QUEBEC CITY (VN) — After rumors that Ion and Gorka Izagirre might leave Movistar at the end of the season, potentially for Team Sky, the brothers from Spain’s Basque Country are set to re-up with Movistar for 2016.
“The only thing that remains is signing the contract, but we are going to reach an agreement with the Movistar management. Next year, we will be here,” Ion Izagirre said at the start line of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec.
Ion Izagirre, the younger of the two brothers at age 26, first made his presence known with a breakaway win at the 2012 Giro d’Italia, but has reached a new level in the past year. A key support rider for Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde in the grand tours, Izagirre has been very successful in his own right in shorter races. The 2014 Spanish road race champion, this spring he was third in the Vuelta al País Vasco, his home stage race, before going on to win the Tour of Poland in August. His brother Gorka has been a crucial domestique and one-week contender as well, taking top 10s in this year’s Tour Down Under and Paris-Nice.
With several riders’ contracts expiring at the end of 2015, Movistar was looking at a potentially rocky transfer season, but the squad has been able reach new agreements with many of the would-be free agents. The Spanish team recently announced the re-signing of Andrey Amador and brothers Jesús and José Herrada, and locking in Ion and Gorka Izagirre makes sense as well — Alejandro Valverde is still winning plenty of races, but he turned 35 this year. Although he doesn’t appear to be in decline just yet, he can’t ride on forever.
The Izagirre brothers — Ion in particular — represent the future. The Spanish public, which provides a huge fan base for Movistar, could find itself in dire need of new heroes when the “cuatro galácticos” — Valverde, Alberto Contador, Samuel Sánchez, Joaquím Rodríguez — retire within the next few years.
Izagirre knows that he has the potential to play a major role as part of that next Spanish generation.
“Contador, Purito, Valverde — I can’t compare myself with them, but I believe that Spanish cycling has strong riders,” he said. “For example, Marc Soler just won the Tour de l’Avenir [the premier under-23 race of the season]. We have Mikel Landa, myself, there is Jesús Herrada … I believe that the younger crowd is getting to that level step by step. And I hope that in the coming years we will be able to deliver victories.”
Movistar appears to have faith in both Ion Izagirre and his brother Gorka, to add to the likes of Soler and the young Rubén Fernandez. Though Movistar is still in talks to keep Beñat Intxausti for 2016, the team has plenty of reasons to stay confident for the coming years despite the looming end of the Valverde era.