Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Euskaltel update

I haven`t been able to post updates and news on Euskaltel as often as I would have liked, and should, these last few days. As you all know by now I`m on vacation, so my internet connection is rather limited as for now. Though, here`s what`s been going on with the Basque warriors since the Tour concluded.

Haimar will do the Vuelta a España in September. He and Samu, and perhaps also Igor, will spearhead Euskaltel`s chase for glory on home soil, though what Haimar`s objectives are I don`t know. I guess he won`t be in top, top shape, as he did the Tour recently, but expect Haimar to be on his consistent best; or at least close then I guess. More on the Vuelta later.

Tour hero and climbing prodigy Amets Txurruka has revealed his two next appointments. Amets will do the one-day climbing show piece Subida Urkiola, which Iban won last year, on the 12th of August, before heading for the 5-day Vuelta a Burgos on the 14th. If he`s managed to maintain his Tour form, I reckon he should be rated as one of the favourites for both races. Aupa Amets!

The Circuito de Getxo-Memorial Ricardo Otxoa was held today, but info has been hard to find on the race. The only thing I know is that a 28-man strong group got to fight it out for the win, and that Beñat Albizuri got a good 10th place on the day. Koldo was right behind him in 14th. Further down I find Iban Mayoz in 26th place, Andoni Aranaga in 38th place, only 7 seconds back, while Alán Pérez placed 53rd, Andoni Lafuente 86th, Lander Aperribay 87th, Aitor Galdos 92nd, Iban Iriondo was 93rd while Unai was 95th. Good stuff from Beñat, but a little disappointing from the rest I guess.

B-sample to be tested

As expected, Iban has asked for his B-sample to be tested. Iban reacted with disbelief when he heard he was positive for EPO, telling Saunier head "Matxin" time and time again over the phone: "This is not possible, this is not possible". When the B-sample will return is at time being unknown.

UCI targeted Iban

It`s been reported that Iban was in fact targeted by the UCI prior to his positive test. UCI president McQuiad stated that Iban was "one of the UCI`s targets" and that "the riders have to understand that we use intelligence to target some of them". Why Iban was targeted as a possible doping offender is still up in the air, but I guess that will be made known if the B-sample returns positive.

My view

I guess you`re all excited now, huh? I`m sorry that I let you all wait so long for my view on it, but I needed some time to think, and to, yeah, think some more. It`s not that I`m lost for words or anything, rather the contrary, I`ve just got so much I want to express that I needed some time to figure out how to say it. This is going to be one very long, messy and chaotic post I think...

First of all, it`s just terrible. That`s the best word I think. Needless to say it`s the worst thing I`ve experienced when it comes to sports, and for a sports fanatic like me, that speaks volumes. I`ve been a die-hard Arsenal fan since 1997, and they`ve had their fair share of ups and downs I guess you can say. I`ve also been an Euskaltel and Iban fanatic as you know since early 2004, and to say the least, it`s been more lows than highs these years. So the news came as a big blow, not just to me, but to all us Iban fans.

Iban has not yet come out with an official statement regarding the positive A-sample. I guess that will come soon, and I`m dying to know what he has to say. If it is indeed true, then please tell the truth Iban. I doubt he`ll speak much before the B-sample has been tested, so I don`t think we`ll see many interviews with him the next few days. Of course, I still carry hope that it`s all just been a mistake, that the B-sample will come back negative, but how often does that happen? Quite frankly never I reckon, but all I can do is to hope....

I`ve received quite a few e-mails wondering what will happen to the blog. That`s a tough one, but I`ve decided to go on as normal writing everyting on Iban and Euskaltel at least till the B-sample comes back. After that we`ll see, but I doubt I`m just going to quit the whole thing. I`m too interested and too fond of Iban and Euskaltel to just do that. But time will tell I guess.

It seems many of you, my readers, almost hate Iban for doping. I don`t blame you, I really don`t. It`s a natural reaction to something like this, but I just wanted to say that I don`t. You all know where I stand in the fight against doping, and that I`m all anti-doping, so don`t question that. It`s just that, when you are so into a cyclist and really passionate about his riding, you just don`t suddenly hate the guy. That`s not how it works; not for me anyway. I understand all your reactions, believe me, but I`m not feeling the same way as many of you obviously are. It really sucks that he doped, if that`s indeed the case, but I still like him. Its just the same with Euskaltel. If the whole team were caught for systematic doping, I`d still not hate them I think. Okay, maybe, I don`t know... But anyway, I`m waiting for the B-sample to do any eventual changes to the blog, so stay tuned for ALL the latest on Iban and this heartbreaking case. You never abandon your heroes, so I won`t. Aupa Iban!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Iban positive

Yeah, it`s true. EPO... Don`t know what to say... More later I guess.... If I can be bothered

Iban pleased with Tour

Iban ended as predicted 16th overall in this year`s Tour, and I`m not the only one pleased with that performance it seems. Speaking to Saunier Duval`s homepage just after yesterday`s last stage, Iban evaluated his own performance: "I´m happy with my performance here in France, especially if I take into account how the previous editions unfolded for me", Iban said. "I even hit the headlines this year, and this is very important to me. Even when I was third overall I said my goal was to grab a stage win. I could have changed my mind and seek for a good overall standing, but I bid on a triumph. Unfortunately, Rasmussen managed to build a huge advantage in Tignes, and in Aubisque I was close as well."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Amets the center of attention as Tour ends

The Tour de France 2007 came to a close today, with Amets Txurruka getting a lot of exposure ahead of enormous crowds at the Champs-Elysées. Amets got to wear the white jersey of the best rider sub-25 as expected for the third day in a row and, couple that with the fact that he won the Tour`s "most aggressive rider"-prize, I guess it wasn`t that big a surprise that the cameras were all over him all day long. It was a rather uneventful day of racing comme d`habitude at the Champs-Elysées, though, Iñaki and Rubén did well to claim 14th and 16th place in the final scramble for the line. A few splits here and there at the finish didn`t do any changes to the overall standings, meaning that Euskaltel finished the race with two riders inside the top 10. That`s amazing, but I`ll write more on Haimar and Mikel`s performances in a few days... Afterwards Amets got his 15 minutes of fame as he entered the podium several times clad in the white jersey. It must have been an enormous occasion for the youngster, and something tells me he`ll grace the Tour podium in futur Tours... There were no changes whatsoever to any of the overall classifications, meaning Euskaltel maintained their 5th place overall in the team ranking. It`s truly been an amazing Tour for the team... Aupa Euskaltel!

