Thursday, May 31, 2007

The explanation

Many of us have been surprised by Iban`s somewhat peculiar racing in the Giro so far. Well, I`m one of those, but now I finally know why he`s been so unconsistent from start to finish.

Iban got of to a good start, riding well in the opening TTT, before being well ahead on the first two summit-finishes. It all looked rosy for Iban and Saunier, but come the next mountain stage, he was nowhere to be seen. Iban knows the stage to Briancon like the back of his hand, and was eager to impress. But then it all went wrong. On the Colle dell`Agnello, Iban was sent back to the team-car to pick up water bottles for Simoni, Cañada and "Litu". Iban was the one who had to pick them up as the Saunier chiefs reckoned Iban was the best climber, and that he wouldn`t have any problems getting back to the pack. But, when Iban was with the car, loading up bottle after bottle, Piepoli and Ricco` intended to get clear. Liquigas started a mad chase, and Iban, far back, and with loads of bottles, gave it his all to rejoin the now much thinner lead group. He just made it, totally exhausted, and understood straight away that he wouldn`t be able to fight for the win after such a massive effort so early on. Realising this, Iban took his foot of the gas and rode the rest of the stage at a moderate pace. Iban saw this as a good chance to get some high-quality training in ahead of the Tour, and therefore languished in, seemingly unaffected, way back. The next day seemed tailor-made for Iban. The Oropa hill ITT would provide a good chance for Iban to shine, and I expected a lot of him. Though, he got some technical problems early on, with the derailleur to be precise, and, with no captain to ride for or a high overall placing in jeopardy, he took it easy again, and rolled in mid-pack. At the Tre Cime stage, Iban stayed with Simoni until the lakes, before dropping backwards to conserve some strength for later, as he saw straight away that he couldn`t win the stage. He tried on the Zoncolan several times early on, as was clear for all to see. He looked really strong and totally unaffected by the gradient, but decided to chill out again as he didn`t think it would be possible for him to win the stage with the GC contenders all wanting the win. With an eye on tomorrow`s stage, he relaxed, so that he will have enough energy left to join the break that will go all the way tomorrow.

All this info comes from a guy on Iban`s forum. Sopelan is his name, though I have no idea who he is. But, most importantly, he seems to know Iban well, and certainly knows what he`s talking about. He pointed to an interview with Iban on Wednesday, where Iban allegedly said that he`s been conserving strength and energy for Friday`s stage as well as the fast-approaching Tour de France. Thank you Sopelan, whoever you are, for clearing things up a little. It made me feel so much better to know that Iban`s in fact in great shape, and that he`ll be giving it a go tomorrow. I hope this article will have cleared some things up for all you readers as well. Iban will win tomorrow, trust me. Aupa Iban!

Easy day for Iban

Iban had a relatively easy day in the saddle today, coming home 106th at the same time as the winner without any kind of problems. Tomorrow is Iban`s last chance of Giro glory, and he will no doubt be seen in the break of the day. I guarantee you, he`ll be in the break, giving his all for a stage-win. The stage profile looks well suited to Iban, with a two rather steep climbs, the last just ahead of the finish. Aupa!

Koldo unlucky

It was another case of bad luck for Koldo in the Giro today. With only 700 metres to go, two Ag2r riders crashed just in front of him, something that made him lose his position. From then on, he didn`t stand a chance naturally, and gave up. He came in 12th, and will no doubt rue another missed chance. Though, there`s still one stage left where he can claim a win, and that`s on the last stage into Milano. There he will no doubt have the backing of his remaining 3 team-mates, who did an awesome job today at the front to bring the break back. Antton Luengo payd for his good efforst by losing 1:19 today, while Markel Irizar and Iván Velasco both came in with the pack.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What`s up next for Iban?

After Iban will finish the Giro on Sunday, I`m not sure what he`ll do leading up to the Tour. Some are saying he`ll race the GP Llodio, but as that`s being held on Sunday, that`s for sure not going to happen. Perhaps the three-day Euskal Bizikleta would be a good thing for him? The Dauphiné or the Tour de Suisse is surely too much for him, so that will probably not be an option. I don`t think he`ll race anything at all ahead of the Tour to be honest, but if he will, I hope it`ll be the Euskal and the Spanish Championships on the road as well as the ITT. That would for sure not be too heavy a workload, but would still give him a chance to hone his form ahead of la Grand Boucle in July. If you have any opinions, please leave a comment.

OK stage by Iban

Iban did an okay job in the Giro today. On the one hand, he was brilliant. He hit the front right at the start of the Zoncolan, and upped the pace so much that something like 75 % of the riders in the front group dropped back. That was a vital help for Simoni, and no doubt made it easier for him. But, on the other hand, Iban dropped back himself not long afterwards, and faded further. Eventually he came in 52nd, a full 9:35 down. It`s hard to know what to make of it, as he looked fabolous and totally unaffected all day, even when leading the front group on the Zoncolan. Then suddenly, though still seemlessly unaffected, can`t keep up and come home mid-pack. It seems strange, and it still looks like Iban is saving himself for something, though what that is, I don`t know. Perhaps we will see him on the attack again on Friday. I sure hope so, because without a good result on a stage to brag about, the Giro can only be classified as a failure for Iban, even though he`s been to good use for his captain. Aupa!

