Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pérez and Izagirre keep up appearances















Two of the most aggressive riders in recent Tour de France history once again animated the racing in the race's second stage on Sunday.

Rubén Pérez - twice the rider to have accumulated the most kilometres off the front in the race in previous editions - and Gorka Izagirre both took over the mantle from yesterday's escapee and today's king of the mountains, Juan José Lobato.

Pérez got into the day's main break but could do little to stop Lobato losing his polkadots to, first, Lars Boom, and then Pierre Rolland.

The four-man break he was a part of was reeled in only halfway through, though, setting the stage for an aggressive final 70 clicks of the 156km stage from Bastia to Ajaccio.

The oldest of the Izagirre brothers got in on the attack in the finale, forming part of eventual winner Jan Bakelants six-man move. He didn't make it, Gorka, but he's a dead-cert for a few more attempts later on in the race.

Euskaltel's three main men, Ion Izagirre, Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve, all made it in with the pack, while Juan José Oroz and debutant Romain Sicard both found the going tougher, going on to cede 12 and 17 minutes respectively.

Results:
  • (1, Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard), 3:43:11)
  • 17, Ion Izagirre, 0:01
  • 32, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 46, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 55, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
  • 57, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 139, Juan José Oroz, 12:44
  • 153, Juan José Lobato, 17:35
  • 154, Romain Sicard, s.t.
  • 166, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
Photo. BCPT

Txoperena takes maiden win in Mungia















Basque Beñat Txoperena romped to his first win of the season in Sunday's Memorial Agustín Sagasti in Mungia, Biscaya.

The Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport rider jumped away from the lead group in the finale to reach the line ten seconds ahead of his nearest chasers, led home by Russian Sergey Vdovin ahead of Naturgas Energía's Loïc Chetout.

The race pays tribute to the late Euskaltel Euskadi rider who at the Vuelta al País Vasco in 1994 took the team's very first victory.

Results:
  • 1, Beñat Txoperena (Gipuzkoa Eki Sport), 3:17:45
  • 2, Sergey Vdovi (Lokospinkx), 0:10
  • 3, Loic Chetout (Naturgas Energía), s.t.
  • 4, Pavel Karpenkov (Lokospinkx), s.t.
  • 5, Paul Usabel (Café Baqué - Conservas Campos), s.t.
  • 6, Martin Lestido (Supermercados Froiz), s.t.
  • 7, Sergio Rodríguez (Seguros Bilbao), s.t.
  • 8, Javier García (Coluer), s.t.
  • 9, Peio Goikoetxea (Café Baqué - Conservas Campos), s.t.
  • 10, Gonzalo Andrés (Ciudad de Oviedo - Nesta), s.t.
Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Lobato makes dream debut come true















In taking the climber's jersey on the very first day of his very first Tour de France, Juan José Lobato made the best Grand Boucle debut in the team's history on Saturday.

Executing a carefully laid team plan to perfection, the 24-year-old got into the day's main break straight away and picked up the only mountain points on offer. In cresting the Côte de Sotta ahead of his four breakaway companions, the Andalusian got to don the famous (or is that infamous) polkadots at the end of the 212km opener from Porto Vecchio to Bastia.

"This is a very nice start", he told the team's website matter-of-factly. "To get to climb the podium on my Tour debut makes me happy. We're at the best race in the world and I'm in the climber's jersey.

"We started out very motivated and got our reward. It was hard to achieve, but we did it. We can only be pleased with that".

As with most cyclists, a moment of triumph is a moment to remember the ones that've stuck by your side throughout the years.

"I want to thank my family, my girlfriend and Rufino Murguia," he said, paying tribute to the late Euskaltel masseur. "My family and girlfriend have always helped me, in good times and in bad. Rufino not being here has left a big void - he was very passionate about cycling and about this team.

"He always had words of encouragement, and today we heard him", he concluded.

To cap off what can only be considered a superb start to the race, none of the Euskaltel riders hit the ground in the late-race carnage that will make sure the first stage of the 2013 edition will be remembered for years to come.

Results:
  • (1, Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), 4:56:52)
  • 18, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 56, Romain Sicard, s.t.
  • 59, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 65, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
  • 72, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 73, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 81, Ion Izagirre, s.t.
  • 89, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 135, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
Photo: Le Tour

Friday, June 28, 2013

Euskadi & Naturgas round-up















The Tour de France might be just about to start, but there's racing going on in other parts of the world too.

Fresh off his second place in Tolosa on Monday, Loïc Chetout will spearhead Naturgas Energía in the hilly Clásica de Mungia this Sunday. The race, not part of the Torneo Lehendakari nor the Euskaldun race series, will see the following riders in red and white line up:

Karl Baudron, Alain Santamaría, Loïc Chetout, Víctor Etxeberría, Bernat Font, Álvaro Trueba, Noel Gil and Javier Martín.

Meanwhile, Euskadi rider Carlos Barbero showed what a consistent rider he's become by grabbing sixth in the Mediterranean Games on Friday.

The punchy 22-year-old from Burgos, Castilla y León, was picked to represent his country, and he did not let national selector Pascual Momparler down. He could do little to prevent Italian Nicola Ruffoni coming away with the win, but he still had the end-speed necessary to grab a solid result in Mersin, Turkey.