Iban to lead team in Clasica

Iban looks to be Saunier Duval`s designated leader for the Clasica San Sebastian. Saunier`s line-up looks dangerously strong, with among others Juanjo Cobo, Marchante, Ricco and Mori set to start. Though, Iban will start with number 31 on his back, probably meaning that he`ll be their main man.

Strong line-up for San Sebastian

Euskaltel will send 8 riders that I reckon can animate the race and fight for the win in Saturday`s Clasica San Sebastian. The team will have backnumbers 161-168, and will consist of the following riders: Samu Sanchez, Haimar Zubeldia, Mikel Astarloza, Iñigo Landaluze, Dioni Galparsoro, Jon Bru, Rubén Pérez and Gorka Verdugo. Looks like one hell of a team to me...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Amets wins "Super combatif"-award

Amets Txurruka will probably experience the biggest day of his life tomorrow, as he`s been crowned as the Tour de France`s most aggressive rider. The news of his "win" broke just before he was about to start today`s time trial, and is no doubt his biggest win on a bike ever. It`ll be a mammoth occasion for Amets and Euskaltel alike after tomorrow`s final stage, as he`ll be the first ever Euskaltel rider to be on the podium on the Champs-Elysées in the Tour de France. Amets will, in his FIRST Tour, be able to stand on the podium alone in front of a massive crowd and receive the prize he deserves. Congratz Amets, you`re the best.

OK TT leaves Iban 16th overall

Iban enjoyed an average time trial today, coming home 66th, 7:03 down. That means Iban dropped from 14th to 16th overall, and though that`s a little disappointing, I kinda expected it. Horner and Karpets were as usual stronger than him in this discipline, so I don`t think he really cares that much. Anyway, 66th out of 141 riders is not bad at all. And if he finishes 16th overall, which is likely, I`m more than pleased.

Euskaltel end Tour on high

It was, unbelievably, a great day for Euskaltel in the final time trial today. In short, a 10th and 20th place on the stage, 5th and 9th place overall and 6th in the team rankings for the day. Considering it`s Euskaltel, it really can`t get any better. Felicitaciones to all Euskaltel riders! Best placed on the stage today was as expected Mikel, who rode fantastically to finish 10th. That`s an amazing achievement, an achievement which took him from 10th to 9th overall. Great stuff... Another strong performance from Haimar saw him retain his 5th place on GC. Haimar placed 20th on the stage, and maybe, just maybe, has he refound his time trialling skills. Though, the most surprising performance came from up-and-coming Tour debutant Rubén, who`s eye-catching ride saw him claim a great 33rd place on the stage. Further down the list you find Amets in 46th, consolidating his 3rd place in the young rider competition and 23rd place overall, Gorka in 55th, Iñigo in 81st place, Iñaki in 92nd and finally Jorge in 111th place. These strong rides mean that ahead of the final stage into Paris, we have Haimar in 5th place overall, Mikel in 9th, Amets is 23rd, Iñigo is 41st, Gorka 48th, Rubén 50th, Jorge 82nd and Iñaki 90th. Great overall performance from the team, something their 5th place in the team rankings is a proof of. Stay tuned to Iban Mayo Blog for extensive post-Tour coverage after tomorrow`s last stage.

Iban scheduled for San Sebastian

Iban will gladly ride the Clasica San Sebastian, or the Clasica Donostia in Basque, next Saturday August 4. Iban is said to be feeling quite good at this late stage in the Tour, and will hope to take revenge for last year`s near miss in the Pro Tour one-day race. Iban was the strongest rider in last year`s editon, breaking clear with Sastre and Menchov at the Jaizkibel, but was sadly reeled in with four kilometres remaining. Expect in to be in the thick of it this year as well.

Samu, Mikel and Haimar to ride San Sebastian

Haimar, Mikel and Samu will spearhead Euskaltel`s charge in next Saturday`s Clasica San Sebastian. The Clasica is as always one of Euskaltel`s big goals for the season, as it`s virtually in their backyard, and those three in particular will try to give Euskaltel their first win in the Pro Tour race. More on the complete San Sebastian line-up later.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Iban ready for time trial

It was an easy day in the saddle for Iban today, as the pack let an early break get away and fight it out for the win. Iban came in with the first part of the peloton, crossing the line in 38th place, but as Boogerd came in over 8 minutes ahead of the pack, Iban dropped to 14th overall. Though, I don`t think he`ll loose any sleep over that... Iban was mostly seen surrounded by team mates chilling at the back, but I think he`ll no doubt give it his all in the time trial tomorrow to defend his GC spot. It`ll be interesting to see how he`ll perform on a typical long, flat ITT. I reckon a top 40 is realistic. Venga Iban!

Euskaltel looking good ahead of final test

It was a complicated stage for Euskaltel today. The break of the day broke clear without any Euskaltel representative, and the team was thus forced to lead the chase back in the bunch. A four-man break got enough leeway early on, with Sandy Casar, Laurent Lefevre, Michael Boogerd and Axel Merckx making up the leading quartet. No one in the pack seemed interested at all in bringing the break back, and with Boogerd ranked 17th prior to the stage, Euskaltel had to assume responsability. The break had at one point more than 17 minutes, thus making Boogerd a threat to Mikel`s 10th place overall. So, with some 30 kilometres remaining, all 8 Euskaltel riders got the very front of the peloton, and started the chase. The gap quickly dropped, mainly thanks to the work of Jorge, Iñigo, Rubén and Iñaki. These four cut the break`s gap back to a non-threatening 10 minutes, meaning Mikel`s 10th place overall was secured ahead of tomorrow`s deciding ITT. The break, led home by French cycling`s hero-to-zero Sandy Casar. The pack came in split in two, with the first group, containing Haimar, Mikel, Amets, Gorka and Rubén, at 8:37. The second group containing the rest of the Euskaltel riders came in 9:24 down. That means that Haimar is 5th, Mikel 10th and Amets, amazingly, 23rd ahead of tomorrow`s race-deciding time trial. I have high hopes for all of them, especially for Mikel, who`s been showing great time trial form at the Tour so far. He might well be in the running for the stage-win tomorrow I reckon. Aupa!

Iban`s mean machine

Cyclingnews.com just recently tested Iban`s state-of-the-art Scott Addict bike. If you want to find out more about Iban`s bike and gear, and to read what reporter James Huang thinks of Iban`s Tour revival, click the link: http://www.cyclingnews.com/road/2007/tour07/tech/probike.php?id=/tech/2007/probikes/tour_mayo_saunier_scott

Iban unlucky but strong

It`s been some hectic few days in the Tour since I last wrote anything to say the least. I`ve been without internet connection for some days now here at Corsica, so I`m sorry for my absence. I`m not going to talk too much about Rasmussen, Vino etc., as this is a blog dedicated to Iban Mayo and Euskaltel. And, contrary to the sport which is going through some tough times, it`s been a good few stages for Iban personally. As you all know Iban gave it his all on stage 16, and he looked good. Just a shame that the pack wouldn`t let them go, as I thought Iban looked good for a win. Though, nonetheless, it was a great effort from Iban. I would definetely say that in general it`s been a very good Tour for him. He should have won the stage to Tignes, as that Rasmussen jerk shoudln`t even have been on the start line, and he stayed with the best climbers when he wanted to. He`s currently 13th overall; not bad for a rider taking it piano on two massive mountain stages. He wasn`t at his best on stage 14, but he finally looks to be back to his very best. It`s been an encouraging Tour de France, and I just hope he`ll continue to compete these next few weeks, as his form should result in a win or two in races like the Subida Urkiola, the Vuelta a Burgos and perhaps even in the Clasica San Sebastian. At the time being I`m not sure what his schedule looks like, but I`ll let you know straight away if I find out anything. For the remainder of the Tour, I`m hopeful that he can pull off a good ITT in Cognac, so that he might end up top 15 overall. That would have been a nice ending to a memorable Tour. Feel free to speak your mind on Iban`s Tour performance in the comments section below.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Iban targeting stage 16

Iban looked to be back to his best on stage 15, though I guess his result today doesn`t convince you. He once again opted for an easy ride when he realised the break had too big an advantage to be reeled back in. Though, he came with the favourites to the foot of the Peyresourde, surely a sign of his great form at the moment. He eventually came home 34th, 9 minutes down, meaning he`s now 18th overall. He looked totally unaffected when crossing the line so I`m still hopeful for a stage-win on Wednesday. He`ll for sure try to get in the break that day, just like he tried today. I told you on beforehand that he would win the 19th stage of the Giro, and I`m asking for your trust once again when I say that he`ll shine on Wednesday. Believe me, he will. His fans and family will be there to spur him on, so he won`t be hanging around saving himself for later that day. He will give it his all, and when he does that on top of his form, it usually ends up quite well.

No legs for Iban on stage 14

So, what happened to Iban yesterday? Don`t ask me, I`ve got no idea to be honest. I had high hopes for a win for a long time, as he had talked up his chances prior to the stage. Up the Pailhères it all looked good until they reached the one km to go banner. Then, Iban just suddenly dropped backwards. Though, he didn`t look tired at all, rather the contrary. He said afterwards that he just couldn`t feel his legs, and that he opted to save energy for the remaining stages when he realised victory was out of reach. Not bad thinking, and we`ve seen it work out before. Anyone remember the Giro? It worked wonders back then, and I`m hopeful it`ll do the same now. Though, it is frustrating I have to admit. But I try to stay positive and trust Iban in what he`s doing. I`ve trusted Iban`s judgement earlier, and he`s never let me down. Venga Iban!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Euskaltel shine at home

Euskaltel enjoyed a brilliant day in the Pyrenees today. Four riders among the 24 best, fourth on today`s team rankings and everpresent in the breaks. They put on a great show for the Basques who came to spur them on. Rubén and Amets did a great job today, just amazing. They`re both doing their first Tour and they`re both young. Their performances today really made me proud of my team. Mikel had another great day in the mountains as well, coming home 12 today. He further strengthened his eighth place overall, a result which would have been amazing for the whole team. Haimar was also strong today, finishing right behind in 15th place alongside Valverde. Amets was as aforementioned brilliant, finishing a convincing 19th, while Iñigo showed what his form is like by taking 24th atop the Plateau de Beille. Further down was Gorka who was 44th. Gorka once again showed what a valuable rider he is for the team, riding in strong support for Mikel and Haimar. Rubén "super domestique" Pérez ended up 53rd, while Jorge and Iñaki were 84th and 85th respectively. On GC, Mikel is eighth, Haimar 13th and Amets 27th. That`s no mean feat, huh? Aupa Euskaltel!

Iban content with ITT

After finishing 46th yesterday, just over six minutes back on Vinokourov, he spoke to Saunier Duval`s homepage. Iban seemed quite pleased by his performance; and rightly so: "I had said this was a long and tough time-trial, where time differences were expected to be big, along the lines of previous Tour editions. I´m not surprised that Vino built such a time gap. We all knew that he couldn´t be ruled out yet. And when we had the chance to leave him out of the race, we spared his life. Now, he´s in again. What came as a surprise was Rasmussen´s performance. Now he has three mountain stages ahead. He and Evans are the big favourites, but with what we saw today, Vinokourov could also be there. He´s bound to become more of an attacker for the rest of the race.”“In my case, I was not so bad today. I had my pace, but it was a stage for real time-trialists. I knew I would lose time, so I´m not feeling bad. I a mountain goat, so now it´s my time. If I can do what I expect, what happened today won´t affect me. Two or three minutes in Albi can easily be gained in the Pyrenees. My only concern is regaining strength in time to fight for victory as from tomorrow. With regard to the GC, if I´m not going to be on the final podium, I really prefer one stage win. My fans and followers are coming tomorrow to Plateau de Beille, and this means extra incentives to put up a good show."

