The storyline for team Euskaltel Euskadi is pretty damn simple: the only one who really matters here is Samuel Sanchez and for Sam San he has a big window of opportunity at the edition of the Tour and if he doesn't grab it he'll probably never get another real chance. Below is the Euski team listed and on the jump we'll talk about why its all Sammy all the time for this team, the personal stakes that are on the line for him and how much of a chance he has. First the team:
- Samuel Sanchez age 34 years
- Egoi Martinez, 34
- Gorka Verdugo, 34
- Ruben Perez, 31
- Mikel Astraloza, 33
- Pablo Urtasun, 31
- Gorka Izagirre, 24
- Jorge Azanza, 30
- Amets Txurruka, 30
Okay a couple quick items about the team, sans Sam San:
- I listed each rider's age to make the point that this team is built for now. We don't know all the teams yet but this team is probably the oldest team in the Tour peloton this year. Most of these guys will be out of racing in 3-4, save Gorka Izagirre (brother of Giro stage winner Ion) and the immensely talented Samu, because there just aren't many 35 year old domestiques are there? (Yes, you no doubt will now name a couple but that's it-those old domestiques are the exceptions that prove the rule.) So this year-maybe next year-this old gang will be be broken up forever. Appreciate them while it lasts.
- The other thing is that these helpers of Samu will almost undoubtedly not be present when crunch time comes in the mountains. We will see these guys in two places with one of them being much more likely: they will be well represented in the many ill-fated breakaways, and if if IF Samu take the GC lead they wil be there to lead the peloton-until the going gets real tough. When that happens-Business Time!-they will be long gone. If Samu is to make an impact on this race, he'll do it with little assistance from his teammates.
- That said I understand why Eskaltel is not sending Nieve and Anton to help him. They'd not be a real threat what with all these time trial miles and neither one is a sure thing on any course. Better those two combine forces in the climb-ier Vuelta. Then Sanchez can concentrate on the Worlds RR where the Spanish team, the core of which is already announced to be Sanchez, Valverde, J-Rod, Contador, Freire, and Rojas, on a very hilly course stand a very good chance.
Samuel Gonzalez Sanchez
As I just noted, Sam San is 34 this year so the clock is ticking on his ability to make a TdF podium or produce an upset win like Carlos Sastre did in 2008 at age 33. You never know when an aging GC rider loses that special little bit extra where he goes from GC heavyweight to afterthought to retired until its already happened. Sastre retired only three years after winning the Tour. Guys like Menchov, Leipheimer, Evans, Basso, Scarponi, Kloden, Horner: some have already slipped; all eventually will succumb.
- 6th overall at Murcia
- 2nd overall at Catalunya where he might have won if the queen stage hadn't been snowed out.
- 1st at Pais Vasco
- two 7th place finishes at Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege