Slovenian sprinter Aldo Ino Ilesic has inked a two-year deal with the Astellas Pro Cycling Team that will see him racing in the US through the end of 2017. After spending this season bouncing between Austrian Continental Team Vorarlberg and US-based elite team Alto Velo – Seasucker, he is looking forward to settling into his new home and continuing to bring his winning sprint to domestic criterium racing.
“Yes, a new team for me, again!,” Ilesic told Cyclingnews. “After the season I was sure that other teams would knock on my door. One of those teams was also Astellas. After more than a month of negotiating I finally pulled the trigger and signed a two-year contract."
Ilesic has become a prominent sprinter on the US domestic circuit over the past seven years. He left Continental team Perutnina Ptuj at the end of 2007 to join Team Type 1 (2009-2012) and UnitedHealthcare (2013 and 2014). Without a contract from UnitedHealthcare for 2015, Ilesic went back over to Europe where he raced for half the season for Team Vorarlberg. He had strong performances at Trofej Umag - Umag Trophy (1.2) and GP Izola (1.2), and was also second in the opening stage of the Tour de Taiwan.
He ended that portion of his season at the Flèche du Sud (2.2) in May, a race he did not finish, and concluded that European-style road racing was no longer his forte.
“I have a pretty interesting season behind me, leaving UHC after two years and joining the Austrian Continental team Vorarlberg,” Ilesic said. “But five months into season I realized that the classical road races are not my sport anymore.”
Ilesic has built a career in sprinting in the US and wanted to return to make his mark on the domestic criterium racing scene. He joined Alto Velo-Seasucker, a team that gave him the opportunity to get to most out of the major criteriums from June through the end of September.
“I had a blast with them," Ilesic said. “We started producing wins race after race and shook up the US crit scene pretty good. I came to the team as the final lead-out man and I think I did my job well, as we won more than ten races in those three and half months, plus many, many podiums.”
The team’s other sprinter Daniel Holloway finished the National Criterium Calendar (NCC) in fourth place overall, and Ilesic managed to move up into fifth place overall, largely because of his victories at Rochester Twilight Criterium and TD Bank Mayor’s Cup. He was also second at both the Littleton Criterium and one stage of Tusla Tough. His performances didn’t go unnoticed and he ended up signing a new contract with Astellas.
“For many, the move was surprising as a lot of people expected that I would stay with the same team after the great year we had, but due to many circumstances and some uncertainty, I choose a new team,” said Ilesic, who vowed to mentor his new Astellas teammates in domestic criteriums. Astellas manager Andrew Frey told Cyclingnews that the team would focus on the newly merged national calendar next year. Ilesic will work with criterium sprinter Ryan Aitcheson on the Astellas team.
“I will try to keep on my work, with focusing on each teammate and trying to push them to their limits so each one will put in his maximum to the teams success.
“The deal for me is crits only, so no road races unless I will have to fill up a gap of racing. And that is also my main focus for the remaining part of my career.
“With 90+ kg of weight, I wasn't really competitive anymore in the longer and hillier road races. So as a big guy (I am not fat, but being 193cm tall adds some weight), I choose a type of cycling that suits me much better than what I did in the past.
“Now it's time for me to set a mark in crit racing and I can't wait for the next season to start.”