THE BRAND OF LEGENDS
Ten teams, hundreds of riders, countless victories. Etxeondo’s presence in professional cycling has been a constant of the sport since 1983. From Flanders and Roubaix, to Liege and Lombardy, Le Tour and La Vuelta, success has followed success.
The giants of the road have trusted Etxeondo for performance and comfort in the history defining moments of their careers: Sean Kelly thundering over the jagged cobbles of the Arenberg, Pedro Delgado soaring high in the mountains of the grand tours and Miguel Indurain ushering in a generation of crushing stage race dominance. Those riders and many more have written their names indelibly into the Etxeondo story. In a sport rich with raw emotion, we have shared the euphoria of their greatest moments.
TOUR DE FRANCE 1983
Etxeondo’s debut in the professional peloton was spectacular. In 1983, equipping the Reynolds and ZOR teams, the Basque company’s jerseys crossed the line first more than 100 times. Zor’s Alberto Fernández had already finished third in the Giro d’Italia and third in the Vuelta a España, ahead of teammate Alvaro Pino, by the time Ángel Arroyo and Reynolds lined up for the Tour de France. Arroyo wasn’t even in the top 10 of the general classification after two weeks, but made his move on Stage 15, an uphill time trial finishing on Puy de Dôme, winning by 14 seconds from teammate and first year professional Pedro Delgado, to move into fifth overall and clinch Etxeondo’s first Tour stage victory. A brilliant ride on a classic day through the Alps, over the Glandon, Madeleine, Aravis, Colombière and Joux-Plane, carried him within striking distance of the podium before his consistency against the watch in two final time trials, at Avoriaz and Dijon, elevated him to second overall, behind Laurent Fignon, in Paris.
VUELTA ESPAÑA 1985
Big Mig. The Extraterrestrial. Five time Tour de France champion. Two time winner of the Giro d’Italia. Hour record holder. Long before he was any of those, a fresh faced Miguel Indurain had served notice of his Grand Tour intent at the 1985 Vuelta Espana. Indurain’s talent was no secret; he had been the youngest ever Spanish road champion at the age of 18 and made his debut for Reynolds in the final races of 1984. He wasted no time, winning the time trial stage of the Tour de L’Avenir - the aptly named ‘Tour of the Future’ - just a week after turning professional. The following year, Indurain, at the age of 20 years and eight months, became the youngest rider to lead the Vuelta, holding the jersey for four stages after finishing second in the prologue behind Bert Oosterbosch. It would be 1991 before Indurain finally won the Tour, but the blueprint for his success, dominate in the time trials, defend in the mountains, had already been drawn.
MILAN-SAN REMO 1986
In an era when the biggest stars specialised less and raced more, Sean Kelly was the archetypal man for all seasons. ‘King Kelly’, the granite-hard son of Irish farmers, who joked he only decided if the weather was too bad to train after he had returned home, could win on almost any terrain, from February to October. Kelly had the speed to beat the fastest sprinters and was agile enough to survive in the high mountains, talents allied to an iron will and appetite for victory. But even by his voracious standards, the early months of 1986 stand out. Riding for the KAS team, Kelly had already won Paris-Nice by the time he chased down Greg Lemond and Mario Becca on the famous ascent of the Poggio and then dispatched them on the Via Roma to seal the first of his two wins in La Primavera. That was just the start though. Kelly rampaged through the spring, winning in Pais Vasco, Catalunya and Paris-Roubaix, finishing second in Flanders, Criterium International and De Panne and third overall in La Vuelta, where he also won the points jersey, to cement his status as the most complete competitor of his generation.
TOUR DE FRANCE 1988
Pedro Delgado, a rider with a gift for animating cycling’s biggest races in the high mountains like few before or since, recognised his destiny early in his career, riding the 1983 Tour for Reynolds: “The flat roads, the cobbles, the infernal rhythm…I wondered what I was doing. But then I reached the mountains and I was among the 20 best, then the 10, then I finished a stage second behind Robert Millar. That year I realized that the Tour was my race.” ‘Perico’, the explosive, unpredictable climber from Segovia, won the 1985 Vuelta and finished second, after a titanic struggle with the Irishman Stephen Roche, in the 1987 Tour. The following July, Delgado finally fulfilled his prophecy; taking the Maillot Jaune at Alpe d’Huez on stage 12 after Reynolds had blown the race to pieces through the Alps, then winning the following day’s time trial to Villard de Lans to cement his - and Etxeondo’s - first overall victory ahead of Steven Rooks and Fabio Parra.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2001
Euskatel-Euskadi was more than a cycling team. Started by a group of Basque fans in 1994, it was the manifestation of the region’s cultural identity and incredible enthusiasm for the sport. A Basque team, for Basque riders, equipped by Basque companies. A true people’s team. Climber Roberto Laiseka, who had been with Euskadi since its inception, had provided a long-awaited breakthrough in a Grand Tour when he dropped Jan Ullrich and held off a rampaging Frank Vandenbroucke to win at Abantos near Madrid in the 1999 Vuelta. Laiseka triumphed again the following year, this time at Arcalis, securing the team a wildcard to the 2001 Tour de France. Euskatel, in their iconic orange kit, did not disappoint. Nor did Laiseka. On a scorching day, he attacked 10 kilometres from the summit of Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees and passed a lone escapee, the Italian Wladimir Belli, and rode solo through a tunnel of noise to victory in front of tens of thousands of orange-clad supporters.
