It was 2009, the Tour of Ireland when PEZ first spoke to big Slovenian Aldo Ino Ilesic; but the rolling Emerald Isle countryside didn’t really suit his ‘brick built out house’ sprinter’s build. He was with Team Type 1 back then as he was the following season when a slimmed down Aldo grabbed three stage wins in the Tour of Morocco plus a stage win in the Vuelta Telmex in Mexico and then two stages in the Tour do Rio in Brazil.
In 2011 TT1 went Pro Continental and the level of races was higher – despite this, Ilesic had a solid season which he kicked off with two top ten placings in the early season Etoile des Besseges in France. Last year saw him drop into the role he was perhaps designed for all along – lead out man.
Along the way he took three major wins for himself, was second in ‘Philly’ and was instrumental in many of TT1’s wins on the UCI circuit all over the world. This year he’s again been playing the team role but for United Healthcare after TT1 decided their future lay with a team where all the athletes were diabetic.
But despite all the hard work for others, he managed a big wing along the way in the USA’s longest – and one of the most prestigious – criterium, the US Air Force Clarendon Cup.
Aldo getting the win in the Clarendon Cup
We caught up with the 29 year-old from Slovenia’s oldest city, Ptuj not long after he’d knocked in another five hours in preparation for UHC’s assault on the early season.
PEZ: The training is going well then, Aldo?
Yeah, I’ve been lucky with the weather, it’s 12/14 degrees here in Slovenia; usually it would be snowing at this time of year. I need to be in shape for the first six weeks of the season, we have to make a good impression, early!
PEZ: You started the season well, two top 12’s in Besseges.
I was good but the focus wasn’t on me getting results, it was on us building a lead out train. I stuck with that all year, although I did manage to grab the win in the Clarendon when the opportunity came my way.
PEZ: Then two top sixes in Langkawi.
Spring was the best part of the season for me but I won’t be going to Langkawi in 2014 – although I’d like to go somewhere warm, the start of the last two Euro seasons have been so tough weather-wise.
PEZ: Your March/April Euro results perhaps weren’t your strongest?
It wasn’t perfect, no – but it is what it is. I was a little sick around the time of the Three days of De Panne and not in my best form – but despite that I think I still did my job for the team.
PEZ: Then you were at the Tour of Turkey.
I liked the race and hope to do it again in 2014; it’s well set up for sprinters with not too many climbs that you can’t get over. The plan there was to get the train rolling but we really missed Robert Forster – he injured a knee in training and didn’t come back ‘til Qinghai. He’s just so experienced, his absence made a big difference to us.
In a break at the Tour of Turkey this year.
PEZ: Then California and Qinghai.
California is a good race but we didn’t really get the results we wanted. At Qinghai we took two wins, Robert won from a group then we really had the train going good for the stage we won with Jake Keogh.
PEZ: Then the Volta a Portugal – that’s a toughie.
I was smoked by then; after California I flew home then went to China, home again, Elk Grove then Europe for the Volta. The jet lag just got to me and I was done – so I had to pull out. I rode the Tour of Alberta but it was the last stage before I got my legs back and we got third spot.
PEZ: United Healthcare: 40 wins, 99 podiums and 211 top 10’s – impressive.
When it comes to criteriums they’re amazing; it’s not just a case of going for the win, they look for 1-2-3. I was lucky enough to be part of the criterium squad a few times and they are really impressive – they have it dialed.
PEZ: The stats I saw say you had 64 race days?
Yeah but that doesn’t include the US crits – I think I’m more like 75 but would have liked more, maybe 80 or 90. That’s what I hope to ride in 2014; I’m going to have a really busy spring – we want to make our mark early to catch the organisers’ eyes.
PEZ: Clarendon was a nice win for you.
Yes, 100 laps, 100 kilometres – the longest crit in the USA; it didn’t go the way we originally planned but when I saw my chance, I took it. It’s a prestigious race to have on you palmares.
Racing at this year’s Clarendon Cup
PEZ: You have Ken Hanson joining the team – he’s quick.
Yes, I was team mates with Ken before and he’s fast – he’ll be a really strong addition to the team. And we have Martijn Maaskant, too – I roomed with him at our training camp and I think he’s on the way back to his best, for sure. A new team, new motivation, it works wonders.
PEZ: The US scene seems to have escaped the ravages of Europe where we lost five teams.
But the focus in the USA is on the crits – and their starting to get TV which brings in some money for the teams.
PEZ: What’s the scene like in Slovenia?
Bad, real bad – at Continental level we only have Adria left now; Radenska and Sava have gone. I mean, we have good riders; Matej Mohoric won the U23 Worlds – he won the junior Worlds last year – and he’s going to Cannondale. But the media in Slovenia give zero coverage to cycling, unless it’s the Giro or Tour – they don’t understand about home racing and give it no exposure at all.
Hugely talented U/23 World Champ, Matej Mohoric is Cannondale bound for 2014
PEZ: Goals for 2014?
To race well for the team and help the team to step up to the next level – there’s talk that we want to go to Pro Tour, eventually and I’d like to be part of that. The riders, the staff are all great to work with and I want to grow with the squad.
That’s why the first six weeks of the season are so important to us and why I want to be in shape; we have to make our mark in February and March – riding full on and winning is what it’s about for us at the start of the year.
PEZ: Do you cut yourself any slack at Xmas?
In Slovenia, it’s different, we do the thing with the presents on the evening before Christmas and have a big meal that night too – and then another meal on Christmas Day. I’ll be doing extra hours on the bike both days so as I can have little more to eat than usual; but no rest days – I have too much focus on the first six weeks of the season to allow myself that luxury.