Thursday, December 13, 2012

Izagirre - We'll help the foreigners to integrate

Through his sensational solo stage win at his first Grand Tour and overall impressive 2012 season, young Ion Izagirre has quickly become a mainstay of Euskaltel and one poised for future leadership of the team. Hoping to kick off the 2013 season in top shape in Australia in January, the 23-year-old is at the time of writing clocking up kilometres in Benidorm along with his fellow Down Under-bound team-mates. While the team for the first WorldTour event of the season will be made up of Spaniards exclusively, the foreigners who've joined the team in the off-season will get ample opportunity at the start of the year to bring in results, and more importantly points, in races in northern Europe.

See the tentative line-up for the Tour Down Under here.

The team's recent get-together at the team's headquarters in Derio was the first opportunity for the old riders to meet the new ones, and, according to the affable Ormaiztegi-native, making sure Euskaltel remain a solid and tight-knit unit shouldn't be too much of a problem.

"It's clear that things have changed at the team, but the structure remains the same", he told BiciCiclismo. "The majority of them speak Italian or English. They're nice guys who want to become a part of the team, and we'll help them integrate. We've changed our Basque-only philosophy; with the UCI's points system and the globalization of the sport it's not obligatory, but the team's been forced to sign riders with points to their name to stay in the WorldTour.

"Eventually we got the licence. We more or less expected to get it, but it gives us peace of mind now that it's official, and above all because it's for four years".

Izagirre finished up his season at the World Time Trial Championships in mid-September, having completed 58 race days and logged close to 10 000 kilometres. He then went on to spend a whole month off the bike, before resuming training with exercises in the gym, swimming and hiking in the mountains before getting back in the saddle.

"Yeah, I spent four full weeks not touching the bike", he said. "For the rest of the year you're with the bike every day, so psychologically it's good to disconnect a little bit, spend time with your friends, your family, your girlfriend. I also go mushroom picking or hunting with my father and brother, but not as much as we used to. You don't want to put on ten kilos, but, still, putting on weight in fundamental".

Izagirre's full calendar of races is yet to be unveiled, but a Grand Tour is sure to be on his schedule. It was previously reported that he'd take on the Vuelta a España this year in place of the Giro, but that does not appear to be set in stone just yet. Neither his nor his team-mates' calendars are likely to be mapped out before Christmas.

Until then, though, and before the big kick-off in Australia, check out the video below of what a normal day at Euskaltel is like at the Tour Down Under:

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