Good ITT by Iban

Iban did a good individual time trial in Albi yesterday I reckon. He dropped from third to twelfth on GC, but as the TT was 54 kilometres long, that wasn`t such a big surprise. A 46th place finish, ahead of riders like Valverde, Bruseghin and Grabsch, was a good result, and further highlighted that he`s made improvements. And, I was really happy no to see him finish among the 11 best like Rasmussen did. That was just pathetic wasn`t it? He usually finishes down in 140th place or something... Embarrassing for our sport, and it made me laugh to see him ride that well. Though, enough about Rasmussen. Yeah, Iban did great, and I think he`ll do something great in the Pyrenees. All his fans and family will be out to see him today, so he`ll no doubt be up for it. Aupa Iban!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I`m sorry...

but I`m going away for another vacation now. I`m going to be away for over two weeks, meaning the blog will only be updated sporadically while I`m away. Though, keep checking in, as I`ll try to post something when I`ve got the opportunity. And, most importantly, keep on supporting Iban and Euskaltel as they aim for the sky for the remainder of the Tour. Until then, take care. Aupa!

Iban still 3rd

Iban had another outstanding performance in the high mountains today to claim fifth on the stage and stay third overall. Iban came in with most of the favourites 38 seconds down on surprise winner Soler of Barloworld, and thus maintained his great overall placing. Though, Iban did not attack at all today, something he explained afterwards: "I´m satisfied with this stage, taking into account that I´ve been feeling cramping pains since I began to climb the Col du Galibier. I even thought of stopping to stretch out, as I couldn´t stand on my bike. But then I decided against this and chose to ride on, without joining in the changes of pace in the last part of the ascent. It turned out to be the right decision. With a big help from Cobo, I managed to finish among the favourites. Having a teammate assisting me was crucial, since we all knew that victory was out of the question and thus chased for Contador and Evans. In the final climb to Briançon, I forgot about the cramps and gave it the full gas. The final stretch showed that we were all equally strong. As I´ve already said, you can fail in any stage during the Tour. Today we saw how big guns like Moreau, Schleck, or Kashechkin were not in the same shape as in Tignes. In my case, I didn´t expect to be in one of the leading spots after the Alpine stages, so I´m very glad. The next decisive stage is the time-trial in Albi (stage 13), but I don´t think it will change much. Except for Klöden, there are no big time-trialists in the leading positions. So then it will be the Pyrenees that will decide who´ll win this Tour de France.” I`m counting on you Iban...

Euskaltel shine in the Alps

It was another day of great racing from Euskaltel today. Mikel continued being at his aggressive best, filtering in the break of the day and eventually finishing 12th on the stage. This great ride took him up to 11th on GC, while Haimar, who came in with the second group, lost some time but still maintained his 15th place overall. Another Euskaltel rider who did well today was Amets, who came in 37th, along with far more accomplished and experienced riders like Garate, Beltrán and Florencio. He`s been outstanding so far, and is still in 6th place in the young rider`s competition. Mikel advanced to 4th in the mountain classification, though I don`t think he really cares. Euskaltel finished 5th best as a team, a great performance by the way, but dropped to 6th overall. The next three stages will likely see a break or two make it to the line, so it`ll be vital to get some riders in all breaks I reckon. Iñigo has vowed to attack, and I wouldn`t be surprised to see Gorka or Rubén in some either. Aupa!

Iban speaks

Iban talked to El Mundo Deportivo on yesterday`s rest day. He talked of the GC, the remaining stages and his form. Read on: "It`s only when you are well placed on GC that you start to think about it. But the Tour is far from over, and we can all fail on some of the remaining stages. I`ve prepared myself in the best possible way for the Tour every year, but it hasn`t worked out for me since 2003. This time round I`ve learned a lesson, I knew that I was good, but you still don`t know what can happen to you. The second place made me feel very pleased with my form. It was a very hard and hot stage (into Tignes). The last climb was windy in the beginning, but then it dropped off a little until the headwind came and made damage. Though, I would still not rule out Vinokourov. I have to admit that I didn`t think of him on the ascent, I was more worried about the headwind. Though, I think the other riders along side me thought of him, and there was much respect towards one another that day". He further spoke of his joy at being back to his best: "After 2003 people have expected too much from me. I wanted to perform, but the legs just weren`t there time and time again. But when this happens (his good ride in Tignes), you feel the bike has no boundaries. For that reason I was happy for myself yesterday, for the team, and for those who are with me on my darkest moments". He ended by talking of the Pyrenees: "For the Basques it`s an extra motivation, especially the stage to the Aubisque. You know that your family and friends are there, so you want to give 200 %."

Valverde rates Iban

Speaking to El Mundo Deportivo yesterday, Alejandro Valverde spoke of his main rivals. He rated Christophe Moreau as his biggest challenger for the Tour crown, but also had words for Iban: "Iban looked very good to me. It`s the Iban of three years ago (three?), so he`ll be dangerous and we must consider him (as one of the candidates for the win). If he gets three minutes on you it`ll be hard to get it back".

Monday, July 16, 2007

Iban`s press-conference

Iban answered questions from the journalists today at the press-conference in Tignes. Read on to find out what Iban`s got in store for us the coming weeks. (from Saunier Duval`s homepage):
  • What have been the differences between this edition of the Tour and the previous ones?

With regard to training, there haven´t been many. I just tried to do things right so that I was in good shape when I came here. Perhaps I didn´t feel the pressure this time. Taking into account how things had turned out to be in the past few years, I had nothing to lose. My victory at the Giro d´Italia boosted my morale, and some days before this Tour I noticed that I was OK. But you´re never sure until you hit the road and face a race like yesterday´s. Since the early stages, I´ve feeling all right. However, it´s only when you measure yourself up against the big guns that you can tell whether you´re really in good shape or not.

  • After the bad outcome of recent years in the Tour, did yesterday´s second taste like victory?

Well, I´m satisfied with the way in which the stage unfolded. After Rasmussen, who had opened a large gap, I was the first to cross the finish line, and I really enjoyed that moment. Being in the spotlight during the Tour, as I had been in the past, was one of my greatest ambitions, and my dream has now come true. The original goal was scoring a win, but once I realised it wouldn´t be possible, I chose to reach the highest spot I could. Will I go for the GC? Well, I´m not obsessed with it, and I´m not saying this to shake the pressure off my shoulders, because I don´t really feel like that this year. Quite the contrary: I´m having a great time. This Tour is different because there is no clear leader so far. which means that any rider feeling well and confident can make it. So yes, in this sense, I am ambitious. The only thing I need is not having any physical problems, because if I´m fine, then I feel fully confident. But experience has taught me what the Tour is like. Anybody can have a bad day in France.