Photo: Orbea

The new Orbea Orca is here - and it's spectacular















In time for the Tour de France, Orbea have given their flagship machine, the Orca, a new look.

As you can see from the picture, there's a whole lot more of orange - they've even managed to include the famous Euskaltel butterfly on the top tube. If you look closely, you can also see the Basque flag, the Ikurriña, on the monostay above the rear wheel.

Euskaltel first rode the Orca in that legendary 2003 Tour that saw Ibán Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia put both their team's name, and that of their equipment provider, on the global cycling map.

The new bike colour scheme goes hand in hand with the new-look Orbea Odin helmet the riders will be using in France and for the rest of the season.

Check out the video teaser below to see Samuel Sánchez try on both the helmet and the bike:



For more pics of the bike, click this link.

Photo: Bike Rumor

Galdeano - We'll go for two jerseys at the Tour















Upon unveiling Euskaltel's chosen nine for the Tour de France on Monday, team boss Igor González de Galdeano seemed keen to downplay expectations.

"A stage win is the goal" and "we aim to be aggressive" were, as per tradition, the responses to questions about the team's goals at the biggest bike race on earth. Talking to Bilbao-based daily El Correo, though, he revealed he's got designs on two of the jerseys on offer.

"We'll fight for the white jersey of best young rider with Ion Izagirre", he said of the youngest of the Izagirres, set to make his debut in the race. "And with Antón and Nieve we'll fight for the mountains jersey".

Antón admitted to this website that the can see himself wearing polkadots in the future last week, explaining what a big triumph Sánchez's triumph in that particular competition meant to the team back in 2011.

Having taken part in the Tour de France every year since 2001, that climber's jersey is somewhat surprisingly the only jersey the team's ever won. In the Vuelta and the Giro, the team has never conquered one.

Photo: BCPT

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Euskaltel reveal economic woes













When the 'new Euskaltel Euskadi' was presented to the watching world late last year, it came with the news of a four-year WorldTour license and a budget reportedly hovering around 10 million euros a year.

By all indications, the future was safe.

Speaking just a few days before the start of this year's Tour de France, team boss Igor González de Galdeano reveals that might not be the case.

"The economic crisis forces us to find a secondary sponsor", he tells Basque newspaper El Correo.

Up until this point, such a sponsor has not been found. According to knowledgeable cycling scribe Benito Urraburu of El Diario Vasco, the team could be staring at a four million deficit at the end of this year.

While equipment providers Orbea and Bio Racer have shipped in with money and not just bikes, helmets and jerseys this season, the reduction in financial support from the regional governments in the Basque Country is harming the team.

Questioned if the team's future is in doubt, Galdeano says it's out of his hands.

"I don't know. Euskaltel (the telephone company) must answer that question. My job is to get results. I don't think anyone is considering a future without Eukaltel Euskadi, but... everything's possible.

"When it comes to the team's future, you have to ask Euskaltel. I'm just focussing on the next month. But I can see that the situation we're in is difficult. Euskaltel have to answer what future this team has".

Euskaltel's 2013 season has been anything but spectacular in sporting terms. The team has just five wins to its name heading into the Tour, and two of those are Ioannis Tamouridis' wins at the recent Greek national championships.

With the foreigners brought in over the winter failing to fire, added to slight matter of Alexander Serebryakov's doping positive, Euskaltel's new philosophy, or rather the abandonment of their previous unique one, has taken a hit.

Galdeano admits it hasn't all gone to plan.

"They were signed so we could get the points we needed to secure a WorldTour license", he says frankly. "We achieved that. Afterwards, it's true they haven't performed, but they've had a lot of bad luck with injuries and health issues. Still, though, their points have us a four-year WorldTour license. We could, for example, revert to an all-Basque team", he concludes.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chaoufi to take extended break












Tarik Chaoufi won't be seen in an Euskaltel line-up for at least two months, reports the team's website on Wednesday.

The Moroccan kick-started his second part of the year with the Vuelta a Madrid and Asturias in May, but he's now gone back to Morocco because a close relative of him is experiencing health problems.

He'll return to the Basque Country in mid-August, and will then embark on a series of one-day races in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Reigning national champ Chaoufi finished seventh in the Moroccan nationals the past weekend.

Troubles persist for Kocjan














2013 has been everything but the dream first season in the WorldTour Jure Kocjan might have expected it to be. The Slovenian revealed to this website in April that he'd been struggling with a viral infection at the start of the season, but added, optimistically, that he'd be back in action by mid-May.

Back he was, but now he might be facing another spell on the sidelines. According to the team's website today, "it seems the viral infection won't go away". He'll now undergo further tests.

A comeback-date has not been set.

Photo: BCPT

Euskaltel touch down in Corsica















Euskaltel have already gotten a taste of what the Tour de France's opening stage will be like.

The race commences this Saturday, but the team is already on the French island, reports the team's official website on Wednesday.

The riders and staff first took a flight from Biarritz to Paris, before boarding a plane to Figari Sud-Corse Airport located in the southern part of the island. A bus then took them to the team hotel in Lecci, some 15 clicks from Porto-Vecchio - the site of the start of stage one.

Keen to make the most of their early arrival, the riders then headed out for a gentle 90-minute spin to get a feel for the roads.

