Sunday, October 31, 2010

Party time

La Fundación Euskadi's annual 'Fiesta de la Bici' was held today in Derio. The 'Fiesta' is an event that aims to promote the use of bikes as a means of transportation and as a spare-time activity among youngsters. A fun ride, in which all Euskaltel, Orbea and Naturgas riders were taking part, was organized, and an impressive number of 1700 came out to ride with their heroes.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

One for the team

Euskaltel have initiated a co-operation with a local consultancy firm called Itzarri to make the team gel more as a unit. The program, denominated 'Besteam', will primarily focus on optimizing the riders' leadership qualities. Igor Antón is the first to try out this novel program, and hopefully it will pay dividens as leadership have never really been Euskaltel riders' forte.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Former DS Gorospe goes into cyclo-cross

Erstwhile Euskaltel rider and directeur sportif Rubén Gorospe, brother of the great Julián Gorospe, has been elected as the new national coach of the Spanish cyclo-cross team. Rubén, who competed for Euskaltel, or Euskadi as it was called back then, in it's inaugural season in 1994, spent a few years as a DS with the team when Julián was the main man in charge of the team, and has since gone on to direct the highly-successful Cafés Baqué under-23 outfit. Traditionally Spain has struggled to leave their mark on the international cyclo-cross scene, but the sport is on the rise in Spain and the national federation hope the appointment of a canny DS like Gorospe might propel them to future success.

Fernández recuperating

Speedster Koldo Fernández is hoping he's soon able to return to training after his horrid crash in his last race of the season, the Paris-Bourges. Speaking to DEIA, Koldo described the fall that smashed his left collarbone, right cheekbone and several teeth, as "one of my worst ever crashes", but also admitted the timing of it could hardly have been better. "The crash causes less damage when the winter's around the corner and the season's over", he stated. According to the rider, the operation went "perfectly", and he hopes to recover "completely" and to "reach top form" for the start of the 2011 season. He also went on to praise the doctors' work with fixing his collarbone, but still proclaims he has no recollection whatsoever of the crash itself.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eventual Tour podium not for Samu

Samu would not celebrate if he was to be awarded third place in this year's Tour de France if the likely scenario of Contador receiving a ban matarializes. Speaking to DEIA, Samu explains why. "Alberto proved to be the strongest, and I believe in him", he diplomatically stated. "I believe in his version of what happened. If they were to remove him from the rankings I would be third, but I wouldn't consider myself as the number three in the Tour. (...) Whatever happens to Contador I will never see myself as third. I was fourth and I always will be. If I was to be third I would have had to hold off Menchov in the time trial and feature in the photo in Paris alongside Alberto and Andy." I for one would be happy if Samu was to be elevated onto the Tour podium. Sure it's nothing compared to actually finishing the race third and get to stand on the podium on the Champs-Elysées, but it would be justice.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cazaux up for the challenge

New signing Pierre Cazaux spoke briefly to Bilbao daily El Correo yesterday at the unveiling of the Fundación Euskadi's co-operation with Iparralde, the French, or Northern if you'd like, part of the Basque Country. The 26-year-old described himself as an "all-rounder, a combative cyclist. I'm a rider working for my leaders. This year I've done a calendar including the Grand Tours, and in them I've been at the service of Sandy Casar and Le Mevel." The Francaise des Jeux rider proclaimed he wasn't surprised by Euskaltel's interest, saying "this year I finished my contract with FDJ and, being a French-Basque rider, I knew there was a possibility to join Euskaltel." Cazaux allegedly goes out training with Romain Sicard quite often, and the duo will look to set a precedent for more French riders to join the team in the coming years.

Samu stands by Contador

The jury is still out on Contador's positive for clenbuterol at the Tour, but one man who's unwavering in his belief that the three-time Tour victor is clean is compatriot Samu Sánchez. Speaking at a press conference in Cancún, Mexico, where he'll compete in a 110km crit on Saturday, the Olympic champ, ever the diplomat, said: "I trust Contador 100%. I hope the outcome is positive. Aside from being a friend he's also a colleague, and I hope we'll get a quick resolution to all this."

