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An interview with David Etxebarria - Part 1

Euskaltel-Euskadi's hard man

In the first part of this special interview, Euskatel-Euskadi's hard man David Etxebarria explains to Cyclingnews correspondent Martin Hardie the reason behind the creation of the "Euskaltel animal", what it means to be from the Basque country, and why it's useful to know more than one language - especially at dinner time. Thanks to Maria Retegi from Orbea for helping with this story.

[This interview is available in both English and Spanish. The English version follows, with the Spanish words here - Ed]

David Etxebarria
Photo: © Sirotti

David Etxebarria Alkorta

Date of Birth: 23/07/1973
Place of Birth: Abadiño (Vizcaya)
Height: 1.64m
Weight: 60kg
Turned pro: 1995
Teams: ONCE, ONCE-Deutsche Bank, Euskaltel-Euskadi
Victories: 25


Grand Tours

2001 Euskaltel-Euskadi

2nd Stage 9, Tour de France
2nd Stage 16, Vuelta a España
5th Stage 2, Vuelta a España
5th Stage 12, Tour de France
6th Stage 7, Tour de France
10th Stage 18, Vuelta a España
11th Stage 6, Tour de France
34th GC, Tour de France

1999 ONCE-Deutsche Bank

1st Stages 10, 16 Tour de France

Other placings

2002 Euskaltel-Euskadi

1st Stage 4a, Euskal Bizikleta
1st Stage 5a and 5b, Vuelta Al Pais Vasco
2nd GC, Vuelta Al Pais Vasco
2nd Stage 3, Euskal Bizikleta
2nd Stage 5, Setmana Catalana
3rd Stage 1, Setmana Catalana
3rd Classica Primavera
2nd Stage 4, Vuelta a Murcia
3rd Stage 4, Vuelta Al Pais Vasco
4th Stage 1, Vuelta Al Pais Vasco
4th Stage 2, Vuelta a Murcia
5th Euskal Bizikleta
6th Stage 2, Vuelta Al Pais Vasco
8th La Flèche Wallonne
8th Stage 2, Euskal Bizikleta
9th Stage 4, Setmana Catalana

2001 Euskaltel-Euskadi

1st Stage 3, Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana
2nd Stage 3, Vuelta Al Pais Vasco
2nd G.P. Miguel Indurain
3rd Stage 5, Vuelta Al Pais Vasco
3rd Liège-Bastogne-Liège
4th Stage 5,, GC, Vuelta Al Pais Vasco
5th La Flèche Wallonne

2000 ONCE-Deutsche Bank

1st Stage 2, Euskal Bizikleta
1st Stage 3, Vuelta a Galicia
2nd Liège-Bastogne-Liège
2nd Euskal Bizikleta
2nd Vuelta a Galicia
3rd G.P. Villafranca

1999 ONCE-Deutsche Bank

1st GC, Euskal Bizikleta
2nd Stage 3, Euskal Bizikleta
2nd G.P. Miguel Indurain
3rd Stage 4, contrareloj Euskal Bizikleta
3rd Stage 5, cronoescalada Vuelta al País Vasco
3rd Clasica de Los Alpes
3rd G.P. Primavera

1998 ONCE-Deutsche Bank

1st Stage 1, París-Niza
1st Stages 1, 2 Vuelta al Alentejo
2nd Stage 4, Vuelta al Alentejo
3rd Stage 3, Vuelta a Andalucía
3rd Clasica de Alcobendas

1997 ONCE

1st Stage 6, Vuelta a Suiza
1st Stage 3, Vuelta a los Valles Mineros
2nd Stage 2, Vuelta a los Valles Mineros
2nd Clásica de Sabiñánigo
3rd Vuelta a Andalucía
3rd Campeonato de España
3rd Stage 4, Vuelta a Andalucía
3rd G.P. Navarra
7th GC, Challenge de Mallorca
7th G.P. de Llodio
8th GC, Tour de Luxemburgo
8th Subida a Urkiola
8th Circuito de Getxo

1996 ONCE

1st GC, Vuelta a Cuenca
1st Stages 1, 2, and GC, Trofeo Luis Ocaña
1st GC, Tour del Porvenir
1st Stage 3, Vuelta a Asturias
1st Stage 7,, Tour del Porvenir
1st G.P. de Llodio
1st GC, Montaña G.P. de Llodio
2nd Stage 4,, Mountains Classification, Tour del Porvenir
3rd Stage 5, Vuelta a Asturias
3rd Stage 4,, 9, 10 Tour del Porvenir
3rd Stage 3, Guillermo Tell
5th Clásica de Alcobendas
6th G.P. de Getxo
6th Vuelta a los Puertos
8th GC, Bicicleta Vasca
9th Clásica Almería
9th GC, Vuelta a La Rioja
9th GC, Vuelta a Galicia
10th GC, Vuelta a Asturias

1995 ONCE

1st Neoprofesional G.P. Navarra
1st Neoprofesional Vuelta a La Rioja
1st Stage 4, Tour del Porvenir
3rd Clásica de Alcobendas
4th Clásica de Zamudio
4th G.P. Navarra
6th Stage 6,, Bay Cycling Classic

Euskaltel Euskadi is a rare animal in the modern world of professional sport.

