Save for one season, Gorka and Ion Izagirre have navigated the tricky path of professional cycling together since 2011. Some siblings enjoy the type of rivalry that only a brother or a sister can provide but when Gorka’s contract at Movistar was up the Izagirre brothers were keen to work together again.
They are two years apart in age but you can count on one hand the times that Gorka and Ion Izagirre have competed on different teams. Their choice of Continental teams, in the year ahead of turning professional, was different, while Gorka stepped up to Euskaltel-Euskadi a season before his younger brother. Last season, Ion switched to the nascent Bahrain-Merida team while Gorka stuck it out another year at Movistar before joining forces with his brother.
“It feels like when you are at home,” Gorka told Cyclingnews of riding with his brother. “After four years in Movistar, in my head, I wanted to have a change. Ion is here and that is a perfect situation. Bahrain also gave me an opportunity and it was an easy choice.”
Ion, the younger of the two Izagirre brothers, believes that their styles of racing complement each other.
“We work together perfectly, his personality and my personality. We want to race together as much as we can,” explained Ion.
“It’s nice being together. We’re brothers and it is nice to be on the same team, before at Movistar and Euskaltel, and now here. We complement each other. For me, it’s very important to be with him on this team. It gives me confidence in the races.”
Are they better when they race together? “Yes,” was the simple response from Gorka.
Cyclingnews met the Izagirre brothers at the Bahrain-Merida training camp in Hvar in December. They’re rarely apart, even when doing interviews. When one journalist asked to speak to Ion alone, he was surprised.
Ion is the more talkative of the two and led much of the conversation during the interview with Cyclingnews. This was, in part, due to the fact that the interview was conducted in English – Ion wanted to have an opportunity to practice. He began learning English when he went to Scotland on the Erasmus programme just before he turned professional.
“I didn’t understand anything,” he joked.
Gorka is newer to learning English and a few Spanish words infiltrate his responses. He might be the quieter of the two, but Ion says that he is the more strong-willed.
“He has a very strong personality,” he explained. “Sometimes it’s good during the race, it’s good to make a decision at a certain moment and maybe I don’t have that personality, but also sometimes it isn’t good. He can be too strong-minded sometimes.”
Similar goals for 2018
It is not just their personalities that are complimentary, but their riding styles too. A quick look at their palmares and you can see where their talents lie, one-week racing.
Ion has the fuller list of accomplishments with victory at the Tour de Pologne and podium places at the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de Romandie. Gorka, however, took a big step forwards last season and finished ahead of his brother on general classification at Paris-Nice. He also matched Ion’s Giro d’Italia stage win with a victory of his own at Peschici.
The 2018 season will be one of discovery for both of the Izagirre, with Gorka settling into life on a new team, while Ion tests himself after his comeback from injury. He believes that he is fully recovered from the Tour de France crash that ruled him out of the rest of the 2017 season but he won’t really know until he begins racing again.
They will take on 2018 with a very similar race programme, starting with the People’s Choice Classic criterium this Sunday and the Tour Down Under, where they will be joint leaders with new signing Domenico Pozzovivo. Paris-Nice and their home race the Vuelta al Pais Vasco will form the crux of the first part of their season. A return to the Tour de France could be on the cards too.
“Maybe we will do the Tour,” Gorka told Cyclingnews. “We are in the Tour group and we will see. I don’t know. [Vincenzo] Nibali will be the leader and if we go then we go to help him and to work for him. I hope that it will be a good Tour for Nibali. There's a team time trial, so it is also important to have a strong team and be at a good level.”
Being such similar riders, do they mind competing in many of the same races?
“No,” explained Gorka. “We also say this to the team. The team asked us if we are okay to race together or not because some brothers maybe don’t want to race together.”
Ion added: “We work together perfectly, his personality and my personality. We want to race together as much as we can.”