Duo ready for Cancún crit

Euskaltel duo Samu Sánchez and Beñat Intxausti will both participate in another criterium in Mexico, this time the Cancún Cycling Challenge the coming Saturday. Like in Chihuahua last weekened, a host of the present stars of the peloton will line up. The riders face 11 laps on a 10km circuit for a total of 110 clicks, and as was the case last weekend, the fans will get to ride alongside the pros for the entire event.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Txurruka helps out typhoon victims

Amets Txurruka has admirably decided to donate his bike plus the 250 euros he got for winning the Tour of Taiwan hill-climb replacement event to the victims of the Megi typhoon, writes Cyclingnews. And Euskaltel decided to chip in with another 2250 euros for good measure. The bike in question is a 2009 Tour de France Euskaltel-standard Orbea Orca, fully equipped with a top-of-the-range Dura-Ace group as well as a Dura-Ace wheel-set. Like most of Orbea's bikes it's a piece of art, and Amets is hopeful the bike can be sold for a handy sum. "I hope it'll be sold at a good price to help the people in need", he told Cyclingnews. "It's not a big action but I'm happy to do it."

Fundación reveal French partnership

Miguel Madariaga has revealed that la Fundación Euskadi have reached a partnership agreement with two cycling clubs in the French part of the Basque Country that will see successful youngsters from the regions given a chance to prosper at either Naturgas or Orbea with a view to turning pro with Euskaltel, writes Bici Ciclismo. The two clubs in question is Aviron Bayonnais, first-ever Frenchman at Euskaltel Thierry Elissalde's old club, and Maule. This co-operation has already seen Loic Chetout, Damien Garcia and Karl Baudron secure a ride with Naturgas as of next year. Naturgas Energía's full roster is due to be announced in the near future, so stay tuned.

Giro unlikely, says Galdeano

Euskaltel are not likely to take part in next year's edition of the Giro d'Italia, writes Tutto Bici web. This contradicts what has been reported in other sections of the media lately, but when their source is a certain González de Galdeano, they've probably got it right. According to the reliable cycling website, Galdeano has said that "the Giro is not about to re-enter our plans. And if they force us to do it we will have a problem. Three Grand Tours would see us reverting to our old calendar. We don't want that as the last two season have been very pleasing for us. Right now we're waiting for the governing bodies to decide our destiny".

Galdós and Hernández looking for a ride

To the amazement of some supporters, Igor González de Galdeano opted not to offer team stalwarts Aitor Galdós and Aitor Hernández new contracts for next year. Speaking to Gara, the latter wasn't overly pleased. "I'm not very happy with the way it happened", he said. "I got off to a good start this year. I was eighth overall in Haut Var, but I injured my knee when I put in a big effort. But I continued to train without curing it, so it got worse. The team doctors didn't know what to do to help me. (...) They said I haven't progressed, but I haven't been able to due to this problem." Like Galdós, he'll compete in local cyclo-cross races over the winter in the hope of attracting a team, and is also in touch with his former directors at LPR in the hope of securing a ride in the country he started out as a pro. Galdós wasn't entirely happy with not being retained either, saying the reason he was released was that himself and Galdeano "don't see cycling the same way", whatever that means. He added, quite rightfully I feel, that "he merited a new contract with the team", but was still diplomatic by saying "I hope these four years in the team have been good for all parties." Like Hernández, Aitor is exploring the possibility of going to Italy, but says he ideally wants to remain in Spain. The 30-year-old is picky though, and isn't going to ride for just any team. If he doesn't succeed in obtaining a contract with a decent outfit, he'd like to stay in the sport as a sports director.

