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Euskaltel-Euskadi - Tour Selections Near
By Staff
Date: 6/19/2009
Euskaltel-Euskadi - Tour Selections Near

Euskaltel-Euskadi - Tour Selections Near
Tour selection is underway for the popular Basque team; a group meet in Bilbao for a training session and Igor González de Galdeano watches  their riders at the Tour of Switzerland.

By Christopher Fauske

While the group of eight Basque riders competing in the Tour de Suisse continue to seek to impress the team’s managers, even while yet to make a significant mark on the race itself, Euskaltel-Euskadi has summoned its other principal Tour de France hopefuls to the team’s headquarters just outside Bilbao today (Friday June 19) for a one-day training session that will help DS Igor González de Galdeano make the final selections.

Riders will depart from the Old Seminary of Derio, where the foundation that managers the team has its headquarters, and will use the terrain around Bilbao to simulate a variety of Tour situations.

Igor Anton, sixth in stage 8 to Grenoble and 18th in the G.C. in the Dauphine.
Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

All the team’s statements to date confirm that Mikel Astarloza will be the GC contender. Support is almost definitely going to come from fellow veterans Egoi Martinez and Iñigo Landaluze. Other names being mentioned enough to suggest they are either already on the list or on the cusp include Alan Perez and Igor Anton.

Astarloza is recharging his batteries after a fifth place finish in the Dauphiné Libéré, of which he says “higher was impossible,” but he is pleased that the team “met its target” of contesting stages, ensuring that the group of riders were working together, and that all the equipment was performing up to par.

Mikel Astarloza
Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

 “I had a great support team which was always ready for me,” he says.

Immediately after finishing the Dauphiné Libéré, Astarloza admitted that he was “very tired, so I will train with more tranquility than usual for two hours at most, then begin forcing more the next week.”

Mikel Astarloza attacks on the col de Izoard
Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

The team is raising its expectations for itself. Jesus Aizkorbe, the team’s press secretary, has said that ‘winning a stage in the Pyrenees is no longer enough,” although one suspects that actually doing so would be much appreciated by the throng of Basque fans who once again will crowd the climbs on July 10, 11, and 12. The stage on July 11 looks well set to spring some surprises on the peloton, and the Basque riders will look to take advantage of the early appearance of the Pyrenees in this year’s Tour.

Euskaltel-Euskadi has not, however, lost sight of the fact it will likely be bringing a sprinter to Le Tour for the first time, in the shape of Koldo Fernandez. It would be an exceptional pundit who predicted stage wins for any sprinter other than Mark Cavendish at the moment, but there are squads that will be looking to the sprints as their most likely way to get a stage win, and the resulting confusion could just spring Fernandez free.

Koldo Fernandez battles for position in the stage 6 sprint in Switzerland and comes up with top ten finish Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Fernandez finished seventh in Thursday’s Tour de Suisse sprint, but Jesus Aizkorbe reports that Fernandez “had better legs than in the previous days and was well supported by his teammates.” While a bright orange lead out line is unlikely to be among the sights of this year’s Tour, Fernandez would be part of a squad that is capable of ensuring he arrives at the final kilometer with the field. After that, it would be up to him to look for the opportunity to snatch a surprise win.

Egoi Martinez - Dauphine Libere time trial. Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter

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