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Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel - Euskadi), mountains leader, before the start.
Euskaltel-Euskadi optimistic of strong showing
Basque squad Euskaltel-Euskadi has enjoyed another solid performance at this year's Tour de France and is confident of maintaining that momentum through the race's tough final week.
Egoi Martinez and Amets Txurruka have shown strong form during the hilly transitional stages of the past week, the former in 19th on the general classification, 5:37 behind race leader Alberto Contador. Txurruka, most combative rider at the 2007 Tour, lies in 43rd place, 21:18 off the pace.
Martinez has been at the front of the fight for the mountains classification, battling Liquigas' Franco Pellizotti for the polka dot jersey. He trails the Italian by a mere eight points and said during the rest day that he feels good, the day of respite coming at the perfect time for him to attack the final week.
Txurruka, meanwhile, has been prominent off the front of the field, looking to gain the attention of journalists to again receive the honour of being named the most aggressive rider throughout the three weeks of racing.
"We will continue to try and get into breakaways; it's one of the ways we can win a stage and provide resistance," Txurruka told Europa Press. "We must try again, hang in there. We're beginning to feel the fatigue, the stage to Verbier became very hard for me, but the rest day relieved much of the suffering," he explained.
Directeur sportif Igor González de Galdeano is understandably pleased with his team's efforts, saying that the team is, "having a good performance" because they are "very plugged into the race and the aggressive attitude of the group is remarkable."
González de Galdeano is no stranger to the Tour's machinations once the roads point skywards and explained that the time has come for the team to play its other card - Igor Anton. He finished 16th in the Verbier stage and lies in 65th overall, 41:49 behind Contador.
"Egoi's time in the jersey has been a nice prize but frankly, I think we deserve more and we'll work for it," continued González de Galdeano. "The team is good and has strong morale. Now the stages are complicated and we must play to our strengths. Igor Anton is coming and is a rider who has already won in big races such as the Vuelta a España, Tour de Romandie and Tour de Suisse," he added.