Basque riders David Etxebarria (Liberty Seguros) and Igor Astarloa (Barloworld-Valsir) have both had fairly quiet years, with neither seeming able to regain the form that saw Etxebarria win two Tour de France stages in 1999 and Astarloa win the 2003 world championship.
In an interview with cyclismag, both riders conceded their 2005 seasons had been less than stellar. "I started the season well," said Etxebarria who won the GP Primavera in April, "but finished less than average." Astarloa, whose case of the 'curse of the rainbow jersey seems to have lasted far longer than the usual year, said he has broken his wrist at the Classic Haribo. After two months off the bike, Astarloa said he was unable to get back into the rhythm of racing, though he did win a stage of the Vuelta a Burgos in August.
Both riders said they were hoping for better things in 2006. Etxebarria will target the early season classics, "the Amstel, Fleche and Liege, but I will also chase wins at the Tour of the Basque Country, that is important for me. And of course I will try for as many points as possible in the ProTour."
Astarloa is looking forward to a return to the very top level in 2006 with the Lampre - Fondital team. "With my new team I will be able to take part in all of the races of the ProTour, which was not the case this year with Barloworld," he said. "My objective will be the Classics, as early as Milan-San Remo. But before I look to do well in the final classification of the ProTour it's is necessary for me to look for a victory. After that, the rest will come naturally. To win a classic would really be the best!"
As for the grand tours, Etxebarria said he already knows he will not be part of Liberty Seguros' squad for the Tour de France. "I will do the classics in August and the Tour of Germany," he said.
Astarloa is optimistic. "Lampre - Fondital will have to ride the three big tours and it is foreseen that I will do some of them. But again nothing has been decided [for definite].