  • How did you find the favourites yesterday? Could tomorrow be the right day to rule Vinokourov out?

Yesterday´s final pass was tough but not useful to make a selection. Besides, we were running into the wind, and this helped balance forces. Perhaps I expected Sastre or Menchov to be part of the leading bunch, but the rest were all there -Moreau, Valverde, Contador. These are the big names. As for Vinokourov, it´s quite obvious that he has to be left behind tomorrow, because then there´s the time-trial for him to make up for losses. He has shown what a great rider he is, so you can never think his chances are over. We could have ruled him out yesterday, but then each rider minded his own business.

Euskaltel rest day wrap-up

It`s the first rest day today, and Euskaltel can look back on a higly successful Tour de France to date. Fifth in the team rankings, a second place on a stage, 15th and 21st on GC, and with several of the riders protagonists so far it`s all been good for the team. Here`s a look at the performance of all 9 riders so far:

  • Haimar Zubeldia: Great Tour so far for the captain. Looked a little out of sorts in the prologue, but has since then produced the goods. On the flat stages he wisely stayed at the front and out of trouble, and on the first two mountain stages he`s been well ahead. He looked calm and unaffected climbing the Colombière, coming home with the favourites, and finished a satisfactory 11th on yesterday`s big test to Tignes, ahead of riders like Leipheimer, Cobo, Pereiro, Garate, Kloden, Vino and Karpets. This means Haimar is now ranked 15th overall. Though, I do think a top 10 finish will be hard for him, probably too hard, so I`d rather see him go for stage-wins. But, whatever he does, be sure Haimar will produce the goods; he always does.
  • Igor Antón: Hard to say anything about Igor. Has surprisingly come in with the gruppetto on both mountain stages so far, something which was rather unexpected. He was so good in the Dauphiné, so what he`s doing now I don`t know. Perhaps he`s saving some energy for the remaining mountain stages so that he can join a break and fight for a stage-win that way. I don`t know, time will tell. But, no matter what, it`s disappointing stuff from him so far.
  • Mikel Astarloza: Great Tour so far for him. He did a great prologue, stayed with the favourites at the Colombière, came in not far behind at Tignes, and is now 21st overall. He`s also been visible on several stages, either it`s going for intermediate sprints or chasing breaks in the mountains. Riders like him makes Euskaltel an entertaining team to watch, so thumbs up for Mikel. A stage-win looks a real possibility for him if he joins the right break.
  • Jorge Azanza: OK so far in his debut Tour. Stayed in the pack on the flat stages, and showed himself for the first time yesterday in a break. Jorge is at the Tour mainly to get experience, so I don`t expect an awful lot from him. Though, good to see him in a break anyway. Would be pleased if he gets to Paris, and I hope to see him in one more break until then.
  • Iñaki Isasi: 113th overall and comletely invisible. Had hoped to see him on some of the flat stages, but I guess it`s normal to be a bit careful after two broken collarbones already this season. Though, I hope and think his form will get better and better for each day, and hopefully he`ll let himself be seen in a break or in a dash for the line in a sprint.
  • Iñigo Landaluze: Well, you just have to feel for the lad. Coming so close to a stage-win, again, must hurt like hell, but it was nonetheless a great performance from Iñigo. His form is excellent, so I wouldn`t exclude him from winning a stage just yet. The transitional stages between the Alps and the Pyrenees should suit him. Aupa!
  • Rubén Pérez: Awesome job so far. He`s been one of the most active riders in the whole race, and it`s his first time! Looks really strong at the moment, and, thanks Rubén, you make me proud of my team.
  • Gorka Verdugo: He`s also enjoyed a great Tour. As he`s said himself, he`s in great shape, and it shows. I`ve never seen Gorka so active and willing to attack as he is right now, and his attacking is surely not over. Seems strong on all terrain at the moment, and he`s been a valuable member of the team.
  • Amets Txurruka: 36th overall speaks volumes of his talent. He was okay on the first hilly stage and the first mountain stage. But, on yesterday`s stage he was just phenomenal I reckon. Active all day and really showed himself. He`s a decent bet for a stage-win in the future, but I`m afraid it`s too early for him now. Would be great to see him finish the race, but don`t count on it. He`s still young, and it would be wise to throw in the towel some time next week so that he`s not completely exhausted and empty for the remainder of the season.

Iban evaluates rivals

After finishing second on yesterday`s stage, Iban spoke to El Mundo Deportivo to give his assesment of his main rivals: "Valverde is always there. It was a pity that Contador punctured, although he struggled a bit when the pace got higher. Moreau was the one who rode the hardest, and he`s no doubt going to be a difficult man to beat in this Tour. Vinokourov dropped off a little, but he`s still dangerous and won`t give up without a fight".

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Iban to hold press-conference

Saunier Duval will hold a press-conference tomorrow at 2:30 pm in Tignes. Iban will be the star of the show, and will answer questions from all journalists present. More on this conference, and what Iban had to say, tomorrow.

Iban speaks of stage 8 heroics

After claiming second on today`s stage, Iban spoke to Saunier Duval`s homepage. Here`s what he said: "To tell you the truth, I was hoping to be in the lead, because yesterday I felt fine. But the Tour is a treacherous race, and you can never be 100 percent sure. In the early kilometres I could see that I was OK, so I knew I´d be right up there with the best. When Rasmussen broke clear and began to open a gap, I realised that winning the stage was going to be extremely difficult. Before the final climb, his advantage was so huge that victory was no longer a possibility for me. At the foot of the mountain, Moreau launched an attack and I jumped clear behind him with Valverde. Then Evans, Contador, Kashechkin, and Schleck joined in, but they didn´t seem to be willing to cooperate. We were running into the wind, so drafting was the most comfortable option. This balanced forces, but Moreau was riding too easily. It´s a pity that we couldn´t hold off the Vinokourov group. With 500 metres to the top, I launched an attack to get the bonus points and seconds, and I succeeded. After having been through such a bad patch in the last editions of the Tour, being here, safe and sound, feels like victory to me. My only clear goal is grabbing a stage-win, as I said before I came here. Of course, the GC is tempting; stepping onto the final podium would be very nice. But the Tour is a very difficult race, so we should take it easy, step by step. The important thing is to keep this feeling; the sensations I felt today. And then, if a stage-win or even something bigger comes, we´ll all be very happy.”

