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Mikel Iturria, a future star of the Basque cycling

Euskaltel dissolved at the end of 2013, but the Basque cycling continues to live on thanks to Euskadi, the Continental team which has a roster of 11 riders. One of these is Mikel Iturria, the 21-year old rider who made himself noticed in several stage races, like the Giro della Valle d’Aosta and Ronde de l’Isard. At the beginning of his second season with Euskadi, the young Basque rider competed in the Challenge Mallorca, and then continued with a training camp, where started preparing for the next races.     

What are his expectations for 2014 and what are his future goals? Read about it in the following interview, which Mikel kindly gave to me a few days ago. 

– Mikel, how did you start cycling?     

Since childhood I liked to ride my bike. At first it was just a game, I used the bike to spend time with friends and to make trips with family. Then, slowly, I got the taste of competition. I began to race interschool competitions when I was 10 years old and I’m still here, with the same desire, although the expectations are higher.      

– At that time, Euskaltel was one of the best teams of the peloton. Did that influence and made you believe you can become a pro rider?     

Euskaltel always had a big influence, I grew up watching Samuel Sanchez, Haimar Zubeldia, Iban Mayo, and David Etxebarria competing with this kit and I think all Basque cyclists dreamed of wearing the Euskaltel jersey. Fortunately, I can say that I have fulfilled half of this dream while competing for Euskadi. We were and still are part of this more than 20-year-old project and although the team’s category is not the same as before, it is a pride to compete for Euskadi.      

– Do you have a favourite rider?     

I never had an idol or a favourite rider. It’s difficult to choose one or another. I admire many cyclists, although many of them have disappointed me. Fortunately, things are changing and cycling is moving in the right direction.      

– Last year you had many good results in stage races like the Ronde de l’Isard, Vuelta a la Comunidad de Madrid and Giro della Valle d’Aosta. Which of these was the most important for you?     

For me the most important one was the Giro della Valle d’Aosta, which was a confirmation of what I did in Ronde de l’Isard. That year was the first time I competed in major races and it was really nice for me to be there. In the Giro della Valle d’Aosta I managed to recover after some problems I had in the last 5-6 kilometers of the first stage and on the second day I was very close to winning the stage, so I was fighting again for the podium.      

– Do you have any regrets after 2013?     

Without any doubt, the crash in the road race of the European Championships. I was very determined to race well because I was in an excellent shape. But after just seven kilometers I was already on the way to  the hospital and basically had to say goodbye to the whole season. That crash was the most serious since I started riding and it was very hard to come back.     

– How was the start of this season, how do you feel after the first races?     

I raced two days in the Challenge Mallorca and things didn’t go so well. I still lack confidence and the rhythm of the peloton. However, I am confident that in time and with a lot of hard work, I will overcome what happened in 2013.     

– What is your schedule for the next weeks?     

In Spain there are just a few races left on the calendar and the team, even if it doesn’t have the best financial situation, makes efforts so that we can go in as many competitions. My next races are Vuelta a Murcia and Clasica de Almeria.      

– What goals did you set for 2014?     

I want to progress further and to take part in the battle for the overall at the Tour de l’Avenir.    

– Are you also thinking of the World Championships in Ponferrada?     

There is still a long time until then, but it would be nice to race there, so that I can erase the bitter taste left by the World Championships in Florence. Without any doubt, this is one of my goals;  the route is difficult and I could do well. However, now I need to focus on the first part of the season and I must try to get good results.    

– What do you want to improve this season: your climbing skills or your time trial?     

We will try to focus on all aspects, but I would really like to work harder in order to improve my climbing skills. This is the area where I did the best last year, and if I develop these skills a little more, I think I’ll get good results.      

– You will turn 23 in the Spring of 2015. Do you hope to race by then for a World Tour or a Pro Continental team?     

I do not know how things will be in 2015, but no doubt it will be a dream come true if I can be part of a World Tour or Pro Continental team. You can be sure that I’ll work hard all year to achieve this.     

– Every rider has a dream. What is yours?     

My dream is to compete in the biggest races in the world: Grand Tours, Classics and the big races at home (Vuelta al Pais Vasco and Clasica San Sebastian). If I had to choose a race, I would choose the Giro d’Italia . I’m not dreaming of winning a specific race, for me to win just one of these races or to get a stage win would be great.

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