The race kicks off with a 212km leg from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia in three days' time.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nieve "calm" ahead of Tour bow













"I don't usually get nervous", he says. "I'm a calm person, both in good times and when things aren't going that well. Being restless is another thing, though. It's the most important race in the world, I've heard a lot of stories about it, and I'm eager to race it".

Those are the words of Mikel Nieve less than a week before his Tour de France debut. The 29-year-old Grand Tour specialist will co-lead 'the Carrots' alongside fellow climber Igor Antón, but he's not letting the pressure of the occasion get to him.

"It's my first Tour, so I have to approach it with calmness", he tells Basque Cycling News. "I hope to be in good shape. I've worked really hard for it, so I hope I've succeeded in finding top form. If my legs are good I hope to be in the fight for a stage win. The general classification is another story.

"I hope to be strong in the mountain stages, but to be up there on GC you have to get through the first week unscathed, and they're usually very intense and tiring... We'll go little by little, stage by stage, and see how the race develops".

He might be the last to say it, Nieve, but he's got the Grand Tour pedigree that makes him a real dark horse for the biggest race on the planet this summer.

He's never finished outside the top ten in any of the four Grand Tours he's done (twice in the Vuelta, twice in the Giro), and he's got queen-stage wins in both events to his name. His consistency over three weeks naturally leads to the following question:

How far do you think you can go in Grand Tours?

"The three-week races are the ones that are most suited to my characteristics", he says. "I'm a ciclista de fondo, very consistent, so the long and hard races are very good for me. Victories like the one on the Cotobello (2010 Vuelta) and Gardecchia (2011 Giro) are very special to me. I'm also pleased to have finished in the top ten in the Grand Tours that I've done.

"If I improve against the clock, I'd like to fight for a top five overall, for example, in the future".

Nieve recently concluded his Tour preparations with 17th at the Critérium du Dauphiné, a race in which he "improved in the last two days in the mountains" and "were close to the best riders". With the dress rehearsal done and dusted with, it's time to put the finishing touches to his Tour preparations - which, so close to the start, doesn't consists of very much.

"More than 90 percent of the work is done by this time. Now it's time to rest and try to improve a little bit more with a few quality rides, but", he's keen stress, "I'll do it with calmness".

Monday, June 24, 2013

Euskaltel reveal Tour team















With less than a week to go before the big kick-off on Corsica, Euskaltel have revealed the make-up of their Tour de France squad.

Igor Antón, Mikel Astarloza, Gorka Izagirre, Ion Izagirre, Juan José Lobato, Mikel Nieve, Juan José Oroz, Rubén Pérez and Romain Sicard are the chosen nine.

As expected, Mikel Nieve and Igor Antón will lead Igor González de Galdeano's team. According to the former, Euskaltel will live up to their reputation and be as aggressive as ever.

"We're a brave team that will go on the attack", he tells Basque Cycling News. "Samuel Sánchez, who used to have one eye on a stage win and the other on the general classification, won't be in France this year, but the team's goal is to win a stage. We'll play our cards right.

"As we don't have a world-class sprinter amidst our ranks, we have to make our own race, look for opportunities and seize them. We'll be as combative as ever".

Team boss Galdeano echoes Nieve's sentiments, telling the team's website "a stage win is the goal" and "we're sending a competitive squad".

"This is the most important race - the eyes of the whole word are fixed on it", he says. "Our riders are aware of this fact, and I'm sure that they'll give it their all and make the fans proud.

"The Pyreneen stage will be very important. La Marea Naranja (The orange tide) is often seen in the Pyrenees, and it's become a classic of the Tour. We look forward to counting on your support. It's very important to us".

Photo: BCPT

No home comfort for Euskaltel quartet















While the Greek and Spanish national championships were a success for Euskaltel, the French, Slovenian and German equivalents were anything but.

Ioannis Tamouridis almost doubled Euskaltel's 2013 win count with victory both against the clock and in the road race, and Ion Izagirre grabbed silver in the road race and a strong fourth in the crono. No such results were forthcoming elsewhere, though.

Romain Sicard failed to figure in the fight for the tricolour jersey, finishing some eight minutes down on victor Arthur Vichot in 74th place. In Germany meanwhile, Steffen Radochla came in 91st out of the 101 riders who finished the race, while André Schulze failed to finish.

In Slovenia, the full results are yet to come through, but Robert Vrecer was not among the top eight finishers. Luka Pibernik won the event.

Photo: BCPT

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ion Izagirre grabs silver in memory of Murguía















Jesús Herrada deprived Ion Izagirre and Euskaltel of what would have been an emotional triumph in the national road race championships in Bembibre, Castilla y León, on Sunday.

The classy young Movistar rider proved to be the strongest of the two after the pair had broken clear along with four others eight clicks from the line in the hilly nationals.

Izagirre and Herrada went on to distance their breakaway companions - Constantino Zaballa, David Arroyo, Ángel Madrazo and young Mikel Iturria of Team Euskadi - and were left to fight it out between them.

Izagirre, competing only hours after news broke through that Euskaltel masseur Rufino Murguía had passed away overnight, was left to settle for silver as Herrada succeeded in staying away after attacking under the red banner.

Euskaltel and the youngest of the two Izagirres were thus left to wonder what might have been, seeing the opportunity to grab the team's first ever road title slip away.