Markel in the break; Antton best Euskaltel rider

Markel Irizar was once again a member of the stage`s main break in the Giro today. Markel and 11 others jumped clear after 25 km, though none of them made it to the line ahead of the bunch as the pace was too high in the pack. Antton Luengo came in as best Euskaltel rider atop the terrible Monte Zoncolan, placing a good 44th. Other than that, not much to say. Today`s results:
  • 44th, Antton Luengo, 8:27
  • 61st, Markel Irizar, 10:56
  • 77th, Iván Velasco, 12:49
  • 105th, Koldo Fernández, 15:26

Aketza to defend himself

Aketza Peña maintained his innocense after the news of him testing positive for nandrolone broke yesterday, and stated that he`ll defend himself. Aketza spoke to Euskaltel`s homepage shortly after landing in Loiu yesterday, after a short flight from Italy, where he was supposed to be racing at the time of writing. Aketza had this to say: "It came as an enormous surprise to me (the positive test). I was contesting my first Giro, I was very focused, and suddenly this note of the positive test arrives. I don`t understand this, as I`ve been preparing for this race as I`ve always done". When asked how he was doing, he said: "I`m in pieces, but I have to start my defence. I`ll go to the (Spanish cycling) Association to get some advise. The first thing I`ll do will be to ask for the counter-analyses. I`ve got five days to get that in place, and I`ll start with it tomorrow". Further, Aketza talked of the day the test was carried out and Euskaltel`s actions towards him: "It was a very hard stage (the first stage of the Giro del Trentino). It was a typical stage in the Tirreno region with many climbs. It was very hot, and I crossed the line totally dehydrated. Though, I have no problems understanding Euskaltel`s actions. They are just following the UCI norms". I don`t know what to believe, but there`s still some hope left in me that Aketza will be able to prove his innocense. And, remember, he`s not guilty until the opposite thing is proved.

Aketza denies doping

Aketza Peña has denied ever taking any performance enhancing products. According to Basque daily el Diario Vasco, Aketza will now head for Bilbao to speak to Euskaltel chiefs Miguel Madariaga and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. "Before making any decisions, we want to speak to him and request explanations. First we will listen to him, and then also find out what numbers the test detected. At the moment, we don`t know much", Igor said. Igor was also worried about the timing of the positive test, coming just a month prior to the Tour. More on this case later...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What the fuck Aketza?

I`m just so disappointed right now... I guess you`ve all read it and heard it by now, but just to make sure: Aketza Peña has tested positive for nandrolone. Though, don`t judge him just yet. Only the result of the "A" sample has been revealed, though the chances of the "B" sample turning out negative seem slim at this point. The test was carried out on the day of the first stage of the Giro del Trentino recently. Aketza rode well in Trentino, but no way was I suspicious of him. I was just glad that he`d finally returned to his old self; an old self that gave him third in the Euskal Bizikleta a couple of years ago if I`m not mistaken... Aketza will of course not ride the remainder of the Giro, and will be suspended from racing until the "B" sample is made official. I`m just so surprised and disappointed. But I`m not going to say much more about it on this stage, as I don`t want to eat my own words if the "B" sample returns negative. Though, feel free to post your thoughts.

Provisional Llodio line-up

The one-day GP Llodio will be raced on June the 3rd, and, according to Cyclingstartlists, this is the Euskaltel team: Samu Sánchez, Amets Txurruka, Unai Etxebarria, Iban Mayoz, Iñigo Landaluze, Iñaki Isasi, Andoni Lafuente, Jorge Azanza, Jon Bru and Iban Iriondo. Though, rest assured that this won`t be the exact team Euskaltel will field. Line-ups tend to change consistently up until the very last day, but anyway, it will probably look something like this.

The calm before the storm?

It was an easy day for Iban today. The pace wasn`t high, it was a fearly flat stage and no accidents. Iban came in with the pack in 96th place. Though, tomorrow will prove a harder test for Iban. The Monte Zoncolan, which comes at the end of the stage, looks tailor-made for Iban. But, will he be ordered to work for Simoni? I sure hope not, and I think we will see Iban in an early break, an early break that might make it to the line. Iban has been saying for a long time now that he will come to life in the last week. The last week starts, and, really, is all about tomorrow`s stage, so it`s the moment of truth for him. Watch out for him tomorrow... Aupa!

