The Euskaltel-Euskadi team has confirmed its line-up of nine riders for this year’s Tour de France. The team will be led by Olympic road race champion Samuel Sánchez. Joining him on the start line in Rotterdam on July 3 will be Egoi Martínez, Iván Velasco, Juanjo Oroz, Alan Pérez, Rubén Pérez, Gorka Verdugo, Amets Txurruka and Iñaki Isasi. Aitor Hernández has been named as the reserve rider. It will be the Basque team’s 10th appearance at the Tour de France.
Team manager Igor González de Galdeano has said that the team’s principal goals are a stage win and a high overall finish for Sánchez, who finished sixth place in Paris the last time he rode the Tour in 2008. “Winning a Tour stage has been one of the priorities we’re focusing on. We’ve been preparing for this for a year now,” said Galdeano.
The Basque team will be aiming to put the disappointment of last year’s Tour de France behind them. Mikel Astarloza won the Alpine stage into Bourg St Maurice, but it was subsequently revealed that he had tested positive for EPO in a random dope test undertaken just before the start of the Tour. Now banned, Astarloza is likely to be formally stripped of that victory.
Galdeano took several of his riders to inspect the cobbled sections of the Tour stage into Arenberg to give them a taste of what they face during stage three on July 6. Having experienced the cobbles, if only in training, Galdeano insists his riders are not at all afraid of what they are up against. “What we have to ensure is that we don’t fall and we don’t lose time. We don’t want any mishaps,” he said.
Galdeano admits that his riders will be particularly motivated during the four Pyrenean stages, when the mountain roads are sure to be packed with thousands of orange-clad Basque fans.
His Tour selections also suggest that Eusktaltel’s line-up for the Vuelta will be extremely powerful, with Igor Anton, Beñat Intxausti, Pablo Urtasun and world under-23 champion Romain Sicard all being saved for Spain’s national Tour.