Monday, August 12, 2013

Ion Izagirre accepts World Championships 'invite'

At the time trial world championships in Florence later this year, an Euskaltel rider will likely, believe it or not, line up for Spain.

The man in question is naturally Ion Izagirre - the team's best rider in a discipline that throughout history has been the orange team's achilles heel. The youngest of the Izagirre brothers has displayed his pedigree in the 'race of truth' on numerous occasions the last few years, not least by taking fourth at the national champs in June, finishing 14th in the Tour de France's second ITT a month later and defending his second overall in the recently concluded Tour of Poland by claiming seventh on the final day crono.

"They asked me if I wanted to line up at the Worlds, and I said 'yes'", he tells El Diario Vasco.

While Izagirre has shown strong form all year, but he's nonetheless a bit cautious when it comes to predicting how he'll do against the very best on the planet.

"We'll just how to wait and see how my form is at that time of year".

To prepare optimally for the big challenge, the 24-year-old will line up in a number of one-day races in the weeks prior.

First up, though, is the four-day Tour du Limousin starting next week, before he'll take the start in the Vattenfal Cyclassics, GP Plouay and the double-header of one-day races in Montréal and Québec.

The latter pair of Canadian races is held in high esteem by the native of Ormaiztegi, Gipuzkoa.

"I like those two races a lot. I've done both race twice before, and I enjoyed it", he says. "They can't go bad for me. Going there without pressure can benefit me - I like them both a lot".

Izagirre opened his season by posting a morale-boosting fourth overall at the Tour Down Under. Since then, he's rarely gotten a break.

Paris-Nice, the Vuelta al País Vasco, the Tour de Suisse, the national championships, the Tour de France and the Tour of Poland are only some of the races he's done this year. No wonder he's starting to get tired.

"How I feel right now? I'm tired, but I'm not really exhausted. It's true, though, that I need to disconnect a little bit physically and mentally. Before going to the Sierra Nevada for altitude training, I had one single week off. I haven't had a lot of time for myself. Right now, training is getting a bit hard.

"Overall I'm happy with my season, though the wins have eluded me. I was in really good shape at Paris-Nice but crashed various times. País Vasco was the race I struggled the most in. It was my worst race of the year - and it was my home race!"

Despite his failure on home roads, Izagirre occupies a more than healthy 26th in the UCI WorldTour rankings.

His performances and unquestionable talent will easily land him a ride at a fellow top-level team should Euskaltel Euskadi indeed shut down shop come the end of the year. While he's been linked to a host of teams already - including the likes of power-houses BMC and Movistar - he's adamant he won't sign with another team until all hope of Euskaltel's continued existence is lost.

"No one has told me the team won't keep going", he says. "I've got one more year on my contract, and I'm waiting for someone to tell me what's going to happen with the team.

"The situation we're facing, like it or not, is affecting everyone. Not only the riders, but also the mechanics, masseurs, directors. It's affecting everyone. It's a shame that the team is falling apart.

"It's a team like no other in the world of cycling. When I was a kid, I followed the team and dreamt of one day being able to ride for them. Where will the youngsters look now? Where will they ride? The cantera the future of cycling, but they've got to have something or someone to look up to".

Photo: Iñaki Azanza

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