Sunday, February 26, 2012

"I'm no Sastre"

Because of his exploits in the Giro and the Vuelta in recent years, Mikel Nieve has become something of a cult figure for followers of Basque and Spanish cycling. Seemingly born to ride mountains, the 27-year-old will be Euskaltel's go-to guy in the Giro d'Italia in May, and possibly a key domestique in the Vuelta later on. Yet despite stating he's keen to better his 11th place overall from last year's Italian adventure, the Leitza native is keen to downplay comparisons with some of Spain's recent Grand Tour heroes.

"Don't compare me with Sastre and Escartín", he told bike mag Revista Desde la Cuneta. "All of us have different characteristics. Sastre has won the Tour and finished on the podium in several GTs - we're talking of a rider with an exceptional palmarès here. The same goes for Escartín. I'm a climber suited to long days in the saddle. That's all. I'll go my own way".

Unsurprisingly given Spain's rich heritage in three-week racing, Nieve rates fellow Navarran Miguel Induráin as his biggest hero. Yet he also reveals he's fond of 'Big Mig's successor.

"I really admired Induráin - like pretty much everyone else. But also the likes of Armstrong and Ullrich. There are so many great names in this sport..."

Nieve's season will be very much centred on the Giro, but taking part in the Tour in July is still not ruled out. If he does indeed go, it won't be to chase personal glory though.

"If I'm selected for the Tour, I'll help out our leader, Samuel Sánchez. But it's not decided yet (whether he'll take part or not). Samu has finished fourth and sixth, won on the Luz Ardiden, won the polkadot jersey... If I end up in France, my job description will be to be by his side in the mountains and learn".

"As I haven't done that race before, it would be risky to set specific aims for myself. But I might aim for the climber's jersey sometime in the future..."

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