For the first time the Gutiérrez Palacios brothers are racing together under the South Australian sun at the Santos Tour Down Under. While Caisse d’Épargne's José Iván is no stranger to the headlines after 11 seasons as a professional, David is a newcomer with Footon-Servetto at the age of 22.
"I’ve always looked after him, so it’s very nice to be with him in the bunch now although we are in different teams," said 31-year-old Iván. "I worked for David to join me at Caisse d’Épargne after he became the amateur Spanish champion in 2008, but team manager Eusebio Unzue told me it wasn’t possible."
Asked his opinion of the younger Gutiérrez in Hahndorf on Wednesday, Unzue told Cyclingnews: "David wasn’t strong enough yet, but we keep an eye on him and we’ll see how he improves in the pro ranks."
"In Spain, it has become extremely difficult for a youngster to turn professional due to the lack of teams and sponsors," Iván said. In fact, besides the purely Basque team Euskaltel, French bank Caisse d’Épargne and Swiss orthopaedic firm Footon are the only sponsors of Spanish ProTour teams.
Meanwhile, Spain's other high profile riders are also financed by foreign backers: The Kazakh government (Alberto Contador at Astana), a Canadian bike manufacturer (Carlos Sastre at Cervélo) and a Dutch bank (Oscar Freire at Rabobank); an indication of the economic impact different doping affairs have had on Spanish cycling.
Despite the challenges that face up-and-coming Spanish cyclists, David Gutiérrez has benefited from the support of his native Cantabria region, joining Mauro Gianetti’s outfit on the recommendation of directeur sportif Matxin Rodriguez. "He can help me develop well as a neo-pro," David said.
"David isn’t exactly a rider like me," Iván added. "The physiological data show that he’s not as strong as me as a time triallist, but he’s good all-rounder: climbing, time trialling, sprinting in a small group. We’ll see in which area he’ll improve the most."
Iván Gutiérrez is a five-time Spanish champion for individual time trial. A specialist in the discipline he was the under-23 World Champion in Verona, Italy, back in 1999, where he relegated Michael Rogers to second place. The result was reversed by the Australian in the pro ranks in Madrid, in 2005, where the Cantabrian claimed a well deserved silver medal.
The elder Gutiérrez has used his skill against the clock to win the Tour of Benelux in 2007 and 2008. A winner of the Tour of the Mediterranean in 2007, he’s known for his strong early season starts. Despite his traditionally early form, he will take part in Paris-Nice for the first time in his career this year.
"I’ve always done Tirreno-Adriatico at the time of the year when I start getting allergies," he said. As the prologue always plays a crucial role, he could be a main contender in the ‘race to the sun’ when it kicks off in the Yvelines province near Paris on March 7.