By Gregor Brown
Spain's Igor Astarloa, winner of the 2003 World Championship, is looking towards the Giro d'Italia and a full recovery from toxoplasmosis he suffered from in 2007. The 32 year-old Milram rider from the Basque country competed last week in the Ardennes and is now looking towards Italy's Grand Tour, May 10 to June 1.
He is not only fighting for results – finishing 48th in Amstel Gold and 23rd in Flèche Wallonne this week – but also fighting to find the form lost from sitting out for half of the 2007 season.
Following his withdrawal from the Dauphiné Libéré on June 10, 2007, he was diagnosed with toxoplasmosis. The disease, which is normally caused by improperly cooked meat, put Astarloa out of action up until the Tour Down Under in Australia this January.
"Last year, I had a problem here at the Classics, in April and May," explained Astarloa. "I was not able to race up until January of this year – it was many months without racing. It was a bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and I was not able to recover. I was always tired."
Astarloa continued to explain that he is happy with his Ardennes Classics week. "I was not too bad at Amstel and Flèche, but it was not great," he admitted. "I still believe the form is not at the top. I hope to have a good race and to become better for the Giro d'Italia, where I will try for stage wins."
The former World Champion is eyeing the many Giro d'Italia stages that are suited to his finishing style. Such stages include the one in 1994 World Championships host city Agrigento, the second stage of this year's Grand Tour.
"I have already had a look at many of the Giro stages, also the second stage, after the time trial," Astarloa noted. "It is the same spot of the Worlds that was won by [Luc] Leblanc in Agrigento. This year, there are a small number of stages for the sprinters and many finishes on small ascents; stages for [Paolo] Bettini, [Danilo] Di Luca. I will continue to train and hope to arrive well for the Giro."
Since Liège Astarloa has travelled to his home town of Ermua to continue training. "I have raced a lot this year – staring in Australia, Andalucía, Valencia, Tirreno-Adriatico, País Vasco – so, I will take it easy in these 10 days before the Giro," he said. "It is not really much time, in fact, the seventh we have to be there for the controls. It will be a month away from home."