As first reported by Cyclingnews last month, Ion Izagirre has broken his contract with Movistar and joined Bahrain-Merida for 2017 and 2018, the team confirmed today.
The Spaniard had a year left on his contract at Movistar but has been looking to orchestrate a move away. It appears that his 270 WorldTour points, accrued over the course of a strong season, were a key factor in the move, with the nascent Bahrain-Merida team keen to sweep up successful riders and their points in a bid to secure WorldTour status in its debut year.
"From the day I found out that they were interested in me, and seeing that the team was gaining strength, I started to like the idea of belonging to this club more and more," said Izaguirre in a statement from the team.
"It is a great challenge for me and I am looking forward to working with my new partners to achieve new goals."
Izaguirre, 27, turned pro with the Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi squad in 2011 and joined Movistar in 2014, where he has gone from strength to strength. However he has struggled to leadership role due to the presence of Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.
After becoming Spanish road race champion in 2014, he won the Tour de Pologne last year and made a stride forward in week-long stage races this campaign. He has finished no lower than eighth in the six such races he's done this year, particular highlights including second at the Tour de Suisse, third at the Tour de Romandie, and fifth at Paris-Nice – all WorldTour races.
He also became Spanish time trial champion and won the penultimate stage of the Tour de France, attacking on the descent of the Col de Joux Plane to take victory in Morzine.
"Having Izaguirre on the team is a very exciting signing for us," said Bahrain-Merida's general manager Brent Copeland. "It gives the team a boost to our group of riders for the GC in Grand Tours, he is a complete rider who can win both one day races, as we saw with his Spanish championship win, as well as place very well in the general classification of tours thanks to his very good time trailing ability and climbing skills."
"At the very experienced age of 27 and ridden 7 years in the pro peloton, even though he has this behind his name we still feel he has margin for improvement, and we are looking forward to him reaching his maturation years with us for the next two years. It is important for us to also have another Spanish rider on the team, showing the internationality that we believe in."
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