Firstly, it is a team that is "owned" by a club or foundation, in so far as its has members or "socios" who pay to join the club. The only similar situation in professional cycling is the young Australian team IteamNova, formed by a group of Australian cyclists and supporters, and who are now funded through membership subscriptions and commmercial sponsorship.

Second, EE appears to be a national team or a team based upon a national group, as their riders are not all from the Euskal Herria region - notably Samuel Sanchez (born in Asturias), the Flores brothers (Navarra region) and Unai Etxebarria (Venezuala - no relation to David E) - but even they have obvious Basque links. In this respect, there are common similarities between EE and the equally parochial Basque football club Athletico Bilbao.

Cyclingnews: Can you tell us why Euskaltel Euskadi was formed? Who had the idea to create the team and was it decided that there was a need for a Basque cycling team?

David Etxebarria: Euskaltel Euskadi was created to foster the image of amateur cycling in the Euskadi, which has always had a lot of fans and the project was seen as viable one to promote. It was Miguel Madariaga [the President of the Foundation Euskadi, EE's "club"] and the former member of the Basque Parliament, Señor Pradera, who through the Basque Government initiated the project. The reason was to give an opportunity for the projection of Basque values.

CN: I recall that you once said something like: "ONCE was not the happy family it was thought to be." Is EE a happy family, and what is the atmosphere in the team like? How do you all relate to each other and relieve the tension that inevitably arises when you are in close company and under pressure?

Unai's like family, but not a blood brother
Photo: © Sirotti

DE: Yes, during the two years I have been in the team we have all got on well. The atmosphere is very good; to be all from the same region, having the same way of thinking, these things make it very easy for us to get on well together. The pressures that you face as a pro also depends on one's age and if they have ridden before in another team. Only a few can endure it. The older members of the team like to take the mickey out of each other and the younger ones are more impatient.

CN: Unfortunately, Euskadi recives a lot of bad coverage in the press - there have been many things written about the distortion by the press of the Basque people and their situation. For me the Basque country has become my second home. To you and the to EE what does it mean to be a Basque person?

DE: To be Basque is to be proud of one's country, one's people and one's culture. It is not necessary to be born here to be Basque, but that you feel Basque.

CN: What are the qualities of Basque people and the Basque country that you might think are lost in the political cross fire?

DE: In this political war we have lost our linguistic culture and also there has been a distortion of what it is to be Basque.

CN: When the Lehendakari (the Basque word for President, the Lehendarkari being Juan Jose Ibaretxe) refers to the Basque Country as "this country" or "our country", is this how you and your friends think - that Euskadi is like a country within a country?

DE: We do not think of Euskadi as a country within another country [Spain], but like a country within the world. Ninety nine percent of the team thinks this way and it is for this reason they are in the team.

CN: What role does sport gernally play in the Basque way of life? Traditional sports, pelota, cycling and others?

DE: Sport is a part of Basque culture, and also the suffering and sacrifice it has more influence, is more deeply rooted than in other cultures. It is because of the repression through which we have lived.

CN: Why do you think the Basque country has produced so many great cyclists? Who do you admire the most from the history of Basque cycling and why?

DE: I suppose because we have many fans, many riders commence and of these riders come some great cyclists. There are many riders that I admire and from different epochs. For example, before my time there was Lorono, a rider that alot of people still talk about; in my time, we had Julian Gorospe and Marino Lejarreta. I admire them a lot, and the rivalry that arose between these two caused support for cycling to rise.

CN: Of the current riders, not just those in EE, who do you think has the most potential?

DE: There are many that have a lot of potential, mainly the young people. For example, David Millar is a great rider - maybe not for the grand tours but for the Classics; Oscar Freire is another great rider.

CN: On Christmas Day last year I went for a walk to Axpe; it was a cold day and I was watching some boys play, thinking about what I would be eating for lunch when I heard some bikes coming up the hill: it was you, Zarra [Mikel Zarrabeitia] and some others training. I used to train on Christamas day because I had nothing better to do at the time. Is there anytime you don't train?

DE: We nearly always train but have a time from the middle of October to the middle of November when we rest. Anyway to stop training doesn't mean to say that you forget about the bike, you still have to make sacrifices, like watching what you eat.

CN: It is well known that you and Zarra are neighbours and training partners - who else do you train with?

DE: I also train with Unai Arrizabalaga, [Iban] Mayo, [Pedro] Horrillo and Unai Etxebarria.

CN: Where else do you train around Abadino, and where are you favourite places to ride and train in Euskadi?

DE: Around Abadino and the Durango district, also around the coast of Lekeitio, Ondarroa, Montecalvo and Umbe - there are many places that are great for training in Euskadi.

CN: I noticed that when you were training you were speaking Euskera. What is the language of EE on the road - does it vary - and do you find it useful to be able to communicate in a language unkown to others when you race?

DE: We speak Euskera and Castellano, depending on who you are talking to; for example, I speak Euskera with Haimar [Zubeldia] and Unai and Castellano with [Roberto] Laiseka and [Alberto] Martinez. I find it useful, particularly when we talk about the wind if there is someone in the team who is planning an escape. I also find it useful at dinner when I want to talk about the people from other teams and I don't want them to listen!

An interview with David Etxebarria - Part 2


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