Euskaltel anonymous in Giro stage

The five remaining Euskaltel riders rolled in with the pack today, some 8 minutes adrift of the winning break. Not much to report really, as none of the Euskaltel riders were seen active in any breaks. Though, I haven`t given up hope of a stage-win for Koldo. It looks to be two remaining stages for the sprinters, and, with many of the sprinters out of the race, Koldo will definetely be among the hot favourites for the wins.

Patxi Vila: "Euskaltel interested"

Basque Lampre-Fondital rider Patxi Vila, who`s at the time being riding a very good Giro, has said to Basque daily DEIA that Euskaltel is interested in his service. Patxi has been riding abroad for five years, and admitted that a return to his native Spain would be tempting when his contract with Lampre expires at the end of the year. Personally I would be delighted to see Patxi join Euskaltel. He`s a classy rider who`s entering his better years as a pro I believe, and would be a big, big addition to Euskaltel.

Monday, May 28, 2007

What`s he doing here?

It`s a day of rest for the Giro contestants today. In search for anything to post on Iban, the best I could find was this peculiar photo. What`s Iban doing in the grass? Has he been anwering the call of nature? Is he imitating a sheep, or has he crashed? I don`t know, you tell me...

Heroic riding by Iván

Iván Velasco is really doing an amazing job in the Giro these days. In his first year in the Pro Tour, he`s riding the Giro and looks to be able to finish it. And, he`s riding with a broken rib. Every other rider would have abandoned with a broken rib, but not this rider. Iván is fighting the pain, and the Euskaltel directors will no doubt be impressed by his fighting spirit. I`m impressed too. A broken rib must be terrible, and I`m sure all Euskaltel fans, all around the world, appreciate his effort to get through his first GT. Aupa Iván!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Azanza returning

Jorge Azanza, who`s been suffering from a broken collarbone for over a month now, has his return-date planned. If everything goes to plan, Jorge will be able to take to the start in the Spanish one-day race GP Llodio on June the 3rd. Jorge is still on the short-list for the Tour team, so the pressure is on to deliver straight away for the likeable 24-year-old.

Iban anonymous

Iban took a day off today it seems. Iban was no where to be seen all day, and rolled in to a disappointing 51st on the stage along side team-mate Cañada, 25:14 down. I don`t have much more to report really, as I don`t know what Iban`s doing. Is he riding full out? Just chilling? I have no idea, but I guess he`s just chilling as his form isn`t bad, something he showed on the first two summit-finishes. This Giro is really just confusing when it comes to Iban. I have no idea what state of form he`s in, but all we can do is to hope he`ll give it some gas the last week. Aupa!

Aketza Peña once again impressive

Akerza Peña was once again by far the best Euskaltel rider in today`s queen-stage. Aketza got away with the break of the day, and stayed with mountain-goats Riccó, Piepoli, Cuapio, Parra and Rasmussen for quite some time. It was impressive stuff, and in the end he ended up 31st, 13:19 down. That means he`s now ranked 51st on GC, so well done to him. Besides Aketza`s notable ride, there`s nothing more to report. Euskaltel are clearly weakened by the abandonments of Aitor Hernández, Dioni Galparsoro, Beñat Albizuri and Joseba Zubeldia. But, still a great job by the five who are still hanging in there. Results:
  • 31st, Aketza Peña, 13:19
  • 96th, Markel Irizar, 37:27
  • 98th, Iván Velasco, 37:27
  • 126th, Koldo Fernández, 38:52
  • 137th, Antton Luengo, 39:38

Samu pleased

After conquering today`s last stage of the Volta a Catalunya, Samu spoke to Here`s what he had to say: "This win leaves a good flavour in my mouth. I`ve tried several days to win a stage in this race, either by attacking from way out, or to surprise the sprinters inside the last kilometres, but for one reason or another, I haven`t been able to do it. I knew that I would have a chance today, as the profile suited my capabilities. But to win is really difficult, and there are a lot of strong rivals here. The Volta is a Pro Tour race, so wins don`t come along every day. I waited till the ascent of the Tibidabo, and I was able to overcome Vino in the last metres". Speaking of his season so far, he said: "I think I`ve done a good and very consistent season thus far. A stage and a podium place in the Vuelta al País Vasco, and now a victory in another Pro Tour race, makes for a positive balance of the first half of the season. Now I will try to keep my form for the Euskal Bizikleta, a race which to us is really important, as it`s in our backyards. I would love to do a good Euskal, before resting a little and preparing for the latter half of the campaign. Though, I`m still a little annoyed about my performances in the Ardennes Classics. I did not go as well as I had hoped. I finished País Basque quite fresh, but then I felt bad for a week, and I couldn`t be at my top in Fleche or Liège. It was a real pain, but I`m a guy who always look to the future. I`m a fighter, and now I`ve won another race. It is this fighter-attitude that the team must keep".

