For a rider who came in the backdoor at the very last minute, 2013 has been quite the journey for young Mikel Iturria.
Plucked from sub-23 outfit Naturgas Energía, Iturria was a last-minute addition to the renamed Continental-ranked Equipo Euskadi, a continuation of Euskaltel's highly-efficient feeder team Orbea.
Asked by Basque Cycling News how he ended up signing for the team on the 30th of January this year, a mere four days before the team's first race of the season, his answer is as straightforward as it's surprising.
"To be honest I don't know how that came about", he confides. "I didn't expect it. What I know is that the team needed two more riders to reach the minimum required, which is ten, and they decided to trust me with one of those spots despite not getting any big results in the sub-23 ranks.
"I'm very grateful towards (team boss, founder and Fundación Ciclista Euskadi president) Miguel Madariaga and (Fundación vice-president) Iñaki Zarate for giving me this opportunity".
After the first six months of the season, chances are Messrs. Madariaga and Zarate are happy with giving the 21-year-old from Urnieta on the outskirts of San Sebastián his shot at the big time.
The lanky rider has shown promise throughout the season, most recently at the Spanish National Championships when he figured in the race-deciding move that formed late in the road race.
Prior to that he'd finished an eye-catching seventh overall at French stage-race Ronde de l'Isard in May - one of the most prestigious races for riders below the age of 23 in the world. In early June he came fourth on the final stage of the Ronde de l'Oise.
"Honestly I wasn't expecting to be this good in my first year as a professional", he says. "I've been feeling better and better as the season's progressed, and I've been feeling strong since the Vuelta a Madrid in May. It's exceeded my expectations.
"Yes, I'm pleased with how I've performed. I think I did well in my debut on Mallorca and, despite not being pleased with how I raced in March and April, the work I did then is paying off now".
Asked to describe himself as a cyclist, Iturria says he's a rider who's strong "on long and hard days in the saddle. I'm at ease in stage races", he says. As to his weaknesses, he insists he's "not explosive at all" and "very slow in the sprints".
In other words he seems to be a rider very much in the Mikel Nieve-mould. A corredor de fondo, a marathon-rider who gets stronger as races progress and other riders weaken.
Age and talent taken into account, his own future appears undoubtedly rosy.
That much can't be said of his team. Madariaga is struggling to make ends meet and has publicly aired his fears that the team might very well be history when 2013 ends and 2014 begins.
Iturria says he's not got a plan B in place if the team does cease to exist and he needs to go job hunting with the ever-decreasing number of teams on the domestic scene.
"For now", he says, "the only thing I can do, and my team-mates at that, is continuing to work hard".
If hard work is what's brought him to where he is now, continuing to do the same might just take him even further on his journey that started so unexpectedly that day in January.