Euskaltel - Euskadi's Amets Txurruka was welcomed in Urbino like a son returning home at the start of stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia. The 29-year-old Basque rider told Cyclingnews why: "In September 2003, I moved here to study for four months with the Erasmus program. I have fond memories of training in this area." The Marche region is known as one of the most scenic in Italy.
"I would have liked to have broken away precisely on this stage that suited my characteristics," mentioned Txurruka who got his university degree in sport science. "Unfortunately, I had a bad crash during the team time trial. Two riders touched each other in front of me and I was the one to fall off. I injured my back." Euskaltel also had a puncture at the beginning of the 33-km long course around Verona. That partially explains why the Basque team finished dead last that day.
It put Euskaltel's team leader Mikel Nieve in 141st position, 3:23 down on Ramunas Navardauskas at the start of stage 6.
"Since his crash at the Volta Catalunya where he injured his thigh, Mikel has had some troubles coming back to his level, it has stopped him for a while but he should be fine for the third week of the Giro," Txurruka said. "We ride completely for him on GC. He has usually ridden the Grand Tours alongside Igor Anton who is not here this time [after crashing in the neutral zone of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, although the Giro wasn't on the schedule for last year's winner up the Monte Zoncolan in any case]. But Mikel is absolutely mature enough to lead the team by himself. He has finished in the top ten of the three Grand Tours he did in the past two years."
Nieve was 11th at the 2010 Vuelta a España, 10th at the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España in 2011. His ambitions on GC don't restrict Euskaltel from taking part in the breakaways, as they normally do at Grand Tours. Txurruka was awarded as the most aggressive rider in the 2007 Tour de France.
"My way of racing has become more structured with age," the Basque rider explained. "But my fighting spirit remains the same. Anytime I get the opportunity, I'll break away again."