Samu wins final stage; 15th overall

As you now know, Samu won today in the Volta a Catalunya, beating Alexandre Vinokourov at the line. He eventually finished 15th overall. The other Euskaltel riders also rode well today, with all except Andoni Aranaga and Aitor Galdos coming in with the pack at 28 seconds. Aitor and Andoni came in together dead last, at 11:50. Final general classification:
  • 15th, Samu Sánchez, 4:03
  • 42nd, Amets Txurruka, 9:39
  • 78th, Juanjo Oroz, 18:05
  • 139th, Unai Etxebarria, 32:34
  • 164th, Aitor Galdos, 47:59
  • 166th, Andoni Aranaga, 57:22

Samu finished 5th in the points competition, while Euskaltel placed 15th in the team rankings.

Samu wins!

Tired? Need for a rest? Don`t think so. In breathtaking style, Samu won the last stage of the Volta a Catalunya today. What an amazing rider he is... The news of Samu`s win is just in, so I don`t know a whole lot. The only thing I know is that Samu catched Alexandre Vinokourov on the last climb leading to the finish, and won. Absolutely fabolous by a rider who`s been racing so much that he`s stated he needs a rest. I`ll of course bring you a whole lot more on his fantastic achievement when I find out a little more. Until then, celebrate Euskaltel`s 5th win of the season! Aupa Euskaltel and Samu!

Samu`s calendar

According to Basque daily DEIA, this is what Samu`s calendar looks like up until the Vuelta a España:

  • Euskal Bizikleta, 8/6-10/6
  • Vuelta a Burgos, 14/8-18/8
  • Clasíca San Sebastian, 4/8
  • Vuelta a España, 1/9-23/9

Samu to rest for a while

Euskaltel captain Samu Sánchez, who`s had a great season so far, will take it easy for a while before starting his preperations for the Vuelta a España. Samu`s been racing all season, and was at a very good level in Paris-Nice, the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Ardennes Classics. Right now, he`s competing in the Volta a Catalunya, where he`s 16th overall going into today`s final stage. Samu will, as you all know by now, not race the Tour. Samu will instead do the Vuelta again, where he`ll be "racing to win", as he put it himself. The last appointment for Samu before chilling out, if that`s possible in pro cycling, will be the three-day Euskal Bizikleta.

Iban the super-domestique

Iban had a brilliant day in the Giro today, and gave captain Simoni valuable help to claw back some time on Maglia Rosa Di Luca. Iban formed part of the break of the day, together with 10 other strong-men, on the early slopes of the gigantic Passo San Marco. Though, with 3 km to go, he somehow dropped backwards. Iban crossed the top half a minute down, but his decending skills brought him quickly back to the leaders again. Here the group had about 2 minutes on the peloton, and the group no doubt looked good to stay away. Though, on the descent of the San Marco, captain Simoni had got away with Savoldelli, Mazzoleni, Garzelli, Codol and Pellizotti. Therefore, Iban naturally had to drop back to aid Simoni. He did so with some style and success, as Iban set an infernal pace on the early slopes of the 10-km Dossena climb. Iban`s pace at the front was so high that climbers like Rasmussen and Losada were left trailing in his wake immediately. With Iban`s help, the front-group maintained a 1 minute lead until the end. Though, with 2 km to go on the Dossena, Iban was finished, and drifted backwards and backwards, clearly with tomorrow`s race-deciding stage on his mind, to finish 73rd, 17:06 down. Though, what matters is that Iban helped maintain Simoni`s hope of winning a third Giro, and if Iban continues to ride as he did today, Gibo might just do that. Magnificent...

Bad day in Catalunya

The Volta a Catalunya has really not turned out to be a good race for Euskaltel. The misery continued today, as none of the Euskaltel riders came in with the 106-man strong leading group. Best Euskaltel rider was Aitor Galdos, who came in 123rd. Just to put the icing on the cake on a magnificent day, Jon Bru dropped out, though I have no idea why. Even though off the pace today, Samu still keeps his 16th place overall. Results:
  • 123rd, Aitor Galdos, 0:28
  • 127th, Juanjo Oroz, 0:39
  • 128th, Amets Txurruka, 0:39
  • 130th, Samu Sánchez, 0:41
  • 160th, Andoni Aranaga, 4:42
  • 161st, Unai Etxebarria, 4:42

Euskaltel anonymous as Joseba drops out

Well, there really isn`t much to say about today`s stage of the Giro when it comes to Euskaltel`s performance. None of the riders made the break, and everyone finished in the gruppetto. Though, not everyone I think, as Joseba Zubeldia, who`s been suffering for some time now, don`t figure on the list of results. Nor does he figure on the list of DNFes. I`ll bring you the latest on Joseba as soon as I can. All Euskaltel riders came in 20:32 adrift, and Euskaltel now occupies the 21st position on the team ranking.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