The wonderkid speaks of stage 8

Euskaltel`s impressive 24-year-old Amets Txurruka had a brilliant day in the mountains today, coming home 30th after being prominent in breaks all day long. The climbing prodigy spoke to www.fundacioneuskadi.com after the stage to give his assesment of the stage: "I`m pleased. I`m riding the Tour for the first time and I`ve showed myself ahead in the mountains. To be in the breakaway, with riders like Rasmussen, Hincapie, Gutierrez, Voigt and Rogers, was really exciting. I feel good, and I`ve made it through the first week, which is to me the most dangerous one. In the mountains I`m getting better and better". It`ll be exciting to see how he copes with his first GT, but it would be awesome if he gets all the way to Paris.

Iban rocks in Tignes

Iban had a fantastic day in the saddle today. He claimed second on the stage, ahead of all the favourites, and now occupies the 3rd place overall. What an achievement! It was absolutely marvelous to see how Iban danced his way up the mountain and attacked relentlessly. It was so reminiscent of the Iban of the Tour 2003. Unfortunately it was impossible for him to claim the win, as Rasmussen had too big a buffer going into the last climb. Rasmussen had attacked some 60 km earlier, and his win never looked threatened. Though, the main contenders for the podium wasn`t about to let that stop them attacking each other. Moreau jumped clear 3 km into the climb. Iban sensed the danger and went after him. Glued to his wheel was Evans, Schleck, Valverde, Kasheckhin and Contador. These 6 easily caught up with Moreau, and the attacking started. Everyone but Kasheckhin attacked, as he had Vino in the group behind. Iban tried to get clear something like 3 times, but didn`t succeed initially. Though, he showcased his form in a brilliant way, and really lit up the race. Iban eventually managed to jump clear from these six with roughly a thousand metres left to go. His attack left everyone trailing in his wake, and he went on to claim second 2 minutes and 47 seconds down on Rasmussen. Valverde came in third a futher 25 seconds back, while the rest of the favourites came in one after the other further back. It was excellent stuff from Iban, and he showed that he`ll be a contender for the podium if he continues like this. He was in a class of his own compared to the other GC candidates, and now lead them all on GC. Iban is 3rd overall going into the first rest day, with only Rasmussen and Gerdemann ahead of him. It`ll be exciting to see where Iban will end up, but my prediction is top 3. Aupa!

Great stuff from Euskaltel

It was another great day for Euskaltel in the Tour today. With no less than 5 riders in different breaks all day, and with Haimar finishing a higly pleasing 11th atop the Montée de Tignes, Euskaltel is now ranked the 5th best team in the Tour. Gorka, Jorge, Rubén, Mikel and Amets all tried their luck in different breaks throughout the stage, something which no doubt pleased the spectators along the roads. Especially Amets, who`s riding his first Tour at the tender age of 24, impressed, and went on to finish a remarkable 30th after spending larg porsions of the day in breaks. It was amazing stuff from the youngster, and he now lies 6th in the young rider competition, ahead of big names like Thomas Dekker, Kohl and Lovkvist. Haimar came in 11th together with Leipheimer and Cobo, and now is sitting pretty in 15th place overall. Mikel was 23rd today, dropping to 21st overall. Euskaltel dropped to fifth overall in the team rankings, but that`s anyway more than good enough. Aupa! Stage results:
  • 11th, Haimar Zubeldia, 3:59
  • 23rd, Mikel Astarloza, 5:41
  • 30th, Amets Txurruka, 8:23
  • 65th, Gorka Verdugo, 19:17
  • 69th, Iñgio Landaluze, s.t.
  • 80th, Rubén Pérez, 29:11
  • 98th, Jorge Azanza, 33:45
  • 142nd, Igor Antón, 39:07
  • 143rd, Iñaki Isasi, s.t.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Conformation: Iban`s in form!

It`s been a highly pleasing day for all us Iban fans. Iban stayed, without any problems at all, with the leading group up the Colombière and finished safe and sound among the overall contenders in 17th place. It was such a relief to see that Iban was indeed in the form that people`s been saying lately, and this now doubt looks good for the remainder of the Tour. He looked calm, unaffected, composed, and all those words, and stayed at the front of the leading group all the way up, as well as down, the Colombière. Iban wisely didn`t attack today, as the break was too far away to be reached, but certainly looked capable of it. Tomorrow will no doubt produce more attacking and spectacular racing, as the stage ends atop the gruelling Monteé du Tignes. Expect Iban to be in the thick of it...

Poor, poor Landaluze...

Iñigo Landaluze once again went agonisingly close to a first ever Tour stage-win today. After making the break together with Rubén Pérez, along with 13 others, Iñigo ended up a brilliant, though nonetheless disappointing for him, second behind the amazing Gerdemann. Iñigo came in alone 40 seconds back, and automatically occupies the same place on GC.

It was a great day out for Euskaltel today. As mentioned, Rubén and Iñigo finally made the break after numerous attempts, together with big-name riders like Savoldelli, Martínez, Gerdemann and Flecha just to mention a few. The break was allowed a certain amount of freedom, and held a healthy 4:30 lead when going into the mighty Col de Colombière. The break will have to thank Rubén in particular for this big time gap, as Rubén drove the break relentlessly for his leader of the day, Iñigo. The break went, as predicted, to pieces straight away on the climb, with Gerdemann, Fofonov, De La Fuente, Gutierrez and Landaluze clearly the strongest. Gerdemann and Fofonov eventually created a big gap over the three others, with Iñigo leading the way for most of the time. After a couple of km, Fofonov couldn`t keep the pace as Gerdemann accelerated and went for broke some 6 km from the top. Iñigo further upped the pace as he saw the danger, and in the process of doing so, got rid of his fellow two Spaniards. Iñigo was for a long time about half a minute down on Gerdemann, but when he reached the summit, he was now only 17 seconds down. This made for an exciting finish, but Iñigo couldn`t catch him, and rolled in disappointed 40 seconds back. Though, congratz Iñigo once again on a fabulous effort. It was brilliant.

