Happy birthday Jon Izagirre

Proudly wearing the new Eusklatel shirt (image courtesy of Euskaltel-Euskadi)

Proudly wearing the new Eusklatel shirt (image courtesy of Euskaltel-Euskadi)

Jon Izagirre pozik urtebetetzea (Basque: Happy birthday) The younger Izagirre brother is today celebrating his 24th birthday and his third year in the professional ranks. He’s not unknown to VeloVoices readers as we’ve previously covered the talented orange-clad Izagirre brothers and he’s also been tipped by Basque race commentator Inigo Asensio as one to watch. However, I managed to surprise many on Twitter when I picked him for the stage win out of an escape group on last year’s stage 16 in the Giro d’Italia.

Last year was his breakout season where he was noticed by fans outside of the Basque country, firstly with a third place in the Boucles du Sud Ardeche in February behind FDJ duo Remi Pauriol and Arthur Vichot. A 16th place overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, saw him fall victim to the short straw and participation in the hellish cobbled northern Classics. But hey ho, he surprised many with an attacking performance and 15th in Gent-Wevelgem.

He then completed Paris-Roubaix – no mean feat – within the time limit. Back on more familiar terrain, he took his maiden professional victory in the rain-soaked 14km time-trial in the Vuelta a Asturias. A crash on stage three dashed his hopes of challenging for the overall, won by fellow Basque Benat Intxausti (Movistar). So do the Basques have a Classics rider and time-trialist in the making? Well, maybe …

Euskaltel’s main man for the 2012 Giro d’Italia was Mikel Nieve but yet another disastrous performance for the tangoed team in the team time trial had put paid to his challenge. It was left to Jon to salvage Basque pride on stage 16 into Falzes when he was part of the decisive breakaway. While we debated on Twitter who might emerge triumphant, I plumped solidly for Jon and I was right.

To be fair, I wasn’t the only one, but then I do have a lot of Basques in my timeline which positively erupted as Jon battled up the steep finishing straight and straight to stardom. A new hashtag was born #IzagirreRockStar. I’m not sure but I suspect this was started by Basque uberfan Albertina, from Podium Cafe.

Young Jon’s started 2013 on a high with a fourth place overall in the Tour Down Under – brother Gorka was seventh overall. Keep a look out for him this year. You won’t be disappointed.

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