía)
  2. Antonio Angulo (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos)
  3. Peio Olaberria (Gopar-Ikolan)
  4. Antonio Molina (Caja Rural)
  5. Imanol Díaz (Seguros Bilbao)
  6. Alain González (Naturgas Energía)
  7. Egoitz Fernández (Seguros Bilbao)
  8. Jesús Alberto Rubio (Caja Rural)
  9. Jaime Rosón (Caja Rural)
  10. Eneko Lizarralde (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport)
Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Sánchez - That was one of the hardest days ever

Samuel Sánchez was forced to reflect on an equally epic and painful day in the saddle on Saturday as he battled the elements to claim a morale-boosting fifth place on a mountainous 14th stage of the Vuelta a España.

The Euskaltel leader looked close to his best as he climbed with some of the top climbers in the world in the torrential rain and freezing cold that made the 155,7km leg from Baga to the top of the Collada de  la Gallina such a memorable day - for the spectators anyway.

Only leader Vincenzo Nibali, main rival Chris Horner and Joaquin Rodríguez lasted the distance better than 'Samu', the Asturian rising to 11th overall as a result.

"That was one of the hardest days I've ever endured on a bike", he told reporters after finishing the first day in the Pyrenees. "Days like these don't come along that often, so I'll remember this stage being just as tough as it was as time passes. It was a very hard day, and on Sunday we've got some 220 kilometres ahead of us.

"What's important now is to recuperate from this very taxing effort".

Also showing improving form was Sánchez's fellow orange-clad climbers. Mikel Landa, Mike Nieve and Igor Antón came through for 9th, 12th and 17th respectively, securing Euskaltel its third team prize of the race.

  • (1, Daniele Ratto (Cannondale), 4:24:00)
  • 5, Samuel Sánchez, 4:19
  • 9, Mikel Landa, 5:17
  • 12, Mikel Nieve, 5:33
  • 17, Igor Antón, 6:27
  • 38, Egoi Martínez, 12:30
  • 45, Juan José Oroz, 16:49
  • 68, Gorka Verdugo, 22:19
  • 69, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 74, Jorge Azanza, 23:16
Photo: Orbea

Crash mayhem in Brussels

Euskaltel had a Saturday to forget in Belgium, with several of their riders hitting the tarmac in the Brussels Cycling Classic.

Ricardo Mestre, Steffen Radochla and Robert Vrecer all came unstuck in the hectic one-day race eventually taken out by André Greipel in a sprint. Fortunately for the trio, they all escaped serious injury though.

Euskaltel, having decided to not field their best sprinters, had no say in the final outcome. Garikoitz Bravo was the team's top man in 40th.

Jure Kocjan, still not even close to rediscovering something vaguely reminiscent of his old self after an illness-plagued season, abandoned.

  • (1, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), 4:55:58)
  • 40, Garikoitz Bravo, s.t.
  • 72, Ricardo Mestre, 0:45
  • 118, Mikel Astarloza, 1:29
  • 147, Robert Vrecer, 6:13
  • 157, Steffen Radochla, s.t.
  • 170, Ioannis Tamouridis, 15:44
  • 171, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
Photo: BCPT

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Egoi Martínez outwitted in Vuelta break

Egoi Martínez once again came away empty handed from a long-distance break in Friday's 13th stage of the Vuelta a España.

The Euskaltel veteran has a knack for getting into the right moves, but rarely is he rewarded for his persistence and perseverance. Friday proved to be another one of those days.

The 35-year-old made it into the decisive move on the road from Valls to Castelldefels, but his surprise move with some nine clicks to go was caught inside the final three clicks. He jumped again once eventual victor Warren Barguil had gotten a small gap, but by then it was too late.

The young Frenchman cantered to an extremely impressive win, while Martínez had to make do with eighth.

"There were a lot of strong riders in that break, so it was important to play your cards right", he told the team's website post-race. "Sometimes I regret not trying my luck from further out, so I gave it a go with nine kilometres left today. They cooperated well behind me, though, so it wasn't to be.

"It gives me a boost to be up there, fighting for the win. It's perhaps demanding more and more of me as time goes by, but still I manage to be up there. In that sense I enjoyed the stage a lot. It bodes well for what's to come in this race".

