Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Intxausti plotting Italian revenge

For a rider who has promised so much yet has delivered so little, being forced to watch a feasible overall podium place in a Grand Tour drift away two days from the end due to illness must have been a bitter blow. Yet Beñat Intxausti, for so long Basque cycling's own prodigal son, insists that dropping from sixth to 38th in the 2012 edition of the Giro d'Italia wasn't that big a deal. "I'm not disappointed about the outcome", he tells BiciCiclismo - but adds that only the podium will do next time around.

"The Giro d'Italia will be the first goal of the year", the 26-year-old, who went on to place tenth in the Vuelta in September, intimates. "I'll go there with bigger hopes. Last year I was sixth up until the 19th stage, and from there on I couldn't do more because of illness. I was sixth overall, very close to Basso in third, and the final individual time trial was more in my favour than Scarponi's. With this experience and by working well, I can improve.

"The tenth place in the Vuelta gives me hope that I can better it and aspire to something bigger. I'll go for the general classification, and I aim to step up into the top five - and, why not, think about the podium. That's my goal.

"I made an important step this year; I showed I could be ahead in the Grand Tours. I'm 26 now, in 2013 I'll be 27, and I hope to take advantage of that."

The native of Amorebieta, Bizkaia, is adamant that "leadership doesn't scare me", though he freely admits "it is a big challenge".

"Going from sixth to third might seem like a big step, but that mightn't be the case as the differences are often minimal. I'll be heading for Italy with ambitions and a strong team behind me. I've proved to myself and to my team that I can improve and make that step up".

He revealed he'll start off his season at the traditional Spanish season-opener Challenge Mallorca, before going on to either the Vuelta a Andalucía or the Tour Méditerranéen. Then comes the Tirreno-Adriatico, the GP Miguel Indurain, the Vuelta al País Vasco, the Klasika Primavera and then the Giro.

Intxausti will be back at País Vasco after a one-year hiatus, but only expected to be at approximately 70-80 percent, keeping plenty in reserve for the Italian three-week race. Whether he'll embark on another Vuelta later on in the year remains to be seen - for now, he's got his eyes firmly fixed on the Corsa Rosa.

"I like the route - it's similar to this year's", he said. "There's a team time trial, then there's a long individual race against the clock that will be hard, and then there's the hill time trial. To finish off, there's the final stages in the Dolomites and the Alps. It suits me; the climate, the recorrido, the way of racing... The level of participation will be very high, but you never know. The problems I had this year, getting sick, can happen to anyone".

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