Ilundain released by Orbea

Orbea all-rounder Mikel Ilundain has been released by the team and is on the look-out for a new one as we speak. The 24-year-old, who notably won the 'Metas Volantes'-competition at this year's Vuelta a Burgos, has spent two years at the team, and understood the decision made by the team heads not to retain him. "It's always been made clear to me that if I wanted to make the jump (going pro with Euskaltel) I would have to perform really well", he told Basque daily GARA. "They didn't want to keep me, and I understand that and I'm grateful towards them. My dream was to ride as a pro and I'm thankful for the opportunity they gave me. I'm pleased as I gave everything I had. When you do that, you have to be content." He also added that he's "knocking on every door" for a chance to further his career.

"French youngster" revealed

Okay, so not really an Euskaltel or Ibán related post, but there's been quite a few people and websites who've wondered exactly who that "French youngster", as Amets Txurruka described him, who took third in the Taiwan Cup behind Amets and Valjavec was. That youngster is George Bennett from CR4C Roanne who'll compete for famed talent-factory VC La Pomme Marseille next year. At least according to his own blog. So there you go.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Txurruka wins in Taiwan

Amets Txurruka emerged victorious from Sunday's Taiwan Cup replacement race, beating Tadej Valjavec and "a French youngster" to the top of a monster climb. The fun ride, if you can call it that, was a race to the top of the highest climb on the island. Given that the climb topped out at 3275 metres, I can't really see the fun in it. For 52 clicks it was all uphill, but as long as he won it I assume Amets was a happy bloke afterwards. Exactly who the "French youngster", as Amets called him, is, I have no clue. Tune in to the team's website to read Amets' own diary.

Samu Sánchez third in Chihuahua

Samu was active throughout yesterday's all-star crit in Chihuahua and ended up taking third. Vino showed his class by going solo and winning the event ahead of Shleck junior, while Samu grabbed a good third.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Txurruka in Taipei as Taiwan Cup called off

As feared, the International Road Race, along with the whole of the Taiwan Cup, was cancelled due to a typhoon this weekend. A sort of fun-ride in Taipei has been pencilled in instead. Instead of racing their bikes, Txurruka et al. have been doing their fair bit of sight-seeing, including a trip up the second-highest building in the world, the 101, topping out at a massive 509 metres.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why Romain Sicard is France's saviour

The title of this post suggests I'm doing exactly the same thing as I've criticized the French press for doing time and time again when a young and talented French rider raises to prominence on the youth scene and goes pro: lauding him as the next Hinault, the next Jalabert, the next winner of the Tour, France's Messiah who can finally bring glory back to a country starved on Tour success since those heady days of Messrs. Thévenet, Fignon, Hinault et al. But make no mistake, Romain Sicard is not just another Di Gregorio, another Chavanel, another Rinero. Sicard is the real deal.

Sicard's achievements on the youth circuit are well documented. They're impressive. But so too were a lot of French riders' a few years back, and for one reason or another the majority of those have gone from a spectacular career in the junior ranks on to a mediocre one among the pros. It's a sad story that of French cycling's decline in the last 15 years. You have the occasional good one-day racer who can cause an upset on the biggest stage if everything falls into place (read Brochard, Voeckler), but in general, top general classification riders have been more than hard to come by as Spaniards, Italians and the odd American have come to dominate the Grand Tours. Sicard might just change that. Along with the likes of Thibault Pinot and Alexandre Geniez, Sicard is at the forefront of an emerging generation of strong climbers coming out of the l'Hexagone. While Geniez and Pinot are indeed promising prospects, Sicard has the added advantage of being a strong time triallist. He's a former French junior champ on the track, and, among other triumphs, took out the ITT at last year's Avenir. Add in his physique and obvious prowess on the climbs, you've got the makings of a GT contender. But what makes Sicard stand out from the rest of his compatriots is his mentality, his un-French mentality if you like. Some (or is that several?) French riders have been blamed for not training well or enough, for not watching what they eat, and for generally not living like a professional ought to live. In other words lacking the desire to become the best, or getting complacent due to the extensive media coverage and hype surrounding them at a fairly young age. 'Complacent' is probably a foreign word to Sicard. The Hazparne native is everything you'd want from a talented youngster learning his trade: self-effacing, prudent, humble, polite and somewhat shy. He knows he's got the world at his feet but nonetheless acknowledges he's got a lot to learn. And he doesn't complain, he just gets on with it. Pineau, Fédrigo and co. might be on to something when going on about the cyclisme à deux vitesses, but to use this as an excuse for their failings is uninventive, tiring and bereft of any real evidence. For sure, doping has been and still is widespread in the international peloton, but who's to say the French are the only ones not doing it? It's a bad excuse for a lack of professionalism and dedication. Sicard doesn't seem to share this view. And that might be down to him riding with a non-French team. Staying with Euskaltel is Spain, away from the French media and the inevitable pressure, is the best decision he could ever make. As reported earlier here on this blog, the man every Frenchman wants Sicard to emulate, Bernard Hinault, seems to share this view. "I prefer Romain to be with Euskaltel rather than with a French team", he said back in June. "It's better for his progression." If he'd been with a French team I imagine he would already have made his Tour debut this year. I think Galdeano took the right decision in postponing it, it would have been too early for him. I suspect the French directeurs sportif don't share this view. They seem to rush it a bit in France when they've got a precocious young rider at their hands. He's better off with Galdeano who'll take a more measured approach to his development.

