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Stage winner Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) on the podium.
Recent wins boost Basque squad, high hopes for Anton at Fléche Wallonne
Things haven’t run too smoothly so far this season for Euskaltel boss Igor González de Galdeano. Heading into April his team was winless and had no fewer than eight riders sidelined by injury – a serious setback for team that has little strength in depth. However, three victories in key races during the last couple of weeks on the back of some impressive performances have lifted both Galdeano and his team’s spirits as they look ahead to the next couple of months.
The headliners for Euskaltel have been Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez, who won the iconic Alto de Arrate stage in the Tour of the Basque Country and the GP Amorebieta also in the team’s home region, Igor Anton, winner at the Morredero summit finish ahead of Alberto Contador and second overall in the Vuelta a Castilla y León, and Beñat Intxausti, who finished third overall in the Basque Country and continues to emerge as one of the squad’s leading performers.
"The team was riding well and I knew that sooner or later the results were going to come. The truth is that the riders have put us back on track and done so with results that were particularly significant," Galdeano told El Diario Vasco. With rumours of sponsorship problems still hanging over the Basque squad, the strong showing by Sánchez and Intxausti at the Tour of the Basque Country was extremely significant given the importance of that event to the squad.
"Were we concerned? No we weren’t, and we weren’t nervous either because we could see the team was at a good level and that wins would come after a matter of time. It’s also hard for us to win races, that’s not new, and for that reason when they do come you can feel everyone relax a bit. We would only have had a problem if we could see that people weren’t riding well," said Galdeano.
The Euskaltel boss is now looking ahead to the second part of his team’s season. "Samuel [Sánchez] will rest until the Dauphiné Libéré. We’re going to be counting heavily on him with regard to the Tour de France. So responsibility for leading team now falls on Igor Anton and Beñat Intxausti. We’ve got a lot of expectation about what Igor will do in Fléche Wallonne, where he will be supported by Egoi Martínez, Alan Pérez and Juanjo Oroz," said Galdeano.
Beyond the Ardennes Classics, Anton will lead the team at the Tour of Romandy, with Intxausti playing the same role at the GP Llodio, Vuelta a la Rioja and Vuelta a Asturias.
As well as his team’s winning run, the other major fillip for Galdeano has been the performance of the team’s younger riders. "As well as Beñat Intxausti, we’ve have also seen Gorka Izagirre, Romain Sicard and Jonathan Castroviejo doing well. We’re very happy with them. They are riding top level races and are putting down good foundations for the future."
Of world under-23 champion Sicard, Galdeano added: "He’s coped well in the ProTour races. In Paris-Nice he showed he had a good level. But we’re happy with all of them. They need time but the foundations they have are very solid."