On a more positive side, though, he'll be relieved to get another confirmation his form is right where it should be with less than a week to go before his Tour de France debut.

Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve, set to lead the team over the border, both finished in the main group five seconds down. Garikoitz Bravo and Mikel Astarloza both spent parts of the day up ahead in various breaks.

Results (Team Euskadi riders in cursive):
  • (Jesús Herrada (Movistar), 5:27:16)
  • 2, Ion Izagirre, 0:02
  • 7, Carlos Barbero, 0:07
  • 9, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 10, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
  • 13, Aritz Bagües, s.t.
  • 23, Haritz Orbe, s.t.
  • 25, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
  • 28, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 30, Mikel Nieve, s.t.
  • 33, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 35, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 37, Mikel Bizkarra, s.t.
  • 40, Mikel Iturria, 0:13
  • 52, Jon Larrinaga, 4:29
  • 58, Juan José Lobato, 10:24
  • 64, Unai Iparraguirre, 16:48
  • 65, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 67, Adrián Sáez, s.t.
  • 68, Igor Merino, s.t.
  • 69, Illart Zuazubiskar, s.t.

11 and counting for Tamouridis















Ioannis Tamouridis showed he's by far the best rider his country has to offer by claiming yet another national title in the Greek road race on Sunday.

It's the 33-year-old's fourth road title and 11th in total on tarmac, and it comes hot on the heels of Friday's time trial gold.

The first-year Euskaltel rider proved to be the strongest rider over 155 clicks in Sarakina, besting SP Tableware brothers Georgios and Apostolos Bouglas to the top step of the podium.

Post-race, 'Tamu' was more keen to pay homage to late Euskaltel soigneur Rufino Murguía rather than talk about personal glory.

"Wherever you are Rufino, I noticed your support and drive, the same we got when you massaged us", he told the team's website. "He was an honest and hardworking man we'll miss a lot. A big hug goes out to his family and all my team-mates".

Photo: BCPT

Rufino Murguía passes away













Euskaltel Euskadi's masseur, Rufino Murguía, has died from the injuries sustained in Thursday's traffic accident.

This is what happened: Murguía in 'serious condition'

The team reported the sad news Sunday morning in a touchingly-named article titled "Rufino Murguía did not make it through the night".

The passing of the highly-popular Murguía, from Lazcano, Gipuzkoa, and father of Lizarte rider Urtzi Murgia, has led to an outbreak of support for his family and friends on Twitter.

Team Movistar, who'll be among the teams to wear a black ribbon on the back of their jerseys in today's road race nationals in Bembibre, Castilla y León, tweeted:

"Today our legs are in Bembibre, but our thoughts and hearts are with Rufino and his family. Ánimo, Euskaltel Euskadi".

If you want to read all the tributes pouring in, click on this link to see BiciCiclismo's excellent compilation of messages from social media.

Photo: Noticias de Navarra

Lastra overpowers roadies in Segura

















Cyclo-cross specialist Jonathan Lastra showed his versatility once again on Saturday, leaving the road hopefuls behind in the San Juan Sari Nagusia in Segura on Saturday, a race of the Euskaldun series.

The young man from Bilbao recently took out the Euskadi championships in mountain biking as he continues to build for the 'cross season, and yesterday showed his big engine by besting quite the stellar field.

According to the Basque Cycling Federation, Lastra attacked in the closing clicks and was able to catch and pass a seven-man move that had gone clear earlier on. He got company from Borja Abasolo and Joseba Del Barrio, two of the strongest riders on the local scene, but had no trouble edging them in the sprint for the line.

His team-mate and fellow 'crosser, Egoitz Murgoitio, also stayed close to the action and ended up 12th.

Results:
  1. Jonathan Lastra (Hirumet Taldea) 2:48:09 
  2. Borja Abasolo (Debabarrena) s.t.
  3. Joseba Del Barrio (Eki Sport Gipuzkoa) s.t.
  4. Juan Martin Mesa (Reyno de Navarra) 0:04
  5. Antonio Molina (Caja Rural) s.t.
  6. Eddy Valdespino (Opel Ibaigane) s.t.
  7. Rafael Márquez (Lizarte) 0:16
  8. Miquel Lopezosa (Debabarrena) 0:25
  9. Daniel Ginés (Controlpack) 0:34
  10. Adrián Trujillo (Talavera Club Ciclista) s.t.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Txoperena claims road silver















No one could prevent Mario González of Cantabria in taking gold in the sub-23 road race on Friday, but Beñat Txoperena stayed with him right to the end.

González, third in the time trial earlier this week, was not to be denied in the road race, crowning a breakthrough season with the national title. The Café Baqué-Conservas Campos rider was aggressive all day and made his winning move along with Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport's Beñat Txoperena with some 20 clicks to go.

The duo were left to fight it out mano a mano, and González easily came out tops. 21-year-old Txoperena, representing the region of Navarra, had to make do with silver, while Óscar Hernández of Valencia grabbed the last medal.

The Basque selection was suspiciously absent throughout, Ibai Daboz the team's top finisher in 33rd.

