Could do a lot better was the end of season report on the Euskaltel team, and DS Julian Gorospe is hPICTURE BY TDWSPORT.COM Although 2004 didn't turn out to be the huge success that the Euskaltel team had been expecting, the squad did enough to qualify for the ProTour and directeur sportif Julian Gorospe is now planning how he will play his main cards during the 2005 season. His aces are the by now well-established Basque heroes, Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia, new signing Aitor Gonzalez and the perennially promising Samuel Sanchez, who got his first pro win at the Montjuich hill-climb right at the end of last season. Mayo was the most disappointing of the team's riders last season. A storming success at the Dauphin Libr in June promised a huge amount for the Tour, but a crash on the cobbles in the opening days and plunging morale eventually saw the talented climber pull out of the race before it had reached the Alps, where he had been expected to shine. This coming season, Mayo and co-leader Zubeldia, who also flopped at the Tour, will be eased more gently into competition. Interviewed by El Diario Vasco, Gorospe is planning for the pair to get kilometres in their legs early in the season without pushing hard for wins as has tended to be the case in the past when qualification for the Tour de France was not assured. Mayo will start his 2005 campaign at Tirreno-Adriatico and will again ride the Tour of the Basque Country and some of the spring Classics. However, he could well miss out on defending his Dauphin title and opt instead to ride the Tour of Catalonia, and build to the Tour from there. Zubeldia is set to follow a similar path, and Gorospe is expecting to field much the same riders at the Tour as he did last year. As well as Mayo and Zubeldia, he is counting on Unai Etxebarria, Egoi Martinez, I¤igo Landaluze, Mikel Artetxe, Iker Cama¤o and new signing Gonzalez. "We have a clear idea of what we want to do, hoping that Iban is at the same level as two years ago. If things go very badly again, we would perhaps rethink the team for the Vuelta." For the moment, Gonzalez is set to lead Euskaltel there, clearly with the aim of repeating his 2002 victory in the event. Gorospe made clear that Gonzalez is not for the moment expected to lead the team at the Tour, nor the Giro. Responsibility for leadership at the latter will fall on Samuel Sanchez. "He will start racing at Paris-Nice with the idea of going well in the Classics and then easing off a little so that he can regain his condition for the Giro. He is really keen about doing the Italian race," said Gorospe, who will be making his debut as a directeur sportif there.