Happy birthday Amets Txurruka

Birthday boy Amets Txurruka doesn’t look 30. What’s his secret? (image courtesy of Euskaltel-Euskadi)

Amets Txurruka pozik urtebetetzea 30an nahian, as they say in the Basque country.The boy from Etxebarria in Vizcaya celebrates his 30th birthday today. To be honest he still looks so young and  fresh-faced that I want to ask him whether his mother knows he’s out on his own!

To many of us, the slightly built (171cm, 56kg) orange-clad Amets was one of the most readily identifiable of the Carrots clan. He was habitually in a breakaway, always caught just before the line, and he was the first Euskaltel rider to get onto the Tour de France podium with his 2007 overall combativity award in his first year at the team. His most notable breakaway that year was on stage 12 with Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom). They were heartbreakingly caught within 800m of the line by the Quick-Step squad, who led green-jersey clad Tom Boonen to victory.

Amets is not just a popular figure with Basque fans. He also enjoys a large fan base in the Far East, where he won the Taiwan Cup in 2010 and donated his prize money and his Tour de France bike to a fund for the victims of Typhoon Megi.

Amets Txurruka in Taiwan (image courtesy of Euskaltel-Euskadi)

Here’s a montage from 2009’s Tour de France where Amets finished runner-up on stage 13.

Last month, with no ProTour wins to his name, a fourth broken collarbone in three seasons and despite starting all three Grand Tours this season – crashing out in the Tour but finishing the Giro and Vuelta – Amets found himself in the unenviable position of “nul points” and no contract for the 2013 season.

Another season, another collarbone break (image courtesy of Euskaltel-Euskadi)

Fortunately his selfless work ethic and experience gained riding for Euskaltel has garnered him a berth at the green clad Pro Continental squad Caja Rural. This will allow him to concentrate his efforts in his home tours including the Vuelta where, despite always working for team leaders, he’s generally finished in the top 30 overall and posted plenty of top ten stage finishes. Amets explained that:

While my way of racing has become more structured with age, my fighting spirit remains the same. Anytime I get the opportunity, I’ll break away again.

Meanwhile, at Caja Rural’s recent presentation of the team’s new signing, Amets thanked his new squad for giving him the opportunity to continue in the peloton and for trusting that he will try as hard as he can to obtain results for the team. He said:

I’m encouraged. It’s a very different team, and the races will also be very different. Change motivates you, and as always I’m eager and looking forward to start the new season. My personal goal (for next year) is to return to my best form and give it my utmost. Everyone on the team will have their freedom and the races will show us where we are. The key will be to support each other. Caja Rural has always been a fighting team, and they showed this season that they’re a good team and they’ve obtained big victories. Hopefully we can continue this way.

Caja Rural’s president, Floren Esquisabel, said Amets’s experience will greatly aid the younger riders on the team, and also praised his personality:

Txurruka is a rider with experience that will help the team. In addition, according to what I’ve been told, he’s a great guy. Our idea is that he strengthens the team and can help the younger ones to find their way in races and show them what it’s like to be a professional cyclist.

I’m going to finish with a tribute to Amets posted in the comments section by an anonymous American fan on Basque Cycling News, which echoes many of our thoughts on the plucky Basque rider:

On a flat, dry, slow day along a straight stretch of road, the dream died and legend of the tortured artist grew. Only Amets would break his collarbone under such pedestrian circumstances. Not a high-speed descent, not the dusty cobbles when the hammer was being dropped. No, my hero in orange abandoned with a whimper on a lonely stretch of road with the peloton fading in the distance. There will be no suicidal attacks on climbs too long or too steep. No hair-raising descents with tragedy around every bend. The Tour is diminished by his absence. Five years into his reign the King remains without a crowning achievement. Rest well Amets. Dream of great things.

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