In the main leading group, which consisted roughly of about 30 riders, nothing happened. All the big favourites, with Mikel, Haimar and Iban among them, played the waiting-game. This led to a 35-man strong group arriving at the finish line together, 3:38 down. As a result of the strong riding by all Euskaltel riders, they finished second on the team rankings today, leapfrogging 8 teams to now occupy the same position overall. And just for the record, Haimar looked awesome up the climb, so be prepared for some strong riding from him the next days. Stage results:
  • 2nd, Iñigo Landaluze, 0:40
  • 21st, Mikel Astarloza, 3:38
  • 26th, Haimar Zubeldia, 3:38
  • 58th, Amets Txurruka, 7:04
  • 70th, Igor Antón, 10:14
  • 86th, Rubén Pérez, 13:07
  • 98th, Iñaki Isasi, 18:42
  • 99th, Gorka Verdugo, 18:42
  • 100th, Jorge Azanza, 18:42

Laiseka believes in Iban

The retired Euskaltel legend Roberto Laiseka thinks Iban will show his good form on today`s stage. Laiseka, himself a legendary climber, said in his daily column in DEIA: "Also Mayo will be in the front group. The one of Saunier Duval is not going to wait for the Pyrenees (to attack), and if he`s got good legs he`ll show them of straight away". Seems I`m not the only one who thinks Iban`s capable of pulling of a win in the Alps.

"Iban`s in excellent shape"

Those are the words of Iban`s directeur sportif Joxean "Matxin" Fernández. "Matxin" spoke to El Mundo Deportivo yesterday, and expressed his faith in Iban and his form: "Iban`s in excellent shape. But we don`t want to brag about it, we`ll go little by little (whatever that means)." He further talked of the stages in the Alps: "They are going to be beautiful and important stages, as they`ll decide a part of the Tour. After the Alps we`ll know what riders won`t be fighting for the win in the Pyrenees."

Iban: "The Pyrenees are harder"

Speaking prior to the first stage in the Alps, Iban told the Diario Vasco about his thoughts on the mountain stages in this year`s Tour: "The start (of today`s stage) doesn`t seem hard, but it`s always a bit scary with the first day in the mountains. The Pyrenees, coming in the third week, seem harder to me. I`ve always been riding well in the Alps, not so much in the Pyrenees." Futhermore, he doesn`t expect big time gaps on today`s stage into Le Grand-Bornand.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Stage 6 sum-up

It was an uneventfull day for Iban as well as Euskaltel on today`s 6th stage of the Tour. Nothing to report on either, except for the fact that Mikel dropped to 10th overall, while Rubén is now 17th overall. Though, that really doesn`t matter, but it`s nonetheless good to see them both right up there with the best. I was glad to see Iban at the front of the pack inside the last 20 km. He was surrounded by a couple of team mates, something that further indicates that Iban will have a go at the overall, not only stages. I sure hope so, as I think Iban`s got the ability to finish inside the top 10 come Paris.

Stage 7 prediction

So, the first big test is on for the peloton, with this big day in the mountains. Tomorrow`s stage is not the hardest, but it`ll surely seperate the contenders from the pretenders. There`s loads of riders who can win; Iban, Valverde, Karpets, Schleck, Sastre, Leipheimer, Menchov, Rasmussen, Vino(?), Kloden(?), Haimar, Igor, Moreau, Evans etc. just to name a few. My bet is on Iban in fact. He`s rumoured to have "good legs" as they say, and he`s feeling good. According to team mate Christopher Rinero, who`ll provide vital support to Iban, Iban`s in "great shape" and "will ride for the GC". Rinero, who`s on his best days a force to be reckoned with in the mountains, spoke to French TV after today`s stage and further confirmed what we all have been thinking. Iban is their undisputed leader, and is in great shape. Those statements, together with his riding on stage 5 and the profile for the day, makes Iban my number one tip for stage 7. Iban knows the Colombière climb inside-out, and the 10 km descent into Le Grand-Bornand should suit a quality descender like Iban. And, if he conquers the stage, he`ll probably conquer the yellow yersey with it as well. Okay, I`ll try to stay down to earth. A lot will have to go Iban`s way if that`s to happen, but, remember, Iban`s only 43 seconds down on Kloden, and he`s not exactly feeling great these days. Time will tell, but there`s no hiding that Iban will start out as one of the favourites tomorrow.

Poll results: Iban`s season a success so far?

73 % of you think that Iban`s stage-win in the Giro has made for a successful season to date. Iban`s arrival at Saunier Duval promised much, but, unluckily, he was injured for most of the spring campaign. He bounced back tremendously with a commanding win on stage 19 of the Giro, and will hope to repeat his stage heroics when the Tour reaches the Alps and the Pyrenees. I for one wouldn`t bet against him winning stage 16...

I`m back

Finally the internet is up and running again, so I`m back for real this time. And, yes, the pics are back. Watch this space for frequent updates on Euskaltel and especially Iban the next few days. Aupa Iban!

Millar to lend Iban a hand

David Millar will work for Iban in the Alps, according to himself. With José Ángel Gómez Marchante not around, Iban will be Saunier Duval`s man for the mountains. Iban will likely get the help of all 8 Saunier rider in his quest for stage glory, and the whole team will be pinning their hopes on Iban for the weekends` stages in the Alps. The rest of the team have no real hope for stage-success themselves, if you exclude the possibility of a break going all the way, so they`ll all do what Millar will. "The stages in the Alps look difficult for me, so I`ll help Iban instead", he told Saunier Duval`s homepage. That`s the spirit!

No injuries for Iban

Iban took a tumble on yesterday`s fifth stage. Leif Hoste and some other dude crashed right in front of him, and even though Iban jumped at the brakes all he could, there was no way he could avoid it. Luckily he got up quick and won`t suffer from the fall in the next days according to himself. "The crash occurred wih 90 kilometres remaining", he told www.saunierduvalteam.com after the stage`s conclusion. "A rider from Lampre and another one from Predictor hit the ground. I braked all I could but couldn`t stay on my bike. My right elbow and left knee hurt a bit -nothing serious, though. The whole team waited for me and we managed to rejoin the peloton quickly. After the last climb, I felt OK. I was on the front because the downhill was dangerous, and I felt safe there. Let`s hope we can reach the mountains safe and sound after tomorrow`s stage. Today, it could`ve been much worse."