Results (full results here):
  1. Mario González (Cantabria), 3:28:02
  2. Beñat Txoperena (Navarra), s.t.
  3. Óscar Hernández (Valencia), 1:23
  4. Antonio Pedrero (Catalunya), s.t.
  5. Héctor Sáez (Castilla La Mancha), s.t.
Photo: Club Ciclista Bidon

Friday, June 21, 2013

Magnificent seven for Tamouridis
















Ioannis Tamouridis did as he pleased in the Greek national championship time trial on Friday, cruising to his seventh title in the discipline.

It was 'Tamu''s tenth road title in all, and it came after besting former SP Tableware team-mate Neofytos Sakellaridis and Georgios Bouglas over 24,7 clicks in Kalambaka.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Equipo Euskadi get their Chinese adventure

















A new sponsor has come on board to make sure the Continental-ranked Equipo Euskadi will get to take part in this fall's two Tours of China.

Miguel Madariaga's outfit was invited to the two events some weeks ago, but the economical troubles engulfing the team had threatened to put paid to what would be the team's first foray into China.

Thanks to the support of AVIA and the members of the Fundación Ciclista Euskadi, the young riders will get to test themselves against top-class opposition in September.

"Honestly, I was worried we weren't going to be able to go, given the touch economic climate we find ourselves inn", Madariaga told the team's website. "That's why I value the support of AVIA so highly. Thanks to them, our dreams will be fulfilled.

"The way in which things are happening is not a good sign for the team's continuity, but the last thing we lose is hope", he continued. "To be able to see our dream of racing in China being fulfilled for 20 days is indescribable".

Photo: FCE

Castroviejo finally finds gold

















Having taken silver the last two years, Jonathan Castroviejo won a well-earned gold medal in Friday's national time trial championships.

The Movistar rouleur cantered to the win, besting four-time champion Luis León Sánchez by a massive 45 seconds over the 43,8km course in Bembibre, Castilla y León.

The third step on the podium went to Castroviejo's team-mate Rubén Plaza, who added a fourth bronze medal to his collection.

Euskaltel's Ion Izagirre finished just off the podium in fourth, edging ahead of Alejandro Valverde in fifth by 42 hundredths of a second.

Results:
  1. Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), 54:52
  2. Luis León Sánchez (Blanco), 0:45
  3. Rubén Plaza (Movistar), 1:46
  4. Ion Izagirre (Euskaltel), 2:03
  5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), s.t.
  6. Eloy Teruel (Movistar), 2:24
  7. Jesús Herrada (Movistar), 3:04
  8. Alejandro Marque (OFM-Quinta da Lixa), 3:13
  9. Markel Irizar (RadioShack), 3:53
  10. Omar Fraile (Caja Rural), 3:57
Photo: Velonews

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Euskaltel masseur in 'serious condition' after car crash

Euskaltel Euskadi's Rufino Murguía is currently being kept in ICU after a traffic accident near Burgos on Friday.

So reports the team's official website.

The Euskaltel masseur was driving one of the team busses heading for the national championships in Bembibre, Castilla y León, when he collided with a truck on the A231 in Villalbilla, close to Burgos.

As can be seen in the video below, it was quite an impact, and Murguía was immediately taken to the University Hospital in Burgos. It's yet to be reported where and how badly he's hurt, only that he's been "under the knife" and that his condition is still "serious".

At the time of the press release, he was being kept in ICU.

See Eitb's video of the damaged bus below:

Euskaltel's national champs line-ups















Not surprisingly, Euskaltel have never had a better opportunity to claim a national championship jersey than this year.

This weekend will see Euskaltel riders line up in five different national champs, hoping to become the successor to Iñigo González de Heredia - the first, and as of yet only, Euskaltel rider to be crowned champion of his country.

That happened way back in 1996, when he bested the not too unfamiliar Álvaro González de Galdeano in the time trial.

Here's the overview of who'll ride where this weekend, courtesy of the team's official website.

Note that both leaders for the Tour de France, Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve, will be in action in Sunday's road race.

Included in the overview are the riders from Equipo Euskadi.

Spain, time trial: Mikel Astarloza, Ion Izagirre, Adrián Sáez, Illart Zuazubiskar, Igor Merino, Jon Larrinaga.

Spain, road race: Igor Antón, Peio Bilbao, Gorka Izagirre, Mikel Nieve, Pablo Urtasun, Rubén Pérez, Juan José Lobato, Juan José Oroz, Gorka Verdugo, Garikoitz Bravo, Ricardo García, Jon Aberasturi, Miguel Mínguez, Mikel Iturria, Aritz Bagües, Haritz Orbe, Carlos Barbero, Mikel Bizkarra, Unai Iparraguirre.

France, road race: Romain Sicard.

Slovenia, road race: Robert Vrecer.

Germany, road race: Steffen Radochla.

Greek, road race and time trial: Ioannis Tamouridis.

Photo: BCPT

Insausti claims top five at nationals

Basque sub-23 time trial champion Jon Ander Insausti was the Basque Country's top rider in Thursday's national champs in Bembibre in Castilla y León.

The Caja Rural prodigy came in fifth in the 21,8km race against the clock won by his trade team companion Alberto Just. Reigning champion Marcos Jurado of Seguros Bilbao came in second, while Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos rider Mario González, this year's Vuelta al Bidasoa conqueror, rounded out the podium.

Peio Goikoetxea was Team Euskadi's next best rider in seventh, while Ibai Daboz ended up 13th.

Álvaro Trueba of Naturgas Energía ended up ninth.