The group, containing most of the big names, came in 2:43 down.

  • (1, Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano), 4:00:13)
  • 8, Egoi Martínez, 0:08
  • 24, Samuel Sánchez, 2:43
  • 39, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 40, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 43, Juan José Oroz, 2:54
  • 45, Mikel Nieve, 2:56
  • 48, Jorge Azanza, 2:58
  • 78, Gorka Verdugo, 3:22
  • 171, Pablo Urtasun, 15:23

Euskaltel for Canadian double header

While one batch of Euskaltel riders will be concluding the Vuelta a España next weekend, another group of orange clad riders will be hunting success in Canada.

The WorldTour races in Québec and Montréal will be held on September 13. and 15. respectively, and Euskaltel will be lead by to of their more potent one-day racers: the Izagirres. Backing up the brothers will be Adrián Sáez, Peio Bilbao, Ricardo García, Romain Sicard, Miguel Mínguez and Rubén Pérez.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Chechu Rubiera and Kiko García linked to key roles at 'new' Euskaltel

Two former professionals are being linked with integral roles at Fernando Alonso's Euskaltel team from 2014 and onwards as the team, according to media reports at least, is slowly taking shape.

As reported earlier, current Euskaltel Euskadi head Igor González de Galdeano is more than likely to be  handed much the same role at Alonso's outfit.

Reports on Thursday suggests he might be joined by another fellow ONCE ex-pro. Deia and Cyclingnews claim to know Francisco José García Armendaris, more commonly known as "Kiko" García, is in line to be appointed team manager.

The now 45-year-old García rode professionally for the legendary black and yellow team in the '90s, two wins in the Clásica Alcobendas and appearances at the Olympics and in the Tour de France being the highlights.

Since then he's, among other jobs, worked for Vuelta organizers Unipublic and currently heads up eyewear giant Oakley's European marketing department. Oakley of course sponsors both Alonso and Samuel Sánchez.

If García does come on board, he's likely to be handed a team manager role. de Galdeano is expected to  work as a technical director.

Talking to Cyclingnews, García confirmed talks are ongoing.

"Discussions are on hold because of an imminent Formula One Grand Prix. However, talks will continue next week".

According to the rumour mill, yet another ex-pro might join the team management. José Luis "Chechu" Rubiera, himself from Asturias too of course, might be an advisor or a sports director, having retired from the sport three years ago.

Photo: Todo Coleccion

Sánchez ascends as Gilbert reigns

Samuel Sánchez moved up to 14th on GC on the Vuelta a España's 12th stage on Thursday.

'Samu' came in with the first group and thus edged ahead of Eros Capecchi into 14th, the Italian coming in 14 seconds down.

Aside from that minor improvement on GC, Euskaltel kept a decidedly low profile as the sprinters finally got a chance to shine. Edvald Boasson Hagen looked to be on course for a win, having started his sprint from way out, only to see reigning world champ Philippe Gilbert pip him to the line.

  • (1, Philippe Gilbert (BMC), 4:03:44)
  • 26, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
  • 32, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 46, Mikel Landa, 0:08
  • 47, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 69, Mikel Nieve, 0:19
  • 72, Juan José Oroz, 0:31
  • 87, Jorge Azanza, 0:50
  • 98, Gorka Verdugo, 0:59
  • 99, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
Photo: Orbea

Euskaltel set for brand new double date

In keeping with their stated objectives prior to the current season, Euskaltel will line up in two races this weekend they've never previously taken part in.

The races in question are the one-day races Brussels Cycling Classic (Saturday, 7. September) and GP de Fourmies (Sunday, 8. September).

Hoping to debut with a bang, the team directors have opted to field a mixture of local and foreign talent.

The roster reads as follows: Mikel Astarloza, Garikoitz Bravo, Ricardo Mestre, Steffen Radochla, Ioannis Tamouridis, Jure Kocjan, Robert Vrecer and Jon Aberasturi.

Óscar Guerrero will lead the team from the car.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Sánchez time trials his way into form

Samuel Sánchez showed his shape is very much on the up in Wednesday's individual time trial in the Vuelta a España.

A top GC placing might be well out of arm's reach for the Euskaltel leader by this point, but that didn't stop him in leaving it all on the road in the 38km race against the clock starting and finishing in Tarazona.