Iban looking strong

Again I just have to apologise for the lack of pictures on the blog these days, but as you all have understood by now, something`s not right with my local area connection, meaning I`m using my neighbours` laptop instead of my own. On this laptop posting pics are not that easy, so I`m sorry if my blog looks unbelievably boring right now. Though, the internet on my own laptop will probably be fixed in a day or two, so then it`ll be back to a picture-loaded blog. But, anyway, back to the thing that really matters right now; Iban and the Tour de France. He enjoyed an easy day in the saddle on stage 4, like most riders, and had no problems coming in with the leading group on the hilly stage 5. He looked calm and composed all day long Iban, and stayed at the front on the tricky descents near the finish to stay out of trouble. You can tell when Iban`s in form and feeling good, and something tells me that his form is spot-on right now. He also looks more calm than other years, and I think that this more relaxed approach to the Tour will do him the world of good. Stay out of trouble and you`ll be fine Iban...

Iñigo and Jorge both OK

Jorge Azanza and Iñigo Landaluze both hit the tarmac on stage 4 together with Di Grégorio, Thomas, Elmiger and fellow Basque Zandio. The pile-up occured after something like 63 kilometres into the stage, but as we all saw on today`s fifth stage, they`re both OK and unscathed. Neither Jorge or Iñigo needed treatment luckily.

Strong Euskaltel performance in Autun

Euskaltel have continued their strong showing in the Tour these last two days. With Gorka in the break yesterday, and with Rubén and Iñaki 12th and 20th in the sprint, it was a good outing for the whole team on stage 4. Today`s hilly 5th stage saw four Euskaltel riders finish inside the leading group. Iñigo tried to surprise the sprinters with an attack inside the last 400 metres, but, even though he led the peloton for a while, he wasn`t successful. He ended up 18th eventually, but the most important thing is that he looks to be in good shape for the first time this year. Expect Iñigo to be in important breaks the next few days. Haimar and Mikel both of course came in with the main group, meaning that Mikel now occupies 8th spot on GC. Haimar is further back, but still well within touching distance of the leaders going into the Alps. They both look focused and concentrated, and I like the fact that they both stay in the front of the pack on most stages. There`s been a lot of crashes so far in this Tour, and it`s no secret they occur at the back of the peloton. The 4th Euskaltel rider to come in with the leaders today was Rubén, who looks to be in the shape of his life these days. Igor came in 28 seconds back, again, so I`m not sure what to make of his form. Jorge, Amets and Iñaki all came in only 1:20 back, so they`re doing okay. Gorka suffered a bit from yesterday`s efforts, coming in 4:29 adrift, but I don`t worry about him, he`ll always cope and come through. I hope the guys will take it easy tomorrow, so that the batteries are all charged up for the Alps coming on Saturday. Aupa Euskaltel!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Iban sum-up

Great start for Iban, no doubt about that. A good prologue, only a minute down on Cancellara, and with no accidents of any kind so far means it`s all looking rosy for Iban. Considering that he did the Giro only a month back I`m really impressed. He`s stated that he`ll use these first few "sprinter"-stages to get back into competitive form. The Alps are only a few days away now, and he`ll no doubt be on the attack. Though, I`m convinced the Pyrenees are more suited to a rider like Iban, but he`ll be in the mix on any mountain top anyway I think. Saturday`s stage should give us some indication on Iban`s form, and I think we`ll be pleased with it. If Iban just manages to stay out trouble, he`ll do a great Tour I`m sure. Aupa Iban! (By the way, I`m sorry for the lack of pictures, but something is not quite right with my internet connection right now, again, so uploading pics isn`t possible at the time being.)

Euskaltel sum-up

Euskaltel have got off to quite a good start in the Tour I must say. Mikel was excellent in the prologue, and after capturing bonus points on today`s stage, is now 10th on GC. That`s awesome from Mikel, and it certainly looks like he`s hitting top form just at the right time. Rubén Pérez has also been impressive, riding a good prologue and showing his great form on the second stage. He`s now something like 22nd overall; no mean feat from a first-timer. On the bad side, Haimar didn`t do a good prologue. Where his TT skills have gone, I don`t know, but expect him to be prominent when the road starts to go uphill nonetheless. Igor lost a bit of time today, but I`m not worried about him. Actually I reckon it would be good for him to lose some time early on, so that he can break away in the Alps without the whole bunch chasing him. Igor`s a good bet for a stage-win I think. The rest of the team has been doing okay so far. Luckily none got injured in that nasty pile-up on stage 2, so everyone should be fit and ready for the remaining 17 stages. Aupa!


So, I`m finally back. I`m sorry for my delay, I know I said I would be back posting on Sunday. Though, our network has been down since I got home, and it will likely stay down for a couple of days yet. I`m writing this post from my neighbours`s laptop, and I`ll hopefully get to post some short pieces the next few days using it. Though, I won`t be able to post as regularly and as up-to-date as I would have liked, but I guess it`s better than no thing, right? I`ll let you know once I`m back "for real", but, nonetheless, tune in to Iban Mayo Blog
for some sporadic updates the coming days.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back on Sunday

I`m going for a short vacation now, and won`t be back until Sunday. That in turn means I won`t be able to update my blog until then I`m afraid. I`m terribly sorry, but be sure I`ll blog as hell once I get back home. Until then, aupa Iban!

Please sign, Iban...

Iban will hopefully put pen to paper on UCI`s anti-doping chart in the coming days. All other Saunier Duval riders who`ll do the Tour have done so, but Iban`s name is still nowhere to be found on the list of committed riders. Though, he`ll certainly sign it soon, but the faster the better.

Igor and Koldo prolong

Following in the wake of the news that Euskaltel will stay a cycling team until 2010 at the very least, two of the best young riders have committed their future to the team. Climbing prodigy Igor Antón has signed a new deal that will keep him in orange until 2010, while super sprinter Koldo Fernández has penned a deal that will keep him there until 2009. Fantastic news for all Euskaltel fans, as they both opted to stay despite interest from other Pro Tour teams.


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