Beñat Intxausti has described how his 2016 season, which was meant to be a "special" one, has fallen apart, and has vowed - after making his comeback from illness - to use the second half of the season to remind Team Sky why they signed him.
The Spaniard did not envisage his first season with the British WorldTour outfit going like this. Signed from Movistar, where he had won stages at the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, he was supposed to accompany his fellow Basque rider Mikel Landa in the first part of the season, with a view to playing a big role at the Giro.
His season started well enough, with an opening foray at Challenge Mallorca followed by an encouraging third overall at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, but it was then derailed by a bout of illness, which soon transpired to be mononucleosis. He returned to action last week at the Tour of Slovenia, but the draining illness and the four-month layoff, with his return date pushed back time and again, has taken its toll.
"For me it was meant to be a special year after the change of teams - a big team - with some big objectives, and it has all fallen apart," he told Basque outlet EITB.
"I've suffered a lot. It has really hurt being at home without being able to go near the bike or anything. It's a long process to get the body back to 100 per cent to compete at a high level. They say four, five, six months, even eight months, a year - there are sportspeople who have lost a year of their careers."
Intxausti's return at Slovenia was hardly a performance he'd ordinarily be proud of - he finished second last overall - but it was nevertheless a start. Having been able to taste the joy of racing once again, he vowed to repay the "debt" he feels he has accrued to Team Sky.
"It was like being in the first years of being a pro, when you're young and you thrive on that feeling of excitement," he said of Slovenia.
"I'm in debt to the team and I'm not going to let them down when I'm back to 100 per cent."
It is thought that the Vuelta a España, starting in August, will be a target, if he can prove himself fit enough.
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