Sunday, February 17, 2013

Injury postpones Euskaltel wonderkid's season

Much was expected of a barely-turned 21-year-old called Peio Bilbao when he joined Euskaltel after only two months with then-feeder team Orbea in the early stages of 2011. For impatient on-lookers, not much has happened since. Despite an encouraging second place at the Tour de Vendée at the back end of that 2011 season, results have been hard to come by.

A large part of that is down to injuries, and, disappointingly for the Gernika-native, this year has been much of the same. The now-23-year-old is yet to turn a pedal this year due to a knee injury, and it might be another few weeks before he'll be back at the races.

"If everything goes well, I'll be back in two or three weeks", he told Deia's Aner Gondra.

While much has been made of his all-round ability and future Grand Tour general classification pedigree, Bilbao sees himself heading in a slightly different direction once he gets back in the saddle.

"I told Igor González de Galdeano that I liked it at the one-day races last year, and that's what I'll focus on this year", he revealed. "If there's a leader I'll have to work for him, but it's obvious the team needs points and any way we get them will do. In the classics where there's no clear leader I'll look for my chance and try to grab a few".

With a new philosophy at the team came a bigger roster during the off-season, and the lanky youngster thinks that might lead to a role-change for him.

"During the first two years I learned my way around a bit and, now, in a team with 29 riders, my role will change a bit", he said. "Now I need to take responsibility. In your third season you're supposed to be there".

Bilbao's racing schedule is yet to be unveiled, but he's more than likely to be handed a calendar that alines with his goals. The 'new Euskaltel' has been slow to get into gear this year with the victories still eluding the team, but Bilbao only had words of gratefulness for the team's backers.

"We have to thank Euskaltel", he said. "There's a lot of people who don't know when to be thankful, but ultimately they're continuing to support the grassroots through us".

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