Ion Izagirre’s battle for the GC in a Grand Tour has seen him suffer two setbacks in the first two climbing stages, but the Basque will battle on for the overall classification nonetheless.
Izagirre lost 44 seconds to best placed GC rider Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the Camperona stage, where his brother and team-mate Gorka could be seen weaving across the road close to the summit as he waited to support his sibling in the final metres.
Then on Saturday the Bahrain-Merida team raced hard to the foot of the steep climb at Praeres, with a resurgent Vincenzo Nibali driving the peloton behind the break of the day.
After struggling on the lower slopes but limiting the time gaps, Izagirre finished ninth on the stage, 37 seconds down on stage winner and leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). Overall Izagirre is now at 1-40, on the Briton, seventh on GC. Two days earlier, the gap was only 17 seconds, but Izagirre says that he will not be throwing in the towel yet.
“I am trying as best I can,” Izagirre told Cyclingnews on Saturday evening. “The last kilometres were fast and we were ahead because we knew that the drop off the last couple of climbs were complicated.”
“So we did that part as planned, the trouble was when we got to the climb I couldn’t stay with the best of the GC guys. So some seconds were lost. We’ll just have to see what happens from here on.”
He refuses to rule out the battle for the overall, even if after a very strong first nine days, exceeding his own expectations, now he appears to be more on the back foot, with Sunday’s climb to the finish at Lagos de Covadonga the next major test.
“Of course,” he added. “We’ll keep trying.” His eyes are as much on the time trial, he says, where he should be at an advantage compared to the out-and-out mountain climbers, as anything else.
“Let’s see if I manage to recover on the rest day, and then do the time trial well,” he concluded.