How does a Basque rider, who has spent his formative years as a mighty Carrot, suddenly find himself on the Orica-GreenEDGE bus, via Caja Rural? Well, when I spotted the youthful-looking, diminutive Amets Txurruka a few weeks ago, I thought I’d ask him how he likes his new team.
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Txurruka riding hard in 2007 Tour de France
Txurruka is a rider who’s built his career on being a breakaway artist. Spending six seasons with Euskaltel–Euskadi (2005-2012) and three with Caja Rural, 2016 is his first year with Orica-GreenEDGE. Throughout his career, his tenacity out in front has garnered him many KOM jerseys and combativity awards, most memorably the overall combativity prize, as a neo-pro, in his maiden Tour de France in 2007. His palmares has been filling up in the last few years, with overall wins in the 2013’s Tour of Asturias and 2014’s Tour du Gevaudan.
But how is he settling into the team that epitomises Australian informality? The 33-year-old rider said he was enjoying the very sociable and laid-back atmosphere at OGE, which made him “feel nice”. Whether he’s gotten to grips with technical Australian terms such as barbie and tinnies yet, however, is perhaps a question for later in the season.
He did say that this year, he will be riding with a different focus from earlier years. Although it’s important for him to race on his home turf, Txurruka confirmed he’ll be at the front of the race, not for himself, but in support of teammates Adam and Simon Yates. “The team’s goal is to do a good general classification with them”, he confirmed.
This week he’s racing on Spanish soil at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (21-27 March), followed by the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (4-9 April), where he’s previously won both the KOM and points jerseys as well as the accolades of “Best Basque” and “Most Aggressive Rider”.
Whatever his role at the Tour of the Basque Country, Txurruka is assured of a place in the heart of every Basque – they are all cycling fans!
Header image: Amets Txurruka leading the peloton at Paris-Nice 2016; Orica-GreenEDGE website