Izagirre leads Bahrain-Merida at Tour de Suisse

Spaniard aiming to repeat podium performance of 2016

Bahrain-Merida is backing Ion Izagirre for a top general classification result at the Tour de Suisse as the final hit out for the Spaniard ahead of the Tour de France next month.

Izagirre, 27, was second at the Tour de Suisse last year as he won the final day Davos time trial stage. He went on to claim the Spanish time trial title and a stage of the Tour. In 2017, Izagirre leads the Bahrain-Merida team on its Tour debut and will use the Tour de Suisse as his final hit out riding GC before the French Grand Tour.

"I feel very well after the altitude training camp. It's the first time that I've trained together with a group of teammates under the direction of the coach, with masseur and mechanics," Izagirre said. "I'm happy of this new good experience with Team Bahrain Merida and in Switzerland I'm going to check my form ahead of my next main aim: the Tour de France."

Coming into the race off the back of a successful Tiede training camp, sports director Harald Morscher sees Izagirre as a genuine favourite for the leader's yellow jersey. With backing from Javi Moreno, Ondrej Cink and Tsgabu Grmay, Morscher expects good things from the Spaniard on a course suited to his characteristics

"The plan is clear. We will ride to target the final podium, maybe even trying to take the overall win with Ion," Morscher said. "We have a strong squad for that purpose, with riders like Moreno, Grmay and Cink, that will give a great support for sure. Anyway, Izagirre is back from the Teide training camp – where he did a good work – and of course, on the Suisse roads he will test his condition first of all."

Izagirre hasn't raced since his fifth place at the Tour de Romandie, following his third place overall at Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and seventh at Paris-Nice. He also enjoyed a strong Ardennes campaign with seventh at Amstel Gold Race, 12th in La Flèche Wallonne and fifth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

While the primary focus at the WorldTour stage race is the general classification, Morscher added the team starts with the dual ambitions of stage wins via sprinter Niccolò Bonifazio and Enrico Gasarotto.

"At the Tour de Suisse there are not many pure sprinters, because the route is quite hard. If Niccolò will be able to overcoming the climbs, as we think, he can show his qualities and his good form trying to sprint to victory. I will bet on Gasparotto too, because he is motivated and if he recovers well from the strains of the Giro, he can even try to win the stage with finish in Cevio, nearby his hometown."

Bahrain-Merida will also line out at the GP du canton d'Argovie in advance of the Tour de Suisse with the ambition of victory despite missing key riders due to injury.

"We do not hide that our aim is the victory.I believe that Bonifazio has the chance to do well there," Morscher said. "He is in form and even if the course is not totally flat, it can suited him and with the support of his teammates we can try to take it. We will line-up a six-man squad, because of the failure of Visconti due to tendinitis and of Haussler who feels again pain on his knee and prefer not to take any risk and recover well."

GP du canton d'Argovie: Niccolò Bonifazio, Ondrej Cink, Ivan Cortina, Tsgabu Grmay, Ion Izagirre, and Javier Moreno
Tour De Suisse: Valerio Agnoli, Niccolò Bonifazio, Ondrej Cink, Ivan Cortina, Enrico Gasparotto Tsgabu Grmay, Ion Izagirre, and Javier Moreno

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