While there was no stopping Fabian Cancellara taking the stage, 'Samu' came through for a solid tenth on the day - 2:13 back on the Swiss machine, but less than a minute behind most of his fellow GC contenders.

Jorge Azanza looked decent in 35th, while climbers Mikel Nieve and Igor Antón looked less impressive in 56th and 60th respectively.

Courtesy of his tenth on Wednesday, 'Samu' moves up to 15th overall.

  • (1, Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard), 51:00)
  • 10, Samuel Sánchez, 2:13
  • 35, Jorge Azanza, 4:15
  • 56, Mikel Nieve, 5:01
  • 60, Igor Antón, 5:04
  • 72, Gorka Verdugo, 5:13
  • 82, Egoi Martínez, 5:23
  • 91, Mikel Landa, 5:37
  • 110, Pablo Urtasun, 6:29
  • 154, Juan José Oroz, 7:59
Photo: Orbea

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Galdeano - It's too early to talk about Contador

Given the close ties between Alberto Contador, Samuel Sánchez and Fernando Alonso, rumours were bound to start circulating about the former teaming up with the latter pair on the new-look Euskaltel team in 2014.

That talk is premature, though, claims Igor González de Galdeano. The long-time Euskaltel Euskadi head is more than likely to be at the helm of the new team as well, and at this moment in time he claims it's unrealistic that Contador will team up in the near future.

The native of Pinto has a contract in place for next year with Saxo-Tinkoff, but some reports have it that Bjarne Riis is struggling to come up with the money needed to pay Contador's more than healthy wages.

"Contador? No, that's moving too fast. Right now we have to concentrate on the riders we have", he tells El Correo.

The team is likely to move its headquarters out of the Basque Country and become much more of an international team, thus paving the way - in theory, anyway - for big-name non-Basques to come on board.

Sánchez and Contador have on numerous occasions in the past admitted they'd love to ride on the same team before they retire, but it seems at best unlikely that will happen as early as next year.

As for the "new" Euskaltel, Spanish media have it that the team's name is likely to have 'Banco Santander', one of Alonso's big personal sponsors, in it.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Alonso steps in to save Euskaltel Euskadi

Euskaltel Euskadi have confirmed rumours that Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso has decided to purchase the team's license and take over the team.

Alonso, who's an avid cycling fan and no bad rider himself, was last week successful in convincing his personal sponsors to come up with the six million euro needed to by the license from the team's holding company Basque Cycling Pro Team. Rumours only surfaced about a deal being reached between the two parties early on Monday morning, but only a few hours later both Alonso and the team had confirmed the deal.

The rumour going the rounds this weekend was actually that Catalan banking group Sabadell was ready to step in to save the team, but in the end it turns out that the Formula 1 celebrity will be the owner for the next few years.

For how many, though, has not been disclosed.

Alonso hails from the Asturias region in northern Spain and will run the team from Samuel Sánchez's home region. Alonso is of course a long-time friend of the Euskaltel rider - as well as of Alberto Contador. 'Samu' and Alonso are known to be occasional training partners, and the latter has for several years flirted with the idea of running his own team.

BiciCiclismo claim Igor González de Galdeano is likely to lead the team in much the same way he's done at Euskaltel Euskadi, and the team will as usual be based around Sánchez, Igor Antón, Mikel Nieve and the Izagirre brothers. All 14 riders with contracts in place for next year will reportedly form part of the 'new' team.

As of now, there's been no word on whether the riders with contracts expiring this year will stay on or not. Nor has a name for the team been released. Telephone company Euskaltel will not fund the team in any way.

"Enthusiasm, seriousness, sacrifice, evolution and transparency are the words on which this team will build its foundations", Alonso's press release reads. "Alonso is thrilled to be forming an active part in cycling and to be able to improve the image of this sport. Transparency and zero tolerance will therefore be fundamental pillars on which the foundations will be laid for this exciting sports project.

"After various days of intense negotiations between both parties, carried out with maximum discretion, we are pleased to announce that the Spanish athlete has reached an initial agreement to buy Euskaltel Euskadi and so avoid its demise".

More on this subject as news come through

Photo: The Guardian


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