Ion Izagirre's win in the Giro d'Italia caught quite a few by surprise and had people reaching for the superlatives. Yet what might have impressed the most about the 22-year-old's Grand Tour debut was in fact his prowess in the mountains the last weekend. On the decisive stages to the Alpe di Pampeago and the Stelvio, the Ormaiztegi-native was up there among the 10-15 strongest riders performing domestique duties for captain Mikel Nieve, showing a motor and a capability to recover that belied his young years. While Izagirre is keen to take things step by step and avoid predictions about what the future may hold, he does admit he might turn into a GC rider at one point.
"It's too early to say whether I'll be a man for the general classification in three-week races or not", he told Gara. "But staying with the best on those type of stages gives reason to believe I might have those characteristics. I was going pretty well in the last week, but I have to keep my feet on the ground".
"It was satisfying to reach the last week feeling good physically and mentally in my first Grand Tour. In the last two hard stages in the Dolomites I felt good and was able to help Nieve. It was a very hard Giro, but it worked out better than I expected it to. Speaking for myself and the team, I'm very happy with the whole Giro, from the first to the last day. It was a great race."
After emerging victorious on stage 16 into Pfalzen, Izagirre had praise for pretty much everyone who'd been there for him so far in his burgeoning career. One man deserved special praise though.
"Our second directeur sportif, Domenico Cavallo, kept me calm. He knew how to treat me; he saw I could do something great, provided me with the needed confidence and I'm therefore indebted to him. He'd studied the route, knew the Italians in the break and knew I had to go hard on the last climb if I was to drop the fastest riders in the group. Crossing the line, a lot of things entered my mind and I started to think of all the people who's been by my side. I burst into tears."
"I thought about my family and my girlfriend who'd brought her family along for a few days. She was at the cite of the stage start that day. When they got the news I had made the break, they stopped for an ice cream in order to watch the end of the stage on television. They were screaming like crazy when I triumphed - the Italians there didn't believe their eyes. I didn't know they were coming at all, but they gave me a lot of strength. You're away from home for a long time, so to see them waiting for me at the bus gave me a lot of support and happiness. I'm thankful to them and everyone else who've supported me. Now I'm enjoying what I've achieved".
Having accumulated 39 days of racing thus far in 2012, Izagirre, who's father was twice the national champion in cyclo-cross but never made it as a pro, is now taking a well-deserved rest. He'll be back in time for the national champs in Salamanca in late June, before embarking on the Tour of Poland (thus no Tour), Klasika Ordizia, Circuito de Getxo and the ENECO Tour.
It's a fact: It's not Jon Izagirre, not Jon Izaguirre, not Ion Izaguirre, but Ion Izagirre. There you go.