11 candidates for the Tour

There are 11 candidates for Euskaltel`s Tour team, says Euskaltel head Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. These 11 are: Haimar Zubeldia, Mikel Astarloza, Iñigo Landaluze, Iñaki Isasi, Aitor Galdos, Igor Antón, Gorka Verdugo, Jorge Azanza, Amets Txurruka, Rubén Pérez and Andoni Aranaga. Galdeano earlier stated that there were only 10 candidates, but due to several injuries, there are now 11. New on the list are Iñigo Landaluze, who`s had a lacklustre season so far but who`s always brilliant in the Tour, and strong-man Andoni Aranaga.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Iban still cruising

Well, that`s at least what I hope he`s doing. Iban came in a distant 45th on today`s uphill ITT, 2:48 down on victor Bruseghin. I had hoped Iban would give it a real go today, but that didn`t materialize. I guess he`s just saving some energy for the really tough stages coming up soon. On Sunday, at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, he`ll be there, I`m sure. Believe me, he`ll rock the last week. Aupa!

Euskaltel OK in Catalunya

Today`s uphill ITT did not go to plan for Euskaltel. Hopes were high that Samu or Amets Txurruka would be able to fight for the win, but they weren`t really close. Samu came in a respectable 24th, 1:48 down. Young-gun Amets came in further down in 37th, but he`s already this season showed more than enough. He`s shown what he`s made of several times, and Euskaltel have no doubt got an ace up their sleeves for future GTs and stage-races. Anyway, here`s the results:
  • 24th, Samu Sánchez, 1:48
  • 37th, Amets Txurruka, 2:32
  • 96th, Juanjo Oroz, 4:38
  • 104th, Unai Etxebarria, 4:54
  • 144th, Jon Bru, 6:35
  • 161st, Andoni Aranaga, 7:24
  • 178th, Aitor Galdos, 8:56

That leaves Samu in 15th overall, while Amets 41st with two stages to go.

Aketza Peña good in ITT

None of the Euskaltel riders managed to raise any eyebrows in today`s 12,6 km long uphill ITT. Best rider of the day was Aketza Peña, who finished the day in a good 37th place, 2:32 down un surprise winner Bruseghin. That means he`s now ranked 62nd overall. Except for Aketza`s ride, there isn`t much to say. Though, look out for Euskaltel riders in tomorrow`s break. Here`s the results:
  • 37th, Aketza Peña, 2:32
  • 103rd, Antton Luengo, 4:20
  • 106th, Iván Velasco, 4:22
  • 125th, Markel Irizar, 4:50
  • 151st, Joseba Zubeldia, 5:59
  • 157th, Koldo Fernández, 6:50

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Iban the unpredictable

What happened to Iban? I have no idea to be honest. I had high hopes for Iban going into today`s stage with the arrival in Briancon. Iban was sitting a nice 24th overall, with the form just getting better and better according to himself. Then, when the race gets underway, he`s nowhere to be seen. Eventually he languishes in to a 62nd place, over 15 minutes adrift. I have no explanation for this sudden dip in form, and I don`t think any of you have either. Perhaps he`s just relaxing with an eye on tomorrow`s hill ITT? I wouldn`t exclude it, but something tells me that`s not the case. If any on you have an idea or a suggestion, please leave a comment. I guess tomorrow`s stage will give us some answers. Aupa Iban!

Samu 15th in Catalunya

Samu Sánchez claimed a good 15th on today`s queen-stage of the Volta a Catalunya. Oscar "I`m not Sevilliano" Sevilla won atop the Vallnord-Arinsal ski-station in Andorra, while Samu came in 2:01 adrift. That means Samu is ranked 16th overall with three stages left to go. Full results:

  • 15th, Samu Sánchez, 2:01
  • 51st, Amets Txurruka, 6:17
  • 69th, Jon Bru, 10:44
  • 84th, Juan José Oroz, 12:37
  • 155th, Unai Etxebarria, 22:47
  • 173rd, Aitor Galdos, 26:37
  • 174th, Andoni Aranaga, 26:37

Dioni out; no end to Euskaltel`s bad luck

Well, it`s not getting any better for Euskaltel is it? After the abandonment of Aitor Hernández yesterday due to a broken collarbone, Euskaltel`s main GC hope Dioni Galparsoro had to leave the Giro today. After crossing the massive Col dell`Agnello, Dioni crashed early on when heading downwards. He quickly remounted the bike though, and carried on. But, with the pain getting worse, he sought help with the doctors. They adviced him to quit straight away, as they feared his radius on his right arm might be broken. When taken to the hospital, their fears were proved right. That leaves Euskaltel with 6 riders, as Beñat Albizuri had to call it a day on the 8th stage because of stomach pains. How long Dioni will be sidelined, I don`t know at the time of writing. It`s a travesty for Dioni, as his career has been badly plagued by injuries. He was finally finding old form it seemed, but he`ll now be out of competition for some time, and that will no doubt have a bad affect on his form. I wish you a speedy recovery Dioni.

The stage itself did not result in any noteworthy performances for the orange-clad Basques. Though, there was one positive, as Antton Luengo seems to be getting better after his unfortunate fall in the opening TTT. He was the best placed Euskaltel rider today, coming home in 67th position. Let`s hope he`ll join a break or two to try his luck in the coming days. Euskaltel results:

  • 67th, Antton Luengo, 17: 54

  • 98th, Aketza Peña, 26:06

  • 101st, Markel Irizar, 26:06

  • 103rd, Iván Velasco, 26:06

  • 143rd, Joseba Zubeldia, 32:54

  • 156th, Koldo Fernández, 33:03

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Iban confident

Speaking to Saunier Duval`s homepage after today`s 11th stage, Iban seemed confident heading into the hard part of this year`s Giro. This is what Iban said: "I´m getting stronger, but from now until the end, I know my role is to help Simoni, who seemed to me to be having one of his best days yesterday. So far, this edition of the Giro hasn´t revealed an absolute leader (for Saunier). Thus, the team that can make a real difference. Piepoli has been fantastic, and Riccò has done what we expected him to do. The third week will be my turn, you´ll see". Can`t wait for the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and the Zoncolan...

Iban avoids pile-up

Iban luckily avoided the mass-crash at the end of today`s stage. Iban came in with the pack in 52nd position at the same time as the winner, but most importantly didn`t hit the deck. Iban is no doubt looking forward to tomorrow`s stage, the first serious mountain stage. The stage finishes in Briancon, a place Iban knows a thing or two about. He`s enjoyed success there before, and I wouldn`t exclude the possibility of him winning. Though, I`m afraid he`ll have to sacrifice his own chances for Simoni, something he`s been hinting at for some days now. Anyway, it`ll be interesting to see how he copes with the Col d`Agnello and the Col d`Izoard.

Hernández out; Koldo 7th

It was another day of bad fortune for Euskaltel in the Giro today. A big pile-up right at the finishing line marred today`s stage, with several riders going down. The pile-up proved to be fatal for Euskaltel, with Aitor Hernández fracturing his collarbone and thus will not take to the start tomorrow. Dioni Galparsoro also went down, and was left with severe pains in his back. Though, they hope he`ll recover enough to take to the start tomorrow, but I wouldn`t put my money on it. Just to top it all, Joseba Zubeldia is also having troubles. Joseba has according to Euskaltel director Jon Odriozola hit the deck numerous times, but will fortunately keep on riding. Antton Luengo is also still suffering from his fall in the opening TTT, while Iván Velasco has also hit the deck hard. Today`s bad luck put Koldo`s impressive 7th a bit in the shadows. Koldo is clearly in superb form, and is showing remarkable stability in the sprints. Today he got McEwen`s wheel, but was at the end boxed in a little by an annoyingly rampant Napolitano. I know this hasn`t got anything to do with Euskaltel, but I just wanna say that Napolitano pisses me off sometimes. He`s so careless, and will do anything to get a good position ahead of the sprint. His elbows are all over the place... Well, anyway, Koldo was once again magnificent. And with several sprinters now pulling out, among them Rojas, McEwen, Haedo and perhaps Petacchi, the likelyhood of Koldo winning a stage just keeps on growing. Aupa Euskaltel!

Galdos 14th in Catalunya

Aitor Galdos sprinted to a good 14th on the Volta a Catalunya`s third stage today. There`s not much else to report really, I`m sorry, the only thing being that Andoni Lafuente dropped out of the race midway through today`s stage. Andoni was clearly having some troubles yesterday, and today decided the best would be too call it quits. All other Euskaltel riders came in with the peloton, with the exception of buddys Jon Bru and Andoni Aranaga, who came in 5:01 and 7:06 down respectively. Why they got dropped, I have no idea. The race will now enter it`s deciding moments, so look out for a Samu Sánchez in blistering form.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Iban 15th on stage; 24th overall

Iban is making big strides in the Giro. Today, on the race`s second mountain-top finish, Iban placed an impressive 15th, and advanced to 24th on GC. Iban could be seen riding close to Simoni in the bunch for most of the stage, and when the pack reached the last and deciding 8 km climb, Iban stayed at the very front until fading a little with 2 km to go. Iban looked solid, and will no doubt prove valuable for Simoni in his quest for a third overall win. Iban in the end crossed the line 1:41 back, and as he`s still not close to peaking, we can expect Iban to get better and better as the race progresses. Today`s stage will no doubt have pleased Iban. He tried to get in the break early on, but failed. But even though he spent a lot of energy on that try, he still had enough gas left in the tank to fight with the very best. This stage probably did him the world of good, and it was enjoyable to watch. Look out for him in Briancon, where`s he`s won before. Aupa!