It's been a tough opening year among the pros for Sicard, there's no hiding from that. Some will without a doubt have expected more. I think it was perfect though. He rode a full-year calendar, including some of the top one-day and one-week stage races, and no Grand Tour. Good combo. He's gotten some experience with life at the very hardest races, like at Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné, but he hasn't overly exhausted himself with a three-week tour. This year's experince will stand him in good stead come 2011. And eventhough his results haven't raised many eyebrows, he's got that small, vital, undefinable quality that I like to call class on the bike. A classy rider with an undoubted talent and the personality to go with it; Sicard has the makings of a Tour de France winner. Just give him time.

No Nieve in Tour '11

Despite his late-season burst of form that saw him take the queen-stage of the Vuelta, finish 12th overall in the same race and finish seventh in Lombardia, hotshot Mikel Nieve is unlikely to be on the start line of the Tour de France in Vendée next year, writes the Diario de Navarra. "In principle we don't want him to do the Tour", head honcho Galdeano told the newspaper. "It makes more sense to aim for more reasonable goals. There are several races with summit finishes (on the calendar) that he can do very well in. By and large he'll do the same calendar as Igor Antón, they'll stay together". This last statement suggests that Igor is likely to once again skip the Tour in favour of the Vuelta. The Tour doesn't seem to be Igor's kind of race, what with it's strenuous and chaotic flat, early stages, so taking a pass on the race and let Samu aim for it once more makes sense to me. I just hope Euskaltel will opt for doing the Giro again after a few year's hiatus. The Giro is tailor-made for Igor with it's crazy uphill finishes and lack of time trials, so a Giro-Vuelta double would be golden I reckon.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Trio heading for Mexico

Euskaltel stars Samuel Sánchez, Gorka Izagirre and Beñat Intxausti are all on their way to Mexico to take part in Sunday's inaugural Criterium Chihuahua. The crit will be held in downtown Chihuahua on a 4,4km circuit. A who's who of pro Euro stars will line up, including the likes of Basso, Vino, Kolobnev, Schleckx2, Freire, Kreuziger and Sagan to name but a few.