Results (full results here):
  • 1, Alberto Just (Aragón), 28:33
  • 2, Marcos Jurado (Castilla-La Mancha), 0:08
  • 3, Mario González (Cantabria), 0:19
  • 4, Arnau Solé (Catalunya), 0:23
  • 5, Jon Ander Insausti (Euskadi), 0.24

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Igor Antón - The polkadots? Yeah, why not?















Seemingly born to climb mountains, Igor Antón is the kind of rider you picture donning the famous polkadots at the Tour.

On his day he's one of the best climbers around, capable of going on those epic, long-rage attacks in the high mountains that make watching bike races such a memorable pastime. When not on his day, though, he often lacks the consistency that is the hallmark of Grand Tour champions.

With the Tour de France just around the corner, the timing was apt to ask the bona fide escalador if he one day pictures himself wearing the climber's jersey.

"It a jersey that's very prestigious and hard to get hold of, but I do think I can wear it one day. Why not?", he tells Basque Cycling News. "The climbs suit me well, so I could be a candidate one day.

"My team-mate Samuel Sánchez won it in 2011, and it was a big thing and very important for the team".

If he one day is to challenge for the polkadots, he'll first have to find the recipe for success at the Grand Boucle.

The 30-year-old has only taken part twice - and he struggled on both occasions. In 2007 he decided to call it quits on stage 11 after looking off colour since the off, while he would only finish 66th two years later. He's found success in Grand Tours elsewhere, though, taking four stages in the Vuelta and a memorable one at Zoncolan in the Giro.

"The Tour is different", he says. "It's at a different time of year (compared to the other Grand Tours), but above all it's pivotal to get to the race in good shape, and I haven't been able to do that yet. On both occasions the first week took it's toll, and I never reached 100 percent. When you get such a start it's hard to get better during the race.

"At the Tour you get the best teams and the best riders, everyone's motivated and everyone's in shape, so it's very hard to shine. First of all I need to get into my best shape and get the preparations spot on".

Naturally, his big goal in the race is to "reach top form", and, if he succeeds in that, to "fight for stage wins in the mountains".

Antón recently finished 12th at the Tour de Suisse, the last dress rehearsal, save for the national championships, before the Grand départ. 

According to himself, he's on the right path.

"After peaking for the first time in April, I rested a bit to prepare for the second part of the season. I've improved steadily, and I noticed that I'd improved a lot in Switzerland. There's still 12 days to go, though, so I'll rest a bit and then hopefully improve a bit more before and during the race".

In France, Antón will spearhead Euskaltel alongside Mikel Nieve.

Photo: BCPT

Bagües shows promise in France

Aritz Bagües showed he's growing in stature as a professional bike rider by claiming a noteworthy fifth overall at the Boucles de la Mayenne in France last week.

David Veilleux of Europcar, so impressive at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, unsurprisingly came away with the overall win at the end of the four days of racing, while Euskadi's 23-year-old all-rounder ended up just four seconds off the podium in fifth.

Key to his general classification result was his eighth place on the hard second stage from Laval to Évron. Unai Iparraguirre's two top ten placings, not to mention Haritz Orbe's ninth on stage three, made it a race to remember for the Continenal-ranked outfit.

Team-wise, Euskadi ended up third.

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Monday, June 17, 2013

National champs: Basque youth teams picked















With the Tour de France less than two weeks away, it's time for the national championships to commence.

The Spanish nationals will be held in Bembibre, Castilla y León, this upcoming weekend, running Thursday 20 through Sunday 23. T

The Basque Cycling Federation has picked its sub-23 teams for both the road race and time trials.

Here goes:

Sub-23, road race:

  • Ibai Daboz (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport)
  • Egoitz Fernández (Seguros Bilbao)
  • Peio Goikoetxea (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos)
  • Alain González (Naturgas Energía)
  • Unai Intziarte (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport)
  • Ander Plazaola (Lizarte)
  • Aitor Rey (Seguros Bilbao)
  • Paul Usabel (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos)
Reserves: Jon Odriozola (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), Imanol Estévez (Naturgas Energía)

Sub-23, time trial:
  • Aitor Rey (Seguros Bilbao)
  • Peio Goikoetxea (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos)
  • Ibai Daboz (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport)
Reserve: Imanol Estévez (Naturgas Energía)

Technical staff: Ángel Balzola (team coach), Jon Iturria (mechanic) and Igor Romero (masseur).
Women, road race:
  • Dorleta Eskamendi (Bizkaia-Durango)
  • Eider Merino (Lointek)
  • Irene Usabiaga (Lointek)
  • Mireia Epelde (SC Michela Fanini)
  • Irene San Sebastián (Bizkaia-Durango)
  • Ane Santesteban (Bizkaia-Durango)
  • Ana Usabiaga (Lointek)
Women, time trial:
  • Irene Usabiaga (Lointek)
  • Irene San Sebastián (Bizkaia-Durango)
  • Ana Usabiaga (Lointek)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Euskaltel conclude Luxembourg on a low















Two riders abandoned as Euskaltel closed out the Tour of Luxembourg with a low-key final stage on Sunday.

Local prodigy Bob Jungels was crowned the victor of the last stage despite being handed a 10-second general classification penalty for taking a advantage of a good old-fashiond hand-sling, Madison-style, from team-mate Danilo Hondo in the final hundred metres. Paul Martens of Team Blanco moved up from third on GC to claim the final overall triumph.

