Three months into the inaugural ProTour and only two of its 20 teams are still without a win. Both a
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Three months into the ProTour and only two of the 20 teams in the elite series are still without a win: Saunier Duval and Euskaltel. But, the two winless Spanish teams couldn’t have performed much more differently this season – Saunier have 11 second places to their credit, while Euskaltel have only been notable for their almost complete anonymity.
Both go into this weekend’s Giro d’Italia hoping for a change of fortune. Saunier boss Josean Fernandez Matxin believes his team is due a win before too much longer, telling AS: “We’ve been on the attack and it’s not worked out for us. We had five wins at this stage of last season, and this year our planning has gone well. The riders have done well, but they’ve lacked a little bit of punch needed to achieve the wins we’ve been praying for.” Matxin describes his team’s attitude going into the Giro as “not nervous yet, but the situation isn’t pleasant.”
Euskaltel boss Miguel Madariaga admits “we’ve not been seen at all” and that the atmosphere in his team is “nervous”, particularly after the Basque squad’s failure to make any impact at all in last month’s Tour of the Basque Country. “Criticism rained down on us after the disaster of the first stage. I had to respond to that and did get a bit overheated.”
Madariaga blames the fact that his team now has to take part in the Giro and a number of other big events for their failure. “Our preparation wasn’t all that great over the winter because we knew the season was going to be such a long one, and this has meant that some cyclists have been excessively cautious because they know that most of them are going to do two major tours. But I think we will start to work better from now on.”
Euskaltel’s Giro team is to be led by Haimar Zubeldia, who told AS that part of the team’s problem during the first months of the season has been the injuries suffered by Samuel Sanchez, who had earmarked as their team leader up to the Giro. Sanchez joins Zubeldia in the Basque team starting the Giro in Reggio Calabria on Saturday.
Zubeldia will not decide until the end of the Giro whether he will ride the Tour de France, where Iban Mayo is set to be undisputed team leader. Mayo has changed his preparation this season, focusing less on the earlier races and more on peaking for the Tour, which has also cost his team some of its previously high profile.