Euskaltel lacklustre in Giro

Euskaltel did not have a particularly good day in the Giro today. None made the break, and the best placed at the finish was Aketz Peña in 47th, 5:42 down. A dismal performance saw every Euskaltel rider arrive was off the pace, though, there are plenty of stages left to leave a mark on the race. Especially Dioni Galparsoro disappointed me a bit, as he seems to be in good shape. He now lies 37th overall. Complete results:

  • 47th, Aketa Peña, 5:42
  • 48th, Dioni Galparsoro, 6:03
  • 78th, Markel Irizar, 12:50
  • 91st, Aitor Hernández, 17:35
  • 92nd, Iván Velasco, 17.35
  • 132nd, Koldo Fernández, 25:33
  • 134th, Antton Luengo, 25:33
  • 135th, Joseba Zubeldia, 25:33

Samu 5th in Catalunya

Samu Sánchez grabbed an impressive 5th in today`s second stage of the Volta a Catalunya. The stage saw the usual break get some minutes, before the peloton with ease reeled them back in. A sprint would decide the winner, and Aitor Galdos was Euskaltel`s man for the final dash to the line. Though, unfortunately, a crash brought him down with only 500 metres remaining. Aitor did, luckily, not sustain any injuries, and remounted his bike and crossed the line in 34th position. Though, Samu secured a top result for Euskaltel, as he got 5th in the sprint. All the other Euskaltel riders came in with the peloton, except for Andoni Lafuente, who must have injured himself or something. Andoni came in dead last over 22 minutes adrift, though what the cause was I don`t know.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Iban awaiting 10th stage

It was yet another day for Iban to just sit back, let the sprinters take center-stage, and roll in with the pack. He did so by crossing the line in 141st position, at the same time as victor Petacchi. Though, the going will get tougher for Iban tomorrow, as the peloton will encounter its second summit finish. I`m really anxious as to how Iban will do, but based on his performances leading up to the stage, I`d say he`ll be right up there with the very best. Though, that of course depends on the amount of work he`ll have to do for Simoni, but if Simoni is fine on his own, look for Iban to get inside the top-20 on the stage. Aupa!

Koldo 5th

Koldo Fernández sprinted to a brilliant 5th on today`s 9th stage of the Giro d`Italia. Koldo was only surpassed by Napolitano, Petacchi, McEwen and Bettini, and crossed the line ahead of riders like Hushovd, Forster, Bazayev, Rojas, Gasparatto and Usov just to name a few.

No Euskaltel rider were present in the break of the day, but the peloton always had the break under control. In the closing kilometres Dioni Galparsoro and Markel Irizar took Koldo to the front, where he got an amazing 5th. All but Antton Luengo, who`s still suffering from his opening-day crash, came in with the pack. Antton finished 3:26 down, but he`s definetely excused. Euskaltel is really making an effort in this Giro, and a stage-win is no doubt impossible if all riders continue this way.

Euskaltel way off the pace in Volta TTT

Euskaltel continued their poor run of TTT results in the Volta a Cataluñya today. The opening stage saw each team complete 15 km, and once again Euskaltel weren`t even close to get in the mix. Euskaltel finished 22nd out of 25 teams, a full 59 seconds down. I`m not impressed by Euskaltel`s TTTing to say the least, and I guess the only way is up for Euskaltel in this discipline. Aupa!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mid-pack finish for Iban

It was another mid-pack finish for Iban today, he came in 124th, as a big break got enough leeway to make it to the line. Though, it was no easy day for Iban, as Saunier had to chase for most of the stage, as they missed the break. Iban was seen several times spearheading the chase, together with all his Saunier mates, except for Gibo Simoni of course. Tomorrow will probably be another similar day for Iban, so don`t expect him to be on the attack. Aupa!

Dioni 5th; Beñat abandons

Dioni did a tremendous stage today, and showed how good his form is, by placing 5th on today`s 8th stage of the Giro d`Italia. Dioni broke away from the peloton together with 21 others after approximately 60 km. None managed to break away from the pack in the closing stages, so a sprint would decide the winner. Dioni grabbed an impressive 5th in the sprint, and as a consequence advanced to 28th on GC. After the stage, he was happy: "The balance of the stage is positive. It was a break with important riders like Bettini, Vila, Andrea Noe, Sella, Cioni, Hincapie and Arroyo, so it was essential that the team was represented. I managed to join them, so I`m satisfied for two reasons. Firstly, and the most important thing, is that I`m feeling good. The knee doesn`t cause any pain, so that gives me confidence. I`ve never ridden a three-week race, but so far I`m feeling good. And secondly, because of the time I made up, I took a leap in the overall standings. If I`m consistent, and manage to keep my form, I hope to land a good overall placing. As always, I try not to think too far ahead, I`ll just take one day at the time. The Giro is a very demanding race, so it`s important to just take it from day to day".

On the bad side, breakaway specialist Beñat Albizuri had to abandon. Beñat had severe stomach pains through the night, and therefore couldn`t take to the start today. He`ll be going home for further examinations.

