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Euskal Bizikleta - 2.1
Spain, June 2-6, 2004
By Martin Hardie
The 2004 edition of the Euskal Bizikleta (Bicicleta Vasca/Basque Bicycle) kicks off on Wednesday, June 2 and covers a total of 703.7 kms through the Basque provinces of Gipuzkoa, Bizkaia and Araba with brief excursions into the neighbouring Spanish communities of Cantabria and Burgos. The race, known by this moniker since 1991 when it was taken by Gianni Bugno, has a history stretching back to 1941 in the form of the Subida a Arrate or the Bicicleta Eibarresa.
Like its cousin the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Euskal Bizikleta is known for its 'rolling' terrain. In fact if anything the Bizikleta contains more classified climbs and of a higher category than the Vuelta. All of the stages include their fair share of difficulties for the riders.
Stage 1 starts in Eibar and crosses the cat. 3 climbs of the Areitio and the Aretxabalgane as it passes through central Bizkaia towards the Encartaciones region of that province with its sinuous roads winding through valleys and a succession of nasty cat. 3's, the Garate, San Kosme, Umaran and La Escrita before the final ascent of the cat. 1 Ubal from where it is a fast 9 kilometres downhill to the finish line.
Stage 2 might be called the race's flat stage! La Escrita is encountered early on followed by the Altube (both Cat. 3) midway through the race. After having reached the plateau that forms the majority of the province of Araba, the race heads across the Llano to the finish at Agurain. We might even see a bunch sprint on this stage.
Stage 3 drops down the puerto of Arlaban into Gipuzkoa and from there follows the Deba valley and crosses two cat. 2's Deskarga and Mandubia and the Cat. 3 Astiria before a final loop over two cat 1.'s Urraki and Santa Ageda.
Stage 4a is a short one from Guipuzkoa into Bizkaia, and after crossing the cat. 3 Kanpanzar, races through Elorrio to the finish in David Etxebarria and Mikel Zarrabeitia's home town of Abadiño.
Stage 4b follows that afternoon with a 14.9 km time trial around a circuit which is part of the regular training route for nearly every cyclist from this part of Bizkaia, staring in Ellorrio it skirts the lower slopes and valleys of the mythical mountain of Anboto with its grey rocky face hanging over the entire course. The route follows the scenic (the area is known as the little Switzerland of Bizkaia) dead road up what doesn't seem to be a steep road but somehow always leaves the rider gasping for breath as its crests past the pelota fronton (Basque handball court) in Axpe. From here there is a fast, winding downhill with a sharp left hander at the bottom which then takes the riders on a quick line to the finish in Abadiño four kilometres down the road.
Stage 5 is the traditional queen stage of the Bizikleta. Starting at the studios of the national broadcaster EITB, it seems to cross every climb you might want to avoid on a casual day out on the bike as it passes from Bizkaia back to Guipuzkoa and its final summit atop Arrate. In all the stage includes the cat. 3 San Trokaz, Trabukua and Arreitio, the cat. 2 Elgeta and San Miguel (which has a nasty, nasty descent) and two crossings of the cat. 1 Ixua, the cat. 1 Usartza and the traditional finish at top of the cat. 1 Arrate. This stage is the day in which the race leader battles to hold on to his advantage as the others try and dethrone him across the succession of painful ascents.
The nature of the course and the fact that it falls at the beginning of June ensures that it is always a testing ground for those that aspire to show themselves in France during the following month. One such aspirant, Roberto Heras, has put us on notice that the Bizikleta will be his first serious outing of the season as he eyes his main encounters of the year, the Tour and the Vuelta a España. We won't have the opportunity of a head to head assessment of Heras and Mayo this week, but there are a number of others who should provide an adequate measure for the diminutive Spanish rider who is out to calmly but surely switch roles from Armstrong's helper to team leader in his own right.
Of the local brigade, riders who may be in contention in one way or another include Haimar Zubeldia, Joseba Beloki, David and Unai Etxebarria, Aitor Osa, Jonathan González, David Herrero, Peio Arreitunandia, Koldo Gil, Igor Astarloa, David Latasa, Jon Odriozola and Alberto Martínez. In fact one in four of the participants this year's edition hails from the Basque country - itself a testimony to the strength and size of the Basque peloton. One of them, Haimar Zubeldia might take the opportunity to come out of the shadow cast by his teammate Mayo who will be in France this week. But along with Heras the foreign legion might be well represented by riders such as Sylvain Chavanel, Toni Colom, Miguel A. Martin Perdiguero and Leonardo Piepoli.