The Euskaltel riders didn't manage to make the cut in the finale, Ioannis Tamouridis being the team's top man in 40th, almost three minutes in arrears. Overall, Rubén Pérez's 35th was the team's best result.

German Steffen Radochla and Tour hopeful Pablo Urtasun both posted DNFs.

Results:
  • (1, Bob Jungels (RadioShack), 3:24:39)
  • 40, Ioannis Tamouridis, 2:50
  • 51, Rubén Pérez, 3:46
  • 65, Jon Aberasturi, 6:31
  • 75, Juan José Lobato, 6:44
  • DNF: Steffen Radochla, Pablo Urtasun
Final general classification:
  • (1, Paul Martens (Blanco), 16:45:38)
  • 35, Rubén Pérez, 6:53
  • 40, Juan José Lobato, 9:42
  • 62, Ioannis Tamouridis, 19:43
  • 73, Jon Aberasturi, 23:44
Photo: BCPT

Izagirre bang on track for Tour debut















On the final day of the Tour de Suisse, Ion Izagirre showed he's on track to replicate that resounding Giro d'Italia of 2012 performance when he embarks on his maiden Tour de France in two weeks' time.

Last year's Italian Grand Tour of course saw the youngest of the Izagirre brothers come away with a stage win in his very first three-week race, and hopes will be high he can conjure up something special at the French equivalent after his strong final-day ride in Switzerland.

The 26,8km hill time trial to the top of the Flumserberg would decide the outcome of the WorldTour race, and, unexpectedly, Movistar's Rui Costa emerged victorious both on the day and overall to defend his title from last year.

Izagirre, though, who'd been keeping a low profile up until today, powered his way to 11th on the day, even leading the race at one point. The 24-year-old bested riders like Tejay van Garderen, Peter Velits, Daniel Martin and Michele Scarponi, to name but a few, and is thus likely to depart for Corsica with a certain degree of confidence.

Igor Antón, also using the race to fine-tune his shape for the Grand Boucle, came in 16th on Sunday, and finished the race just outside the top ten on GC.

Results:
  • (1, Rui Costa (Movistar), 51:56)
  • 11, Ion Izagirre, 1:27
  • 16, Igor Antón, 1:52
  • 59, Gorka Verdugo, 4:36
  • 69, Juan José Oroz, 5:16
  • 71, Robert Vrecer, 5:22
  • 72, Jorge Azanza, 5:31
  • 84, Ricardo Mestre, 6:40
  • 94, Adrián Sáez, 7:10
Final general classification:
  • (1, Rui Costa (Movistar), 31:08:11)
  • 12, Igor Antón, 5:10
  • 34, Ion Izagirre, 21:53
  • 43, Juan José Oroz, 27:58
  • 46, Gorka Verdugo, 30:05
  • 55, Jorge Azanza, 36:31
  • 95, Adrián Sáez, 1:00:06
  • 119, Ricardo Mestre, 1:10:53
  • 126, Robert Vrecer, 1:15:13
Photo: BCPT

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Vrecer bags TWO jerseys in Tour de Suisse















Robert Vrecer showed his versatility and all-round ability by winning both the mountains and the sprints classification at the Tour de Suisse on Saturday.

With tomorrow's ninth and concluding stage being a hill time trial, today's 180,5km stage from Zernez to Bad Ragaz would decide the winner of those particular competitions.

The Slovenian laid the groundwork by infiltrating the break of the day, before going on to secure both jerseys by winning an intermediate sprint and cresting the deciding cat.1 climb of Julierpass first.

It was an impressive return from the 32-year-old and a most needed on at that considering Euskaltel's lack of success at the race this year.

Today's eighth stage showed improvement, though, as the trio of Ion Izagirre, Jorge Azanza and Igor Antón all made it to the finish inside the 34-man lead group that was led across the line by, you guessed it, that man Peter Sagan.

Heading into Sunday's hill climb, Antón is the team's best rider on GC in 12th - a minute and 20 seconds off the top ten.

Results:
  • (1, Peter Sagan (Cannondale), 4:33:26)
  • 16, Ion Izagirre, s.t.
  • 21, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 27, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 44, Juan José Oroz, 1:04
  • 81, Ricardo Mestre, 3:53
  • 94, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 119, Robert Vrecer, 5:47
  • 135, Adrián Sáez, s.t.
Photo: BCPT

Euskaltel caught out in Luxembourg - again

For the second day running, Euskaltel missed the train in the Tour of Luxembourg.

Just like on stage two, Giacomo Nizzolo of RadioShack sprinted to the win on stage three. And, again like on stage two, the Euskaltel speedsters were found wanting when the pace was upped towards the end.

A 30-rider group was left to duke it out at the end of what was regarded as the race's queen-stage, a 178,8km ride from Eschweiler to Diekirch, but no riders in orange made the cut.

The team's top man was Rubén Pérez in 37th - a minute and a half in arrears

Results:

  • (1, Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack), 4:25:59)
  • 37, Rubén Pérez, 1:29
  • 48, Juan José Lobato, 2:23
  • 63, Jon Aberasturi, 7:18
  • 67, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 111, Pablo Urtasun, 13:29
  • 112, Steffen Radochla, s.t.