Two years after Roberto Laiseka’s emotional Tour de France win at Luz Ardiden, Euskatel-Euskadi returned to the race’s 2003 edition with an even more powerful line up, led by Haimar Zubeldia and the enigmatic Iban Mayo, and an ambition to make an impact on the overall classification. After two weeks of racing, both riders were in contention for a podium place ahead of another classic Pyrenean stage between Bagnères de Bigorre and Luz Ardiden. On the penultimate climb of the day, the giant Col du Tourmalet, Zubeldia experienced some of the most beautiful, but also some of the most frustrating, emotions of his career. “I was very good. The orange fans roared in the ditches, they cheered us, they took us all the way to the top of the climb. Iban and I set a strong rhythm; Armstrong and Ullrich held our wheel but Hamilton and Vinokurov, our rivals for the podium, had lost contact. It was our opportunity. After crossing the summit with a significant advantage, our director, Julián Gorospe, ordered us to take it easy on the descent to recover for the final climb to Luz Ardiden. We had the enemy wounded and we could have finished them off if we had committed on the descent, but we chose to play safe and not risk losing everything with a fall. The podium vanished. The stragglers caught us on the descent and we finished the stage together. We had a memorable Tour, with me in fifth position overall and Iban in sixth, but we will always wonder what would have happened if we had risked it all that day. We do not regret the decision though; we had very little experience and, for the whole team, those top ten places were a big victory".
Almost two decades after Sean Kelly’s double, another Etxeondo athlete became the first rider to win both Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in the same year since the Irishman in 1986. John Degenkolb’s stellar talent had always been destined for the stratosphere. The German, a silver medallist in the 2010 under 23 World Championships, like Kelly, gradually transformed himself from a sprinter who could climb to a thoroughbred killer for the Classics. 2014 had been a season of confirmation for the Giant-Alpecin rider, with a win in Ghent-Wevelgem and four stages of the Vuelta. In La Primavera the following spring, Degenkolb survived the Poggio before beating Alexander Kristoff in a frantic blanket finish on the Ligurian coast. Degenkolb went to the Hell of the North after finishing seventh in Flanders, and put himself in a winning position when a Herculean effort saw him bridge across to a two-man break 11 kilometres from Roubaix’s concrete velodrome. In the end, seven riders rode onto the track together, but none could match Degenkolb’s lethal finishing kick as he drove clear in the closing metres. Kelly, watching from his seat in a television commentary box, no doubt approved.
GIRO DITALIA 2017
The 100th Giro d’Italia provided the backdrop to a classic see-saw duel: Team Sunweb’s powerful time trialist Tom Dumoulin, who had announced his three-week potential in the 2015 Vuelta, versus Movistar’s nimble scalatore Nairo Quintana, the maglia rosa in 2014. The Dutchman contained Quintana on the opening summit finish at Blockhaus before delivering a chrono masterclass at Montefalco, annihilating the field to claim the race lead. Quintana conceded more time on the uphill finish to Oropa on stage 14; Dumoulin countering to win the stage and, it seemed, the overall. A controversial stage 16, with two ascents of the Stelvio, saw Quintana and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali steal time into Bormio after the race leader stopped briefly with stomach problems on the final climb. Dumoulin, riding alone for most of the final 30km, held pink by 31 seconds. For four more mountainous days, he resisted repeated assaults, only finally ceding time in the closing kilometres of stage 20 to slip to fourth, 53 seconds behind Quintana. But with 29.3 flat time trial kilometres from the cathedral of speed at Monza’s famous race track to the steps of Milan Cathedral the next day, it was never enough and the Colombian seemed to know it. Dumoulin, wearing Etxeondo’s Falcon skinsuit, was relentless; winning the Giro by 31 seconds to claim his first Grand Tour. At 26, with an increasingly complete range of stage race skills, and now a world time trial title won in Bergen to his name as well, it should not be his last.