Gorka Izagirre matches his brother's record with Giro d'Italia stage win

Movistar rider leaves Quintana's side to triumph in Peschici

Five years after his brother Ion secured a breakthrough stage win in the Giro d'Italia, Gorka Izagirre (Movistar Team) captured a landmark victory, his first in a Grand Tour, in the same race.

Just like Ion Izagirre's Giro d'Italia win, taken in the race's third week when both were with the now-defunct Euskaltel-Euskadi team, Gorka's triumph came on a hilly transition stage from a daylong break.

"I was training for the Tour de France in the sierras of Madrid when Ion won and I remember watching it on TV," Gorka Izagirre told reporters after Saturday's stage victory about his younger brother's triumph. "I haven't spoken to Ion"- now racing with Bahrain-Merida after leaving Movistar at the end of last season - "but I'm sure he will be satisfied."

But the similarities end there, given Ion Izagirre's win represented the high point of the 2012 Giro d'Italia for Euskaltel-Euskadi, while Movistar's main aim is, as Gorka Izagirre explained, to win the Giro d'Italia with Nairo Quintana. Izagirre's press conference began with a Gazzetta dello Sport reporter asking why he, as a valued mountain domestique for Quintana, was in the break at all on the eve of the race's crucial second summit finish on the Blockhaus.

"I didn't want to be in the break," Izagirre explained, "it was a fast start and [Giovanni] Visconti" - formerly with Movistar and now a domestique for Vincenzo Nibali's Bahrain-Merida squad - "had already made it into the move."

"There are some teams that we have to follow closely, and Visconti's is one of them, so I got across and it was good I was there. I caught him on the descent from the [mid-stage] second category climb and away it all went."

Izagirre did not see himself as one of the strongest riders in the break, nor was he the keenest for it to go clear. "The rider who was pushing the hardest was Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) who was after the pink jersey, but he crashed. There was still a kilometre to go at that point, I had not wanted to attack, but I knew I had to go for it, I knew there wasn't much further and I got a gap."

When one Gazzetta dello Sport reporter told Izagirre he did not seem particularly happy with having taken the stage win, which is the biggest victory of his nine-year career by far, the Movistar rider responded it was perhaps because he was tired.

That would have only been logical, given the stage covered 50km in the first hour and averaged 42kph. It was a fast and furious affair throughout. When the leading break had first shrunk to five riders, including Izagirre, veteran breakaway specialist Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Visconti, Conti and Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), "All five of those guys were really strong," observed Movistar sports director Txente García Acosta afterwards. However, the quintet had their work cut out to keep in front of the bunch, as Quick-Step Floors kept up a ferocious pursuit behind.

Izagirre's final move at the foot of twisting, steep ascent to Peschici came almost immediately after Conti had crashed and when the break had less than a minute to play with. By this point, all the riders in the break were so tired, they were almost racing in slow motion. But the Basque rider had enough of a margin to celebrate in style as he crossed the line, taking the first Spanish victory in the Giro d'Italia since his teammate Alejandro Valverde last year.

"I hesitated a bit when Conti crashed right in front of me because there was still a kilometre to go, but I looked behind, saw I had a gap and decided to go for it," Izagirre said. "I was close to cracking on the ascent, but I'm very happy how it all worked out."

"It's my best victory by far," Izagirre said. He was fourth in this year's Paris-Nice but until today never won a WorldTour race. His previous biggest win was a stage of the Tour of Luxembourg in 2010. "I've hit the post a lot of times, I've been ahead a lot of times, but to get this win in the Giro is something amazing."

A stage win like his was a major boost to Movistar's collective morale at a crucial moment in the Giro d'Italia for the GC contenders, but the race had already been playing out well for the Spanish team. "Nairo is in great shape, and all of us are going very well. We've fulfilled our big objective so far, which was to reach the Blockhaus without losing time."

"On Sunday a new Giro d'Italia starts, and we'll see what happens," he concluded. But on a personal level, five years after his brother's win, Gorka Izagirre's Giro is already a huge success for exactly the same reasons.

 

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