Insausti edges Goikoetxea to Euskadi crown

Caja Rural's Jon Ander Insausti gave proof of his undoubted potential by winning the Eukadi sub-23 time trial championships on Saturday.

The former Bidelan-Kirolgi rider took 32 minutes and 26 seconds to complete the course in Gopegi, Álava - seven seconds less than runner-up Peio Goikoetxea of Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos.

Already the reigning sub-23 champion of his home region, Gipuzkoa, Saturday's triumph is his first of the year.

Insausti's former team-mate Beñat Txoperena of Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport claimed the last place on the podium, while Ibai Daboz and Loïc Chetout rounded out the top five.

In the elite category, Iván González emerged triumphant.

Results, elite:
  • 1, Iván González (Foronda CDC), 33:13
  • 2, Asier Maeztu (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 0:02
Results, sub-23:
  • 1, Jon Ander Insausti (Caja Rural), 32:26
  • 2, Peio Goikoetxea (Cafés Baqué-Conservas Campos), 0:07
  • 3, Beñat Txoperena (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 0:38
  • 4, Ibai Daboz (Gipuzkoa-Eki Sport), 0:39
  • 5, Loïc Chetout (Naturgas Energía), s.t.
Photo: Iñaki Azanza

Friday, June 14, 2013

Iker Flores - Those were glorious years















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

Euskaltel caught off guard in Luxembourg















Euskaltel and their speedy riders missed out on a golden opportunity in the Tour of Luxembourg on Friday.

The 173km second stage from Schifflange to Walferdange was ideally suited for the sprinters, but as the pack split up on the run-in the riders in orange were left behind.

Giacomo Nizzolo handed RadioShack a second win in two days following Gregory Rast's success in Switzerland on Thursday, while Juan José Lobato, so impressive yesterday, was forced to make do with 39th place 25 seconds down.

Results:
  • (1, Giacomo Nizzolo (Radioshack), 4:10:24)
  • 39, Juan José Lobato, 0:25
  • 55, Pablo Urtasun, 0:57
  • 64, Rubén Pérez, 1:25
  • 85, Ioannis Tamouridis, 9:18
  • 105, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 125, Steffen Radochla, 12:45
Photo: BCPT

Antón out-climbed in the Swiss mountains















Igor Antón didn't manage to stay with the very best on Friday's queen-stage in the Tour de Suisse, but still showed he's in decent shape a fortnight before the Tour kick-off.

The seventh stage, a very hilly 206km ride from Meilen to La Punt taking in the HC-ranked Albulapass, was taken out by Movistar's defending champion Rui Costa. The Portuguese out-sprinted Bauke Mollema and Tejay van Garderen from a select group that had formed over the aforementioned climb topping out ten clicks from the finish.

Euskaltel's main man, upcoming co-leader of the team at the Tour de France, Igor Antón, was never able to go with the accelerations on the final climb, but he did stay within touching distance and came across the line in 13th place, less than a minute in arrears.

While he's undoubtedly lacking another ten percent or so of his absolute peek form, the affable climber nonetheless seems to have found the basic level of form needed to be competitive in France in July.

Juan José Oroz and Ion Izagirre, both in with a shot at a Tour start berth, flattered to deceive, though, the two coming in over five and eight minutes down respectively.

Adrián Sáez, who's been aggressive all year, again put on a battling display, infiltrating the break of the day and making a daring move off the front of that group at the base of the Albulapass.

Results:
  • (1, Rui Costa (Movistar), 5:11:08)
  • 13, Igor Antón, 0:49
  • 35, Juan José Oroz, 5:27
  • 46, Ion Izagirre, 8:55
  • 56, Jorge Azanza, 10:08
  • 76, Gorka Verdugo, 17:15
  • 77, Adrián Sáez, s.t.
  • 94, Ricardo Mestre, 21:59
Photo: Orbea

Lobato racks up yet another podium















Juan José Lobato picked up his third podium placing in a little over three weeks in the first stage of the Tour of Luxembourg on Thursday.

The 183,8km leg from Luxembourg to Hautcharage was taken out by Katusha's Alexander Porsev, the Russian out-sprinting Milan-San Remo victor Gerald Ciolek and Euskaltel's Lobato.

Lobato, fresh off a second and a third place in the Bayern Rundfahrt late last month, was helped out in the final kilometres by a number of his team-mates, and in the end he had enough gas in the tank to land the last step on the podium.

Speaking post-stage, the team's sports director Álex Díaz was content with the day's work.

"The team did a good job", he told Euskaltel Euskadi's website. "We assumed control of the peloton in the final clicks, but we came across rivals who also did a good job. We've got three more opportunities ahead of us, and, if we keep working like we did today, we'll be in with a shout of a win".

André Schulze's wretched first year with the team continued apace on Thursday, the German abandoning his fourth race of the year. The ProRace Berlin five days ago, in which he came in 110th, is the only race he's completed this season.

Results:
  • (1, Alexander Porsev (Katusha), 4:40:50)
  • 3, Juan José Lobato, s.t.
  • 15, Ioannis Tamouridis, s.t.
  • 22, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 24, Jon Aberasturi, s.t.
  • 72, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
  • 125, Steffen Radochla, 2:55
Photo: BCPT

 

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