New era at Basque team starts with the departure of popular domestique
Five seasons after becoming the first rider from the Euskaltel-Euskadi team to finish on the Tour de France podium when he claimed the prize as the 2007 edition's most aggressive rider, Amets Txurruka has been told that he is surplus to requirements by the Basque squad. According to a story in Basque daily Deia, the 29-year-old domestique received the news in a phone call from returning team manager Igor González de Galdeano.
Deia reports that the primary reason for the termination of Txurruka's six-year link with the team is his lack of WorldTour points. Having been reappointed to the position he left at the end of 2011 by the recently established management company that will run the team from next season, González de Galdeano's main priority initially is to ensure Euskaltel's continued presence in the WorldTour. This is certain to depend on the signing of non-Basque riders who have WorldTour points. Consequently, some established names are being released to accommodate the as yet unidentified new arrivals.
As Deia points out in a vigorous defence of Txurruka's position and status within the Euskaltel team, the WorldTour points system penalises domestiques, those riders who do the essential legwork for bigger names. It points out that Txurruka rode all three grand tours this season in support of Euskaltel's leaders. He finished 42nd at the Giro, where he supported Mikel Nieve, crashed out of the Tour in the first week when he broke his collar-bone for the fourth time in three years, then returned at the Vuelta, where he finished 30th as one of the key aides to Igor Antón.
Iván Velasco, who finished four places ahead of Txurruka at the Vuelta, is also reported to have suffered the same fate. Both now face the prospect of finding new teams at what is a very late stage in the season. Neither man can offer any prospective employer any WorldTour points.
So far, Euskaltel have confirmed that a dozen riders have re-signed with the team for next season: Samuel Sánchez, Antón, Nieve, the Izagirre brothers, Mikel Landa, Romain Sicard, Egoi Martínez, Pello Bilbao, Ricardo García and Adrián Sáez de Arregi.
Deia says that González de Galdeano is also negotiating with Gorka Verdugo, Tour of Britain stage-winner Pablo Urtasun, Mikel Astarloza, Rubén Pérez, Alan Pérez, Jorge Azanza, Juan José Oroz, Miguel Mínguez and Pierre Cazaux.