Stage 16 – Limone sul Garda to Falzes/Pfalzen, 173km
Stage profile: The final week opens with a profile which is uphill virtually all day. A sting in the tail sees a 2.3km section at 8.6% inside the final 5km which includes a short section of pavé for good measure, but this is a day tailor-made for the breakaway artists rather than the GC contenders.
Top three: 1. Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), 2. Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) +0:16, 3. Stef Clement (Rabobank) same time.
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.