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91st Giro d'Italia - Euskaltel-Euskadi Team Preview
 
By Andy McGrath
Date: 5/14/2008
91st Giro d'Italia - Euskaltel-Euskadi Team Preview
 
No Zubeldia. No Sanchez. No chance?


The orange warriors at the team presentation in Palermo.
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Euskaltel-Euskadi seem to have come to the Giro on a hiding to nothing – without Haimar Zubeldia or Samuel Sanchez, they have no conceivable prospect for a high overall finish; Igor Anton is also absent. Their hopes rest on Koldo Fernandez, who has eked out a role as a handy sprinter, but who is by no means a world-beater. One wonders whether the “Orange Team”, still using hand-picked Basque talent, is over-extending itself by riding three Grand Tours a year; certainly, their set-up is not as conducive to the ProTour modus operandi as other teams. For fans, it would be a shame to see a team who were (as recently as five years ago) so successful and popular suffer another frustrating and anonymous Giro d’Italia. That said, looking at things realistically, it will take a shock result to avoid this outcome.

Euskaltel-Euskadi for the 91st Giro d'Italia
-Josu Agirre
-Lander Apperibay
-Koldo Fernandez
-Aitor Galdos
-Dionisio Galparsoro
-Markel Irizar
-Inigo Landaluze
-Alan Perez
-Ivan Velasco

Koldo Fernandez is the most obvious prospect of a stage win, as the team’s leading bunch sprinter. In the last two years, the former Spanish junior champion has carved out at a niche for himself in the team; his best win being a Tirreno-Adriatico stage. Even this year, the twenty-six year old has already won a stage apiece in the Vueltas a Murcia and Castilla y Leon. Having ridden the Giro for the past two years and taken several top-10 placings in the sprints, a top-three stage finish is a logical target.


Giro Stage 1 team time trial: 20th for the Euskaltel/Euskadi  squad in a time of 27:49; 1:17 of the pace of the winner. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

With it being a team rich in Basque talent, there are unsurprisingly some handy climbers. Top of the list is Inigo Landaluze, who won the 2005 Dauphiné Libéré, but was then suspended for recording an abnormally high testosterone level in that very race. Slowly coming back to form, he could be dangerous in the hills, though even a top-25 finish on the GC would be a considerable surprise.


2007 Tour de France Stage 19: Euskatel's Inigo Landaluze Launches from the start house, 41rst in the G.C.. Photo © www.benrossphotography.com

Dionisio Galparsoro is also a dependable rider, good for a few attacks both on the flat and in the mountains.

Like Fernandez, Aitor Galdos has a decent finishing kick, though his abilities in the hills are also good: third at the GP Llodio is his best result this season. The former Panaria man rode well in the Ardennes Classics, so look out for him in the first ten days and maybe one or two breakaways.

A Euskaltel rider? Winning a prologue? For a while it looked like Markel Irizar would shock the favourites and take the Paris-Nice prologue this spring, but Thor Hushovd knocked him into second spot. Still, the team’s best finisher from last year (not that 68th overall is much to shout about) has shown good form in the opening stages and will be searching for a top-ten finish in one of the time-trials, as well as an improved overall result.

The rest of the nine-man lineup – Agirre, Aperribay, Perez and Velasco – will be hoping to get into a few attacks and make it to Milano, gaining more precious experience in the process.

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