Txurruka lands in Taiwan

Amets Txurruka touched down i Taiwan yesterday after spending in excess of 24 hours travelling. The diminutive climber was supposed to take part in a time trial yesterday, but the event has been thrown into jeopardy after some bad weather played havoc with the roads and thus the security. Sunday's big race, though, is not in danger of being cancelled according to his own "diary"-like post on the team's website.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Txurruka Taiwan-bound

Amets Txurruka will represent Euskaltel at this week's Taiwan Cycling Festival, according to the team's official website. The cycling festival, running from the 16th to the 24th of October, includes a 210km "International Road Race", a race in which Amets and several other Euro pros will take part in. I'm not quite sure whether he'll ride for an Orbea-sponsored team or in his usual orange jersey, but he'll nonetheless be the very first Euskaltel rider competing on Asian soil. Results of the race are due here on this blog on Sunday. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Impressions of TDF 2011

Samu and Igor Galdeano both seemed happy and content with the parcours for the Tour 2011 unveiled yesterday in Paris. Speaking afterwards, Galdeano told the team's website that "it's very mountainous. In addition, most of the hard stages come in the last week. I think the Alps in 2011 will be more decisive for the GC than the Pyrenees was this year. The new features are the absence of a prologue and the inclusion of a team time trial, although counting just 23km it'll hardly create big gaps. On paper it looks like a good route for Contador." Samu echoed Igor's sentiments, saying: "It's hard and complicated. It's a very demanding route. There's no prologue, some short stages, the climbs are packed together, a good number of summit finishes and just the one individual time trial. You can say it's a Tour for climbers. It will be a very exciting race. The short stages tend to be very nervous... I won't emphasize any single day. If you're feeling good any stage can be decisive. The Tour always requires you to be very consistent."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rankings round-up

As expected, Euskaltel placed inside the all-important top 17 in the UCI's World Rankings. The team grabbed a fine 13th, a placing which should ensure the outfit a place in next year's Tour. But then again this is cycling, so who knows what might happen and if the rankings will eventually result in an invitation. But they're supposed to anyway. As for the individual rankings, Samu capped of another consistent year by taking sixth at Lombardia and thus 10th in the World Rankings. Igor Antón ended up 36th after his season was cruelly cut short. Intxausti was 63rd, Nieve finished up 70th after a late-season flourish, Koldo 179th, Aitor Galdós 185th, Sicard 209th, Rubén Pérez 219th, Urtasun 221st and Egoi Martínez 258th.

Star duo in Paris for TDF presentation

Euskaltel duo Samu Sánchez and Igor Antón will attend tomorrow's Tour de France presentation in Paris alongside team heads Madariaga and Galdeano. Whether this is an indication the Olympic champ and the crocked Antón will line up in the Vendée region for next year's grand départ I don't know, I actually doubt it very much, but they'll nonetheless be present at the Palais Congrès for the annual unveiling.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Samu and Nieve top 10 in Lombardia

Euskaltel put a great finishing touch to an epic 2010 season by placing both Samu and Mikel Nieve inside the top 10 at the Giro di Lombardia. Samu, three times a podium placer at the event, was once again in the thick of the action and grabbed sixth, after his select chase group of Nibali, Fuglsang and Lastras fought in vain to catch an unstoppable Gilbert. Gilbert won solo ahead of Scarponi, while the aforementioned quartet grabbed the following four places. Nieve wasn't far back in 7th. A stunning ride to cap off what's been a breakout year for him. The rest of the guys, along with all but 34 riders, abandoned underway in the terrible conditions that marred the final classic of the year. It was the perfect way to close out a record-breaking year, something DS at the event, Alvaro González de Galdeano, was keen to empasize post-race. "It's a good way to end a historic season. It's the last race of the year, it's more than 260km, it was raining, and we placed two of our riders in the top 10. I think we should value this performance."

Naturgas celebrate end of season

La Fundación Euskadi's sub-23 team earlier today celebrated the close of their season by lining up in the Criterium de Exhibición in Artziniega. All the riders, all 17 of them, took to the start for the end of season festivities.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Koldo's collarbone OK

Koldo yesterday had his multi-fractured left collarbone operated on, and successfully so. The doctors estimate that if everything goes to plan he'll be discharged tomorrow.

