For me, the major story from Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem wasn’t Tom and his magnificent Boonens. No, it was all about the normally cobble-shy Basque rider who spent much of his time in the leading group. Wouldn’t that have made a fantastic headline, possibly along the lines of ‘Brave Basque Bounces over Cobbles to Cop Cup’? The Basque in question was Euskaltel-Euskadi’s 23-year old Jon Izagirre, younger brother of Gorka, who’s also on the team and who also rode in the race.
This isn’t as odd as it might at first seem. Igorre in the Bizkaia-Biscay region hosts a stage in the UCI World Cyclo-Cross Cup and northern Spain has a rich tradition in cyclo-cross racing, though perhaps not quite as rich as in Northern Europe. The boys have form – they spent their formative years riding cyclo-cross, a sport beloved of and dominated by the Belgiums. Their father Jose-Ramon Iazagirre was a notable amateur cyclo-cross rider, who nonetheless recorded numerous podium spots and in 1983 was second in the Spanish national championships. It’s therefore only natural that the boys wanted to ape their father, who was very supportive of their ambitions but also encouraged them to take part in other sports.
Euskaltel have a history of employing sets of brothers. In recent years, there’s been Alvaro and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Aitor and Josu Silloniz, Igor and Iker Flores, and Haimar and Joseba Zubeldia. The fine tradition continues with Gorka and Jon.
The boys started riding as youngsters and almost straight away found winning ways, probably due to the strength and support of the Basque cycling clubs, particularly at grass-roots level. In 2003, Gorka won his age group at the Spanish national cyclo-cross championships while Jon was third in 2006, going on to win the Basque under-23 Championships in the same discipline. It wasn’t long before the brothers starting winning road races too, with both enjoying success at junior and under-23 levels.
24-year old Gorka rode for continental squad Contempolis Ampo before joining Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2009, while younger brother Jon came through the Euskaltel feeder squad and joined his brother in the senior team at the start of last season. Both boys made an immediate impact. In 2010, Gorka won Prueba Villafranca de Ordizia and stage four of the Tour of Luxembourg. In addition, he animated a number of races securing valuable airtime for the sponsor. Last year was one of learning and consolidation with numerous top-20 placings.
Likewise, in his rookie year Jon was fourth in both the Prueba Villafranca de Ordizia and the Tour du Poitou-Charente. He’s started this year with a podium place in Boucles du Sud Ardeche, 16th in Tirreno-Adriatico and then 15th on Sunday in Gent-Wevelgem, having been in the leading group for most of the race of the race. Afterwards his directuer sportif said:
Jon did a great race. In the sort of race we always struggle to impress in, I’m delighted with the whole team. In addition to Jon, Ruben [Perez] and Gorka [Izagirre] also did well.
I actually saw Gorka win the Prueba Villafranca in 2010 which is on the boys’ home turf. They were born in Ormaiztegi, not far from Ordizia where the circuit race takes place. Here he is in action:
The boys are clearly good friends but claim they’ll never to tempted to ‘do a Frandy’ unless requested to do so by their directeur sportif. Gorka claims Jon is the more talented rider while Jon says his brother is mentally stronger. Only time will tell how these two will develop, but the future’s bright, the future’s orange.