Monumentally Anonymous

Juan Jose Oroz rolls along in the 2008 Paris-Roubaix
A barely visible Juan Jose Oroz | Paris-Roubaix | Photo ©:

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:

Date   Race   Place   Time
04.27.2008   Liege-Bastogne-Liege   42nd   @4.09
04.23.2008   Fleche-Wallonne   105th   @7.38
04.20.2008   Amstel Gold Race   100th   @7.42
04.13.2008   Paris-Roubaix   91st   @16.57
04.09.2008   Gent-Wevelgem   46th   @0.00
04.06.2008   Ronde van Vlaanderen   50th   @9.14
03.22.2008   Milano-San Remo   144th   @12.35
10.22.2007   Giro di Lombardia   92nd   @12.37

Comments (14) to “Monumentally Anonymous”

  1. Wow - nice stuff.

    That’s a heck of a run by Oroz, too. Even if his job is just to get to the finish in one piece, that’s no small feat.

  2. and though its not as complete a run as oroz’s, I think oscar freire completed five of the six northern classics this year. he missed roubaix but won gent. i think he and oroz were the only guys to do that. I guess Spaniards are the tough guys this year.

  3. Cool post - this is actually one of the reasons I’ve always tended to favor Lemond as my favorite American rider. Not only did he finish them all, but I think he scored top 5 in 4 of them (missing Flanders). Granted, that was a different era, especially early in his career, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

  4. Great investigative work, and such insight to find the gem washed aside in cyclings gravel. We had a classics podium contest in our club. For LBL, I discarded Valverde, because the Spaniards so seldom deliver in the spotlight of non Spanish races. I did pick Barredo, because Quick-Step HAD to deliver and I felt Bettini was not recovered from injury. I was wrong on both accounts.
    Thanks for the great post.

  5. …something i’ve always enjoyed about old school euro cycling is that throughout the years, contingents of flandrian hard men have slipped their borders & plundered italy’s finest trophies during cycling’s skirmishes…
    …& the italians have a wonderful history of responding in kind by returning to their sun splashed land w/ the fruits of their hard won northern spring victories…

    …van steenbergen, de bruyne, van looy, van springel, houbrechts, de vlaeminck, merckx, de wolf, (merckx & de vlaeminck…de vlaemick & merckx…you get the picture as these two gentlemen regularly killed in italy) …surprisingly in the last 20 yrs, there have been few great wins by the belgians, in their forays into italy…

    …magni, coppi, gimondi, moser, saronni, argentin, bugno, bontempi, tafi, ballerini, bertolami, bartoli, cippolini, bettini, rebellin, de luca, ballan, on the other hand, have all been consistent throughout the years w/ great early spring triumphs surely breaking the hearts of proud flandrian fans…

    …& as you mention, lately the spaniards have been searching for more plunder in the cycling world & we’re all well served by these interlopers from the other side of the pyrenees…juan jose oroz ugalde may not yet have the reputation of some of his peers, but he’s a hard man, nonetheless…

  6. Perhaps Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde is a place holder name for the unlucky Basque or Basquoid who draws the short straw to finish each race for the sponsor? The bearer of the black egg, the flyer of the orange flag, the one man who must finish no matter the race or the course? Basque for John Doe/John jacob jingleheimer smith/steve tilford/your name here? Just a thought.

  7. Tarik beat me to it! I was thinking the exact same thing.

  8. I bet Juan Jose Oroz would win the GC at Superweek.

  9. Also Christian Knees (Milram) had finished these six classics this year.

    To Brewmeister : Barredo was ill during Vuelta al Pais vasco and could not be in good shape for Ardennaises classics including LBL.

  10. again, this site is brilliant.

  11. Bob Freaking Roll!!!

    Seriously though, one of the things that was cool about the Amstel Gold Race was that sometimes, even Lance Armstrong would turn up (he finished 2nd twice, I think? — just going off the top of my head).

    I would have liked it if Lance would have continued to turn up at LBL or Fleche Wallone, after all, he did win that one in 1996, but by late April he was usually off climbing all the mountains in France 5 times a day for his Tour prep.

    That is, however, one of the things that was cool about Greg LeMond. He would race all those events and not simply focus on a few select goals.

  12. …find & read sean kelly’s assessment of the age of specialization…while lemond originally raced “everything”, kelly attributes lemond as being the rider who initially began what armstrong later fine tuned to an art form…

    …re: bob freaking roll is right…something very unique about mr roll, to this day…& when phil hangs up his announcing togs, bobke will be even more ‘the man’…

  13. Good Find Brother, I will raise a Chimay in Brother Oroz’ honor.
    The Rev

  14. I’m a little late to the party but Orbea Oreka SAD IS the continental feeder squad for euskaltel euskadi.

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