Izagirre brothers on and off the course
Ion and Gorka Izagirre exited the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris with a big smile on their faces, embarking together – once again – on a journey that will take them from Paris to Nice with Team Bahrain Merida. Ion is the “old mate” of the Team whereas Gorka is still settling in, both proud to continue the family legacy in the cycling world. Gorka is the rather quiet one of the two, a bit shy by nature, Ion is the more outgoing one who easily mixes and mingles with the rest of the team and the staff. During transfers you would find Gorka sitting in the second row immersed in his own thoughts and Ion always on the bench chatting away nineteen to the dozen. Two well-suited brothers who share a deep level of connection and affinity that goes beyond their contrasting personalities. They live in one accord with one another in their Basque microcosm they carry within themselves and in which they share the room, the breakfast and dinner table and, as it happened in the fourth stage of this Paris-Nice 2018, even the same ITT time. Wouldn’t we know they aren’t twins, we could very well believe they were…
After that stage on March 7th we had a chance to sit with them after the dinner and get an insight into the real life of these two fascinating brothers.
You seem to share a very deep bond. Has it always been like this, ever since you were little? Were there no quarrels in your house when you were kids?
Ion: “Of course! Like all kids we were also fighting but we’ve always been really good friends and brothers in every sense.”
Gorka: “We train every day together, since we were born we live in the same city, we share the same group of friends, we are only 2 years apart.”
Ion: “Sometimes we also have our differences but within 10 minutes we forget even why we argued. We are aware of each other’s nature and when we need one, we have our go-to psychologist, our masseur Ibay. He plays referee between us then,” both are laughing.
Do you live close to each other in Bilbao as well?
Ion: “Yes, we live very close to each other. Our kids are of the same age – the youngest two are only 12 days apart, and Gorka also has a 3-year-old boy.”
Will they be the next generation of the Izagirre cyclists?
Gorka: “I don’t want to push my 3-year-old son on a bicycle, even though his grandfather wants to buy him one,” laughs Gorka and continues “When he will grow up he will choose which sport he likes. Yet, I must say, in our family cycling is the most natural one.”
Which one of you started cycling first? How did you choose cycling? What’s the story behind?
Gorka: “I started first, when I was 11 years old.“
Ion: “Only 2 weeks later I started training as well. After watching only two of Gorka’s races, I also felt the desire to get into it. I thought that I was too young at first (I was only 9 at that time) but the race organizers gave me their approval, so I immediately followed my brother. We were never in the same racing group because I was 2 years younger than him, but we were in the same team, so we always trained together.”
Gorka: “We decided for cycling because our father was a cyclocross rider. We always had bicycles around since we were really little… that was always in the family.”
Ion: “I have no memories of us watching dad racing, only Gorka does. We later watched videos of his races and saw us standing in the public cheering for him. Also, another reason why we got into cycling was the Indurain ‘boom’ when we were like 5 – 6 – 7 years old. He was our idol and we were watching him all the time and had the dream to become like him one day.”
Did you train in the same team from the beginning? For how many years?
Gorka: “We started first in a local team, and then I first moved on to Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2010 where Ion joined me after three years. We stayed there for another 3 years before joining Movistar for further 3 years and now we are together again in Team Bahrain Merida. This is our seventh year in the same team and we are enjoying it a lot.”
Ion: „We both started in a local team. Until Under 23 we never competed against each other due to the 2 years age gap. Whenever one reached another group level the other one stayed one more year in the group below”.
How do you like to race against each other in the same team and at the same races? Isn’t it like a clash?
Ion: “We like to race together. In the previous team we didn’t race together because most of the time we had different roles. Now in Team Bahrain Merida we will do almost all the races together. We requested it to be so, we like to be both leaders. It’s good for the team to have two leaders rather than only one, there are more chances to make a good General Classification.”
Have you ever been tempted to quit? What was your brother’s advice?
Ion: “I have never said I would stop. Never ever. But it happens a lot that you get into a crisis and you need moral support from someone who gets your mental status and motivates you to get the grip of the situation, whether you are physically injured or tired. You can get stuck in your head for many reasons. Your parents and wife are always there to help, but it’s a totally different thing when you get the right support from another cyclist, especially if that cyclist is your own brother. He knows best what you are going through.”
Do you always talk and evaluate with each other after the race? Was it like that even when you were not in the same team?
Gorka: “Yes, always.”
Ion: »Yes, absolutely. The fact that we know each other’s personality inside out helps us bring up the support the other needs… for the benefit of the team ultimately.”
We have seen you last year after one stage at the Tour of the Basque Country how you rode together down the hill after the race. What did you talk about? What do you usually talk about after the race?
Ion: “I honestly don’t remember”, he smiled and continued “What I know is that we never gossiped or disclosed any team information if we weren’t racing in the same team. We mostly talk about our feelings and impressions of the stage and so on.”
In the Paris-Nice you had exactly the same result at TT. Has that ever happened before?
Ion: “Never! We also found it strange and almost spooky. Everyone is asking us now if we are twins,” he laughs.
Gorka: “Identical results don’t happen very often, especially not in such a long TT.”
What would you do if one of the two of you had to stop the race? Who’s usually more likely to give up and sacrifice for the other?
Ion: “First of all we would evaluate the situation from a strategical point of view. If we are both leaders it’s definitely a tough decision. But if that happens, in that moment we’d need to focus on the circumstances, the feelings, physical conditions of both of us, there are many aspects that need to be considered.”
Gorka: “We would always be ready to sacrifice for each other but, as Ion mentioned, we would make a rational decision based on what is best for the team.”
You both look very satisfied with your lives, with the fact you are in cycling and that now you are together again. What message would you like to leave to your fans at the end of this interview? Is there any wish or a goal for your professional future that you would like to share with us?
Ion: “We always want to win. Both! We wish to succeed in big races, big tours, big classics. But to be honest I hope not to have bad luck. Last year that happened to me and I know how difficult it is to recover. I managed to do so in a very short time and now I feel strong as I was before that injury. It’s an amazing feeling. Only when you don’t have any problems, injury or sickness you can give 100% and that is the only thing I wish for me personally.”
Gorka: “When you can give 100% then the rest will come by itself. I am happy to be in Team Bahrain Merida. It’s a new team for me. We’ve just joined 3 months ago but I already feel totally integrated and very comfortable.”
After the interview the two brothers went to their rooms, had a chat with their families and listened to some music. Just like normal people do. They look balanced and happy. Their synergy is certainly giving them strength to seize another day and another stage. Their positive and honest bond reflects in their performance within the team and has a very positive effect on the overall group. Being twins does not necessarily mean being born on the same day, sometimes it’s a matter of choice. And we choose to embrace those two positive souls in the greater family of Team Bahrain Merida.
No disruption to their magic bond was caused even by the crash at km 6,6 of the last stage of the Paris-Nice because, just like in life, they continued to fight together. Towards a common goal. For the team. This is the spirit we like to portray to the world of cycling. A spirit of brotherhood. You go through thick and thin and eventually you succeed. To this end, may we see more of the splendid Basque brothers.