Izagirre has turned in a solid series of results in week-long stage races this year, starting with fourth in the Volta a Valencia, and continuing with second in the Volta ao Algarve and fifth in Paris-Nice. But his first victory since winning the Tour de Pologne outright last year will make Izagirre a rider to watch closely on home soil in Pais Vasco.
"This win shows that I’ve done my homework after Paris-Nice," Izagirre told journalists at the summit finish in the GP Miguel Indurain, where he managed to fend off Sergio Henao (Team Sky) another top name for the Vuelta al Pais Vasco who finished second in the Basque stage race last year behind Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
Izagirre recognised that Movistar Team will present a formidable line-up for the Vuelta al País Vasco, given they also have Nairo Quintana, who finished fourth in País Vasco last year, as well as winning it outright in 2013.
"Nairo's just won the Volta a Catalunya," Izagirre pointed out, "and I'm in good form. So we've got a really good team for Páis Vasco, and let's hope it goes as well as here."
For Izagirre, winning the GP Miguel Indurain is his first one-day success since taking the National Road-Race title back in 2014. It also completes unfinished business, given last year in the GP Miguel Indurain, he finished second and team-mate Beñat Itxausti third after failing to shake off Katusha's Angel Vicioso. This time round, after team-mate Giovanni Visconti drained much of Henao's aggression with a series of attacks on the second last climb, Movistar's double-headed strategy paid off well.
"We hit the goalpost last year and in races on home soil" - Movistar are based in Navarre and this is the region's biggest professional race - "it's never easy, there's quite a bit of pressure," Izagirre said. "On top of that, it was a very fast race," - averaging 48 kmh in the first hour and with a dangerously large break that Movistar had to chase down early on - "and a lot of climbing, too."
"I was worried about Sergio on such a tough uphill finish, but we did a lot of good team work," said Izagirre, who dedicated his victory to Adriano Malori, his Movistar team-mate who crashed badly in the Tour de San Luis but who is steadily recovering and was present at the GP Miguel Indurain finish on Saturday to watch Izagirre cross the line and win.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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