Beñat Intxausti has been limited to just 18 days of racing in his two seasons at Team Sky to date, but the Basque is hopeful that he has finally put his long-running bout of mononucleosis behind him as he prepares for the 2018 season.
Intxausti signed from Movistar ahead of the 2016 season, but he was interrupted by illness in early February, and he endured abortive returns at the Tour of Slovenia and Tour de Pologne before calling time on his campaign early.
The 2017 season, however, was to prove even more wretched for Intxausti, who continued to endure health problems and managed just three days of racing. His first appearance of the season came in July at the Clasica San Sebastian, which he abandoned, while he withdrew from the season-ending Tour of Guangxi on stage 2. The Chinese expedition, Intxausti said, was nonetheless a useful test of his fitness with an eye to 2018.
“I’m a bit better now. I’ve been resting at home since I came back from China and I feel good,” Intxausti said. “In China, even though I suffered more than I hoped, it was above all about understanding how I was.
“I hope that when I start training again, I will be at 100 per cent. I really want to start out with good health and then everything will go well afterwards.”
Intxausti explained that medical tests have shown that he is no longer suffering from the virus, though he added that he was in a similar position in 2016.
“From a clinical point of view, the virus is gone and everything is fine, but sometimes, there are things that can’t be detected, and the body doesn’t respond well in races,” Intxausti said. “Last year, it seemed like everything was going well, and even in training, I felt good, but then I had a sharp drop and the virus showed up again. That’s why I need to proceed with caution. The recovery is not easy.”
Despite his illness-blighted stint at Sky to date, Intxausti signed a new contract with the team for the 2018 season, albeit on reduced terms to the deal he signed on arriving from Movistar two years ago. The 31-year-old paid tribute to the team’s support over the past two seasons.
“Having the confidence of the team, starting with Dave [Brailsford], the boss, was fundamental to me and helped me to stay calm,” Intxausti said.” For me, that was the best medicine I could have. Everybody – doctors, staff, directors, riders – knew about my situation and they have been supporting me.
“They have given me the opportunity to continue for another year, and I am very grateful for that. I have no words. I want to give them as much I can in the races. Above all, I want to repay the faith they have shown in me with results.”