Euskaltel headed towards home turf

Mikel Astarloza feels at home in the mountains.

Mikel Astarloza feels at home in the mountains. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

With the Pyrenees coming up on the Tour de France route this weekend, the Basque team of Euskaltel-Euskadi will be gearing up to ride into the limelight on its home roads. Already present in the break en route to Barcelona with young gun Amets Txurruka on Thursday, and in Friday's escape with Egoi Martinez, the orange squad's most important Tour days are coming up.

"For us, the next days in the Pyrenees are really important," the team's leader Mikel Astarloza told Cyclingnews. "All of our supporters are waiting for us now, and that makes it very special. We will try to show ourselves and go for results, be that a stage win or a good placing for the general classification for myself."

Astarloza is the team's captain, aiming at a good overall result. He finished ninth in the Tour last year, and hoped to be up with the best once again. "I feel well," he said. "Compared to the other overall contenders, everything is fine for the moment."

Astarloza crashed twice in Thursday's rainy and slippery stage to Barcelona, and was afraid this might be a disadvantage on the way to Arcalís today. "I knew it was going to be a dangerous stage for me today. I hurt all over... But I'm happy as I managed to get through it quite well and didn't lose a lot of time. I'm not very far away of the favourites." He finished 26th in Andorra and now sits in 32nd position on the general classification.

Still, he was hopeful with respect to the other leaders. "We saw that some of the leaders were very strong, and other lost some time. I begin to assess my rivals. Within the GC guys, I'm average. There are the real favourites in front of me, and some other favourites behind me. Everything is still possible."

The Euskaltel squad rode the stages through the Pyrenees one month ago, and "knows all the roads really well."

"I want to achieve a good overall placing, and maybe win a stage. But more importantly, I want to take advantage of very single opportunity that I'll get in this Tour, because they are so rare. And have a good time, every day!"

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