Euskaltel-Euskadi Costa De Almeria-Paternina 1 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) 11 Ion Del Rio (Spa) 2 David Etxebarria (Spa) 12 Mikel Elgezabal (Spa) 3 Unai Etxebarria (Ven) 13 Lander Euba (Spa) 4 Gorka Gonzalez (Spa) 14 Francisco José Lara (Spa) 5 Roberto Laiseka (Spa) 15 Jonathan Gonzalez (Spa) 6 Alberto Lopez De Munain (Spa) 16 David Herrero (Spa) 7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) 17 Joaquin Lopez (Spa) 8 Joseba Zubeldia (Spa) 18 Jokin Ormaetxea (Spa) Brioches La Boulangere Lampre 21 Joseba Beloki (Spa) 31 Igor Astarloa (Spa) 22 Gorka Beloki (Spa) 32 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) 23 Anthony Charteau (Fra) 33 Sergio Barbero (Ita) 24 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) 34 Simone Bertoletti (Ita) 25 Christophe Kern (Fra) 35 Matteo Carrara (Ita) 26 Didier Rous (Fra) 36 Marco Pinotti (Ita) 27 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) 37 Michele Scotto (Ita) 28 Unai Yus (Spa) 38 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Illes Balears-Banesto Fassa Bortolo 41 José Luis Arrieta (Spa) 52 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) 42 Jose Antonio Lopez Gil (Spa) 53 Tom Danielson (USA) 43 Xabier Zandio (Spa) 54 Mauro Facci (Ita) 44 Pablo Lastras (Spa) 55 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) 46 Aitor Osa (Spa) 56 Roberto Petito (Ita) 47 Unai Osa (Spa) 57 Julián Sanchez (Spa) 48 Mikel Pradera (Spa) Liberty Seguros Team L.P.R.-Piacenza Management SRL 61 Roberto Heras (Spa) 71 Aitor Hernandez (Spa) 62 René Andrle (Cze) 72 Elio Aggiano (Ita) 63 Carlos Barredo (Spa) 73 Daniele Masolino (Ita) 64 Koldo Gil (Spa) 74 Daniele Contrini (Ita) 65 Alvaro Glez. Galdeano (Spa) 75 Luca Nardello (Ita) 66 Javier Ramirez (Spa) 76 Dimitri Konyshev (Rus) 67 Marcos Serrano (Spa) 77 Mauro Santanbrogio (Ita) 68 Angel Vicioso (Spa) 78 Claudio Lucchini (Ita) Cafes Baque Saunier Duval-Prodir 81 Peio Arreitunandia (Spa) 91 Juan Carlos Dominguez (Spa) 82 Hernan Buenahora (Col) 92 Rafael Casero (Spa) 83 Felix Cardenas (Col) 93 Ruben Lobato (Spa) 84 Unai Elorriaga (Spa) 94 David De La Fuente (Spa) 85 Alberto Hierro (Spa) 95 M.A. Martin Perdiguero (Spa) 86 Francisco Palacio (Spa) 96 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) 87 Aitor Perez (Spa) 97 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) 88 Ricardo Serrano (Spa) 98 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Milaneza Maia Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 102 Paulo Barroso (Por) 111 Daniel Atienza (Spa) 103 Txema Del Olmo (Spa) 112 Iñigo Cuesta (Spa) 104 Angel Edo (Spa) 113 Peter Farazjin (Bel) 105 Bruno Pires (Por) 114 Cedric Vasseur (Fra) 106 Lizuarte Manuel Martins (Por) 115 Dmitri Fofonov (Kaz) 107 Hugo Sabido (Por) 116 Luis Perez (Spa) 108 Renato Silva (Por) 117 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme Relax-Bodysol 123 Eladio Jimenez (Spa) 131 Nacor Burgos (Spa) 124 David Latasa (Spa) 132 Gustavo Cesar (Spa) 125 Jon Odriozola (Spa) 133 Gustavo Dominguez (Spa) 126 Antonio Olmo (Spa) 134 Hector Guerra (Spa) 127 Ivan Parra (Col) 135 Alberto Martinez (Spa) 128 Rubén Plaza (Spa) 136 Ivan Mayoz (Spa) 138 Luis Perez Romero (Spa) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo 141 Paolo Longo (Ita) 151 Alexandr Arekeev (Rus) 142 Marco Cavallari (Ita) 152 Claudio Astolfi (Ita) 143 Luca Celli (Ita) 153 Alessandro D'andrea (Ita) 144 Giampaolo Cheula (Ita) 154 Valery Kobzarenko (Ukr) 145 Marco Gili (Ita) 155 Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita) 147 Roberto Sgambelluri (Ita) 156 Kyrylo Pospyeyev (Ukr) 148 Giulio Tomi (Ita) 158 Gerhard Trampusch (Aut)
2003 Jose Antonio Pecharroman (Spa) Paternina-Costa de Almeria 2002 Mikel Zarrabeitia (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 2001 Juan Carlos Domínguez Domínguez (Spa) iBanesto.com 2000 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1999 David Etxeberria Alkorta (Spa) ONCE-Deutsche Bank 1998 Abraham Olano (Spa) Banesto 1997 Abraham Olano (Spa) Banesto 1996 Miguel Indurain (Spa) Banesto 1995 Jewgeni Berzin (Rus) Gewiss 1994 Stefano Della-Santa (Ita) Mapei 1993 Pjotr Ugrumow (Lat) Mecair 1992 Franco Chioccioli (Ita) GB-MG Boys 1991 Gianni Bugno (Ita) Château d'Ax Previously : Criterium de Côte d'Arrate (1941-1990) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com