Lombardia roster

Samu will as expected head the team's charge at Sunday's curtain-closer Giro di Lombardia. Having placed second twice and third once, he's naturally one of the favourites come the 'Race of the Falling Leaves'. He'll be accompanied by a strong set of riders, namely Juanjo Oroz, Txurruka, Castroviejo, Izagirre, Nieve, Urtasun and Aramendía. Samu's shape is sort of an unknown after the Worlds, but he did ride strongly in Canada, so I'm quietly optimistic he might finally pull of a much-deserved win.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Euskaltel duo line up for crit

Euskaltel stars Gorka Izagirre and Beñat Intxausti will both line up on Sunday for the off-season Criterium de Alcobendas. The "race" consists of a team time trial, an elimination race and a road race. Future Euskaltel rider and Gorka's brother, Jon Izagirre, will also take the start.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Koldo out of hospital

Koldo was today dismissed from hospital in Bilbao, and is now on his way home. On Wednesday the doctors will make a decision on whether or not to do surgery on his broken clavicule and cheekbone.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yet another Frenchman at Naturgas

According to Bici Ciclismo, a third Frenchman will ride in the colours of Naturgas Energía next year: Damien Garcia. The 18-year joins from VC Nayais where he's enjoyed a productive couple of years, this season alone taking out four victories. Along with Chetout and Baudron, Garcia will form the French axis of the team in 2011.

Koldo under observation

Koldo is finally back in the Basque Country, but he's not 'home' just yet. Right now he's at a hospital in Bilbao where he'll be kept for observation 'til Monday. By then the doctors will also have decided if they're to operate on his broken left collarbone or not. Speaking after being taken from Bourges to Bilbao in an ambulance, that's close to 1000km folks, Koldo was clearly disillusioned with the state he's in. "I'm tired after such a long trip", he said to the team's website. "It's a trip of more than nine hours, so naturally you'll get tired. But they took care of me very well. The truth is that I have no recollection at all of the accident. It enrages me to finish the season like this. The second part of this season was going very well; I was consistent, I'd taken a couple of wins, and so I'm devestated to close the year like in this state. Now all I can do is to recover and prepare for next year".

Friday, October 08, 2010

Naturgas sign new Frenchman

After the announcement of the signing of 18-year-old French prodigy Loic Chetout, Naturgas have moved to secure the services of another young French promise; young climber Karl Baudron has penned a deal with the red squad. The 17-year-old Pau native has topped the podium an impressive six times this season, with a trio of those coming in Spain. Baudron was riding for French junior outfit Lescar Vélo Sprint this year.

Koldo injured in Bourges crash

It was not a happy first participation in the French semi-classic Paris-Bourges for the team yesterday. It started out well enough though, with Euskaltel showing strength and determination at the front of the peloton to set it up for the Alavan speedster. It wasn't to be though, as Koldo hit the ground hard inside the last 200 metres. I've been watching the crash over and over again, but I just can't seem to find the cause of the pile-up. Anyway, Koldo got off pretty bad, breaking a cheek-bone, a collarbone and three teeth. That's not good, and ads to the woes of an injury-hit season for him. Luckily it's the end of the season, so he won't miss out on much racing. But it was actually so bad that the hospital had to keep him overnight for observation, and they actually transported Koldo back home in an ambulance, never mind the 1000km in distance between the hospital and his home address. Reportedly he's back home now safe and sound, and I dont' assume it'll hamper his pre-season in any way. Don't get me wrong, he's been down on luck for a while now and is banged up and feeling terrible, but he's lucky in the sense that when a grave accident like this happened the timing couldn't have been better. As for the race itself, everything naturally went out the window when Koldo, the man for Euskaltel yesterday, hit the tarmac. Oroz grabbed a fine 20th, while Aramendía was 87th, Nieve 89th, Urtasun 90th and Izagirre 92nd. Txurruka and Castroviejo both clipped out of the pedals and abandoned.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Koldo heads Paris-Bourges charge

Koldo will look for his third win of the year on Thursday in the one-day Paris-Bourges 1.1 cat. race. He'll receive able assistance from Pablo Urtasun, Javier Aramendía, Gorka Izagirre, Jonathan Castroviejo, Amets Txurruka, Mikel Nieve and Juan José Oroz. Álvaro González de Galdeano will call the shots from the team car.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Zabalo 5th on last Empordá stage

