|The always excellent Belgian website "Velo-Club du Net" recently reported on the bunch of Spanish neopros who are going to make their debut in the peloton next year. No less than 17 new guys from the Iberian country will be competing against (often besides) the likes or Sevilla, Beloki, Freire and Galdeano. Although it's not that easy to have a decent "snapshot" of their chances and perspectives now, as many of them haven't raced that much in international ompetitions, "Velo Club" tried to make a small portrait of
most of these guys. To start from ...
Joseba Albizu: The 24-year-old from the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, set to make his debut with Italy's brand new Scanavino outfit, is one of the most promising climbers, also able to limit losses in the time trials. A possible GC threat indeed, as the results he got in 2002 (finished second overall in the Baby-Giro - a result that made him known to Italians and helped him to get a spot in the Scanavino ranks -, 4th in Vuelta a Navarra, but clinched victory at Vuelta a Tenerife) prove. Expect him to become a protagonist in stage races in the future ! The guy might also take part in the 2003 Giro d'Italia.
and to follow with ...
Alberto Contador: Being an excellent Time-Triallist, this 20-year-old from Madrid couldn't sign with any other team than Manolo Saiz' ONCE-Eroski, where he could even improve his time-trialling skills, which so far have earned him a Spanish National title. Actually he was already riding for an ONCE-related squad, Würth-ONCE, last year. Not a bad climber either (in July he also won the uphill TT into Santiagomendi ), the man could be another serious GC threat in stage races.
Unai Elorriaga:The 22-year-old Basque from Etxeberri (Bizkaia Province), U23 National Road Champion in 2002, will make his debut with another brand new team (in the professional cycling scene at least): Labarca 2-Baqué, after riding with the U23 Cafés Baque team in the last season too. One of the fastest wheels amongst young guns, in the past year he won no less than 12 races.
Dioni Galparsoro: Another Basque neo-pro, the 24-year-old from the town of Ataún will be wearing the orange jersey of Euskaltel-Euskadi. In 2002, while riding for Caja Rural de Navarra, he won 4 races (including the "Memorial Balentziaga") and took several other placings, also finishing 4th overall in the "Copa de España" ("Spanish Cup") competition reserved to young guns.
Hector Guerra: One more 24-year-old rider, set to begin his adventure in the pro cycling scene with the Relax team. A complete rider, Guerra claimed victory six times in the past season, including Volta a Tarragona (UCI 2.6), while he was runner-up in another stage race, Tour de Léon, where he took second in the ITT too. The man is from the Madrid area, and last year was riding for the Alcosto-Fuenlabrada squad.
Alberto Hierro: One more 24-year-old Spaniard (from Bilbao). Next year he'll be riding with Labarca 2-Cafés Baque. The guy also wore the Cafes Baque's jersey as Under 23 in the past season, when he was the overall winner of Vuelta a Navarra, ahead of the likes of Galparsoro, Urretxua and Albizu. Hierro is an excellent climber, also able to limit losses in the Time Trials.
José Antonio López: Not exactly one of the youngest neopros, the 26-year-old Andalusian from Málaga is one of iBanesto's new signings for 2003. A more than excellent sprinter, López got a record number of 15 wins in 2002, including the Overall Classification of Vuelta-Castilla La Mancha and stages at Ruta del Vino and Vuelta a Cartagena.
Francisco Gutiérrez: The 22-year-old is probably Spain's most fanmous neo-pro, due to the silver medal he got at the Zolder World Championships, behind Italy's "Fast Francesco" Chicchi. Not just a pure sprinter, but rather a complete rider, Gutiérrez won 10 competitions in the 2002 season, including the "Copa de España", a well-deserved prize for his regularity. He had outstanding performances in the Vuelta a Navarra too, where he won the Individual Time Trial, and took 5th in the "queen stage", showing some
good climbing legs. Gutiérrez also was bronze medallist (behind Contador and Cobo) in Spain's ITT Championships last year. In 2003 he'll be wearing the Labarca 2-Cafés Baque jersey.
Other Spanish neo-pros for 2003 are:
* Christian Climent (25 - Barbot)
* José M. Elías (Relax)
* David López (21 - Labarca 2-Cafés Baque)
* Francisco Palacios (24 - Labarca 2-Cafés Baque)
* Juan Olmo (24 - Barbot)
* Luis Pasamontes (22 - Relax)
* Pablo de Pedro (22 - Barbot)
* Julián Sánchez (22 - Fassa Bortolo)
* Ricardo Serrano (24 - Labarca 2-Cafés Baqué)
Thanks again to the Velo-Club du Net site.