Antton Luengo is still bothered by injuries sustained in the opening TTT. Antton is suffering from severe chest pains, and came in 12:37 adrift. Another rider who had a terrible day in the saddle was fast-man Koldo Fernández. Though not injured, he came in dead last at 24:25. All the other Euskaltel riders came in with the peloton.

Antón 3rd on stage, 2nd overall

Igor Antón continued his strong run of form by taking 3rd on the fourth and last stage of the GP Internacional Paredes Rota dos Moveís. By doing so, he also secured his 2nd place overall. Another rider who`s coming into form at the moment is Haimar Zubeldia, who grabbed a good 6th today, resulting in a nice 8th overall. Here`s how the Euskaltel riders placed today:
  • 3rd, Igor Antón, 0:07
  • 6th, Haimar Zubeldia, 0:21
  • 87th, Unai Uribarri, 7:11
  • 89th, Lander Aperribay, 7:11
  • 92nd, Iban Mayoz, 7:11
  • 95th, Rubén Pérez, 7:11

Iban Iriondo abandoned during the day. On GC, the six Euskaltel riders placed:

  • 2nd, Igor Antón, 0:09
  • 8th, Haimar Zubeldia, 0:47
  • 59th, Rubén Pérez, 8:53
  • 97th, Iban Mayoz, 17:56
  • 99th, Unai Uribarri, 18:14
  • 100th, Lander Aperribay, 18:16

In the points classification Igor got 3rd, while Euskaltel placed 9th in the team rankings.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Easy day for Iban

It was another flat stage in the Giro today, meaning the only thing Iban had to do was to stay in the pack. He managed that without any difficulties, crossing the line 104th, on the same time as victor Petacchi. That in turn means Iban is still ranked 29th on GC, 6:31 down on Marco Pinotti, with all the big mountains yet to come. Tomorrow will probably be an identical day for Iban, as it`ll probably end in a bunch-sprint once again. Aupa!

Antón second in Portugal

Euskaltel put on a brilliant performance in Portugal today. The third stage of the Paredes Rota dos Moveis was the so-called queen-stage of the race, with numerous hills to encounter for the peloton. Igor Antón showed his form is still brilliant by placing second on the stage, unfortunately loosing out to Duja-Tavira rider David Blanco in a sprint of two, as the duo had left the rest trailing in their wake. Haimar Zubeldia also showed his form is coming along just at the right time, placing 8th today, only 17 seconds down. On GC, Igor is 2nd going into the last stage, where he has to make up 7 seconds to take the overall win. Haimar is 9th on GC, 27 seconds adrift. Complete results from todays stage:

  • 2nd, Igor Antón, 0:03
  • 8th, Haimar Zubeldia, 0:17
  • 35th, Rubén Pérez, 1:36
  • 108th, Unai Uribarri, 10:36
  • 109th, Iban Mayoz, 10:36
  • 111th, Lander Aperribay, 10:36
  • 129th, Iban Iriondo, 27:12

Koldo 10th in Giro; Albizuri in the break

Koldo Fernández pulled of a good sprint today to claim 10th on todays stage 7 of the Giro d`Italia. Though, five of the other riders came in some minutes after the peloton, probably due to fatigue as virtually the whole team had to drop back to help Koldo and Dioni get back to the peloton, as the field split on the climb some 50 kilometres before the arrival, and again with 30 km remaining after a fall. The team-work was magnificent, as Euskaltel, together with Hushovds Credit Agricole putfit, pulled back a minute on the peloton to give Koldo the chance for stage-win glory. Though, it wasn`t to be as Koldo didn`t get to start the sprint as early as he should have, meaning he crossed the line in 10th position. But, when Koldo first launched his sprint, he surpassed several riders, among others McEwen and Forster, so he looks to be in good form. Another Euskaltel rider who go to show himself today was the ever-agressive Beñat Albizuri. Beñat escaped with three others, and stayed away for an incredible 204 km. His group got reeled-in with 40 to go, but can no doubt look back on a magnificent day in the saddle. Here`s how the 5 riders who didn`t come in with the peloton placed:
  • 154th, Aitor Hernández, 1:16
  • 161st, Iván Velasco, 2:32
  • 175th, Joseba Zubeldia, 5:31
  • 184th, Beñat Albizuri, 16:00
  • 186th, Antton Luengo, 16:53

Iban: "I`ll attack"

In a small interview with Saunier Duvals homepage, Iban evaluated the Giro so far: "Since I`m not in my best form, it`s only natural that I have to work for my leaders, as they are riders who can win this Giro. It`s been a little tough for Simoni in the first stages, but in the third week he will, like every year, fight with the best. From the Tre Cime de Lavaredo and on, he`ll be there. Ricco, however, is showing what he`s made of. He`s a natural, and he`s one of those riders who can captain this team in the years to come. Piepoli has also been good. He showed, especially on the Montevergine, that he can leave his mark on the race. Talking of myself, I`m improving, but I`m still not peaking. Anyway, before we reach Milan, I`ll attack".


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