Monday, April 28, 2008
|A barely visible Juan Jose Oroz | Paris-Roubaix | Photo ©: CycleTo.com|
You’ll be excused if you’ve never heard the name of Euskaltel-Euskadi pro Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde. That’s him at the tip of the arrow above, firmly ensconced in this year’s Paris-Roubaix peloton. And since Juan Jose Oroz flies so far under the radar, this is the only photographic evidence I’ve ever found of him suiting up for Euskaltel-Euskadi other than his team mug shot. My research into Mr. Oroz began at the finish of Paris-Roubaix where I routinely look to see which brave Euskaltel-Euskadi souls soldier on to the velodrome in Roubaix. I’m sure most Basque mountain goats would prefer to donate a kidney than suit up at Paris-Roubaix. But ProTour obligations are ProTour obligations and I’d heavily wager that the Basque men in orange venturing to the Paris-Roubaix start line were intimately familiar with the location of the first feed zone…and their respite from Hell. In this year’s edition of Paris-Roubaix, Oroz was one of two Euskaltel riders to complete the distance–no mean feat. Euskaltel rode their stock Orbeas–the only concessions to Roubaix’s punishing parcours being the traditional box-section wheels equipped with Vittoria Pave tubulars plus the decidedly Low Budget Superstar application of electrical tape on the bottle cages to provide some extra grip.
Just for curiosity’s sake, I checked the results of the previous week’s Tour of Flanders. And sure enough, Juan Jose Oroz survived that challenge, too. Huh. So I checked some more…and checked some more…and discovered an interesting fact: in the six month span from late October, 2007 through late April, 2008 Juan Jose Oroz has survived all five Monuments of Cycling. A feat that no other cyclist in the pro peloton has done in that same time span. Not only that, but during that time Oroz was completing his first year on a ProTour squad so each Monument was his first attempt. And not simply content to duke it out in the Monuments, Oroz managed to complete the sweep of Flanders week at Gent-Wevelgem and complete the trifecta of Ardennes week events by surviving Amstel Gold and Fleche-Wallonne to boot.
Juan Jose Oroz turned pro in 2006 for the Spanish Kaiku squad at the relatively late age of 25. 2007 seemed a bit weird–he rode for Orbea Oreka SAD from January, 2007 through May 11, 2007 and then from May 12, 2007 to the present he has been employed by Euskaltel-Euskadi. The Orbea team didn’t fold in 2007, the only obvious answer to me explaining a mid-season team change, and my cursory efforts to explain this unusual jump to a new squad have gone unanswered. Perhaps it was a feeder team and Oroz sufficiently impressed Euskaltel-Euskadi to warrant an invitation to The Show.
Only three men have won all five of cycling’s Monuments: Rik van Looy, Roger De Vlaeminck, and (no surprises here) Eddy Merckx. I’ve embarked on a task to determine just how unusual it is for a pro to merely finish all five, something I suspect is becoming increasingly unusual in this contemporary era of specialization. I started simply looking at all American attempts at the Monuments and only two have made it to the finish line in each: Greg LeMond and Bob Roll, each competing back in the 1980s. For most Americans with multiple Monuments under their belts the Tour of Lombardy is the missing piece, perhaps not too surprising due to its October slot on the calendar. Most American pros are already back in the States re-charging their batteries in October, unless your name is Chris Horner and you’re trying to impress potential Euro employers.
Perhaps among Euro riders finishing the Monuments throughout the expanse of a career isn’t such an unusual feat, but maybe I’ll find out otherwise. In Oroz’s case I don’t know if this is simply a bet he’s placed with his Euskaltel teammates (100 euro says you can’t finish them all, Oroz!), if this is some sort of Euskaltel rookie hazing (Uh, Juan Jose…uh, before you get to rock all those stage races in Spain and Portugal you’re heading North. For all the Classics.), if Euskaltel pays by the kilometer raced, or if Oroz is simply a glutton for punishment with enough pride never to quit anything he starts. Regardless, Juan Jose Oroz deserves a wee bit of applause for knocking them all out in his first attempt at each, all within a six month period. Maybe a bit of Oscar Freire and Juan Antonio Flecha has rubbed off on him (although I’m almost positive that even this pair of Spanish, Classics rock stars has yet to see the finish line of every Monument).
Juan Jose Oroz’s six months of suffering:
|04.20.2008||Amstel Gold Racefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|04.06.2008||Ronde van Vlaanderenemail@example.com|
|10.22.2007||Giro di Lombardiafirstname.lastname@example.org|