Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Intxausti "out to win País Vasco"

In many respects, 2011 was a year to forget for Movistar prodigy Beñat Intxausti. Off the road, witnessing the death of friend and team-mate Xavier Tondo up close left him with indelible scars. On it, an injury-enforced DNF in his maiden Tour de France wrecked his season. The former Euskaltel rider claims he's a changed man after the tragic incident - and says he's now more focussed on enjoying both his bike and his life. On the bike, the 25-year-old is aiming to claim the biggest scalp of his career to date: the Vuelta al País Vasco.

"No, I'm aiming to win the whole thing", he told Ciclismo a Fondo upon being questioned if he was aiming for the podium. "I want to win the race. I was fourth this year, third the year before... I want to make the step up, even if Alejandro Valverde decides to do the race. Obviously, if he'll ride it I'll have to work for him and respect the hierarchy, but still. I'll also aim for the Critérium International, Tour de Romandie and Paris-Nice. The latter has served me well in the past, and it's a race I enjoy. I'm also on the long-list for the Tour de France, and I'm likely to go back there this year, but July is far away at the time being. I prefer to concentrate on what's coming up in the near future, as opposed to what's coming up in more than six months, so I'm only planning for the first part of the season. Just like I did this year, in fact."

This year didn't turn out too well for the youngster once hailed as the saviour of Basque, and for that matter Spanish, cycling. But the native of Amorebieta refuses to be down-beat, and insists he's drawing the positives from what's been a testing year.

"It's made me tougher. I've gone through bad times, very bad times, but with the help of my team, my friends and my family I've come out the other side", the softly-spoken climber explained. "Everything that've happened to me, from the falls and injuries to Xavier's passing, have made me more mature and mentally stronger. I look at things differently now - I've come to enjoy my bike and my life more. Xavier's death has changed me."

Along with fellow Movistar rider David López García and Euskaltel duo Jonathan Castroviejo and Rubén Pérez, Intxausti took part in the Criterium Ciclista de Corralejo on the island of Fuerteventura a week ago - a ride dedicated to the fight against cancer. To read more about that experience, click this link.

He'll get his season underway in February at the Mallorca Challenge, before heading to the Ruta del Sol - Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucía.

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