Orbea's Xabier Zabalo took his best result of the year in the season's very last race. The former Naturgas rider grabbed an impressive fifth on the third and last stage, winning a sprint of 14 to finish 1:13 down lone winner Israel Perez of the Spiuk outfit. The other guys suffered more, with Blázquez finishing up in 34th at 6:43, Ocampos, Aberasturi, García and Larralde came in with a large group at 10:59. Aritz Etxebarria, who's really struggled in this hilly race, once again had to settle for the gruppetto, coming in next to last at 18:19. Overall, Larralde was 34th, Zabalo 44th, Aberasturi 51st, Garcia 52nd, Blazquez 57th, Ocampos 67th and Etxebarria 75th. A tough introduction to a step up for Naturgas man Aitor Ocampos, but the experience will stand him in good stead for the future.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Samu DNF as Spain crumble

Samu and Spain did not enjoy the best of Worlds in Geelong today. Well, quite frankly, they were poor. Very poor. How all three of Spain's designated captains, i. e. Freire, Samu and LL Sánchez, managed to miss out on the dangerous-looking break that went clear and distanced the pack with a minute and twenty seconds at one point, is beyond me. That was a shocker. De Santos' men didn't look focused the entire day. Samu for one couldn't be seen on the front of the pack one single time. To me, that's a mystery. He was hanging out at the back all day, except for when he had to assist Ventoso, Erbiti and LL Sánchez in reeling in the front group to make sure Freire had a chance in the sprint. In the process of getting Freire back up they lost their Sánchez wildcards. Samu retired from the race somewhere on the next to last lap I reckon. Only Freire and the ever-impressive Haimar Zubeldia managed to complete the race. Judging by the strength in depth at the Spanish selección, that's just not good enough.

Empordá stage 2

Euskaltel had a good day out on yesterday's second stage of the Cinturó d'Empordá. Blázquez got himself into the break of the day, thumbs up for him, while Jon Aberasturi used his fast-twitch muscle fibres to sprint to 13th on the stage, placing eighth in the bunch kick after José Herrada, new Movistar rider Jesús' older brother, had lead five riders across the line 29 seconds ahead of the peloton. García and Larralde also formed part of that first big group, while Ocampos, Zabalo, Etxebarria came in with a big group 9:56 down. Blázquez, smarting from his day-long effort in the break, ended up 15:22 adrift. Going into the last stage, Larralde is well placed in 20th overall.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Decent performance in Empordá opener

Orbea did not set the opening stage of the Cinturó d'Empordá alight today, but they weren't that far off either. Moises Dueñas took yet another win this year by going solo on the hilly 160km ride to Roses, while Joseba Larralde, 16th, and Andoni Blázquez, 22nd, came in with the first big group at 4:17. Zabalo was 65th at 7:39, while the rest of the team found really found the going too tough. Loanee Ocampos, Aberasturi, Etxebarria and García, pictured above, rolled in a full 14:12 in arrears.

Landa strong in Sub23 Worlds

Mikel Landa showed his worth with an inspired performance in the Under-23 road race in Melbourne in the way-too-early morning hours today. The 20-year-old attacked on the steep gradients on the second to last lap, but couldn't really open up a big gap due to the combined efforts of Australia and the USA, both of whom looking for a sprint finish. Though he went all in with his burst of speed there, the lanky climber still had enough forces left to help set up team-mate Lobato for the sprint and grab an impressive 18th himself. Lobato looked a decent bet for a medal with 200 metres to go, but faded slightly to finish 18th. Speaking post-race, the future Euskaltel rider said: "I think we did a good Worlds. It was quite a calm race since the Americans and Australians didn't want anyone to get away. The sent a rider each up the road to force the other countries to work, hence coming into the sprint just as they wanted. I tried to get clear at the climb with just over one loop to go, but they reeled me in. It was impossible to break clear".


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