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Intxausti has ‘season to forget’ plagued by illness

Beñat Intxausti, 30, was sidelined for most of 2016 after contracting mononucleosis.

If you didn’t hear much about Beñat Intxausti in 2016, you’re not alone.

After a high-profile move to Team Sky and a promising start to the season, which included a third overall at the Volta a Valencia in February, he all but disappeared. Stricken by a virus, he didn’t race again until mid-June. After pulling out of the Tour of Poland in July, he was forced to stop his season to fully recover.

“The truth is that it was a season to forget,” Intxausti said in an interview. “The last time I went to [Sky team headquarters], they jokingly asked me, ‘Who are you? A new rider?’”

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The 30-year-old Basque rider insists he’s back to full health, and he hopes to turn the page on a forgettable 2016 season that included just 15 days of racing.

“I don’t want to set any firm objectives,” he said. “My only goal is to return to racing, to be at a top level, and let’s see where I end up. If I give 100 percent, that will put me in my place. I have plenty of motivation, and I am going to give everything.”

Along with Mikel Landa and Michal Kwiatkowski, Intxausti was one of Team Sky’s big signings for 2016. All three struggled throughout the season with the British outfit, but Intxausti, a solid climber who’s won two stages at the Giro d’Italia, simply fell off the map.

Intxausti initially thought he was only sick earlier in the season, but later it was confirmed that he had mononucleosis. He admitted he tried to come back too soon, and his body simply couldn’t handle the demands of the professional peloton. By July, he was forced to throw in the towel on his entire season.

“By the middle of September, an analysis came back negative, and I started to get excited,” he said. “I started to move the body, and a month later, another revision came back negative. I’m on the right track. … All I can do now is look ahead with more motivation and emotion for the season that lies ahead.”