Monday, January 02, 2012

"It was a hard year"

Despite having come through 2011, his first year in the pro ranks, with flying colours, Jon Izagirre reveals it's been a taxing year. The 22-year-old teamed up with Euskaltel prior to last season and made a name for himself with some impressive performances throughout the year. In the end though, all the racing caught up with him.

"It was a hard year for me. I did 65 days of racing. I competed a lot right at the start of the season, as injuries in the team forced me to alter my schedule. I wasn't able to take a break before after the Vuelta a Madrid", Gorka's younger brother told el Diario Vasco.

"But from another perspective, it was a good way to see what the WorldTour is like. I didn't aim to peak for any specific races, so it was all about taking it all in and absorbing every experience. After Madrid I got some time off, so then I could rest up and prepare well for Circuito de Getxo and the Tour de Pologne. At those races I felt pretty good. I ended up relatively exhausted though: starting the season in January and ending it in October means you spend a lot of time away from home. The two-month break has come in handy."

Izagirre's transition from Orbea to Euskaltel seemed to be, from the outside anyway, seamless. The rider himself, though, says it was a big change.

"It's a big leap (going from Orbea to Euskaltel). When I was riding for Orbea I tried to reach peak form for the first few months of the campaign. Now, riding for a WorldTour-team, I realize everything, from meals, to rest, to your training, matters. The level is so high. You're forced to up your training and ride in a completely different way."

If 2011 was hard, 2012 is promising to be even harder. The native of Ormaiztegi is planning on making his Grand Tour bow in what's probably the most spectacular of the three-week races.

"I'm slated for the Giro d'Italia. I've enjoyed the races I've taken part in over there. I'm definitely looking forward to it, and I'll aim to take advantage of any opportunity that may present itself. I'll try to learn from the experience, including the mistakes I might make, and I'll be attentive to detail. I'll kick my season off in Spain though at the Mallorca Challenge. Afterwards I'll head for Haut-Var, Murcia, Tirreno-Adriatico and eventually the cobbled classics. Those races are beautiful, but I'm aware of the fact that they're hard."

The former Orbea rider revealed his affection for Tirreno-Adriatico, a race he says boosted his morale last year, but perhaps learned the most from his Tour Down Under experience. Izagirre recalled an interesting episode from last year's race involving Johnny Hoogerland, a rider, seemingly mistakingly, often referred to as one of cycling's 'good guys'.

"In Australia, I was up ahead along with Hoogerland. I took pull after pull, and when I asked him to chip in, he said he was too tired. A group of 20 riders was fast approaching from behind (so I pulled even harder), and when I was done, Hoogerland attacked me and left me for dead. It seems you have to be on the receiving end of dirty tricks like that to learn."

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