- Ivan Basso
August 25, 2009, 14:55 BST,
August 25, 2009, 17:17 BST
Giro d'Italia's experience helps for first Vuelta a España
Hello everyone! I have been racing in Poland and Italy since I last wrote. My objective is to build towards my first participation in the Vuelta a España (and hopefully a win).
Last diary I talked about a "softer" programme for next year's Giro d'Italia. Well, I am also applying that to the Vuelta a España. The Tour of Poland was the perfect place for me to re-start my season.
I trained at altitude in Livigno, Italy, before Poland. I arrived in Poland and the race organisation immediately impressed me, which made me happy to be there for my re-start.
Ballan took an impressive stage win in his World Champion's jersey and went on to win the overall. I was happy to see him win and look forward to the World Championships this year with him.
My ride in Poland was not impressive, but it was the "soft" return that I wanted. When I returned to Italy I hit the mountains again, training at altitude for eight days in San Pellegrino (the Dolomites). The training was ideal for Spain's big climbs, but not what I needed for the hot and sticky Italian one-day races last week.
Hot and sticky, but ready for the Vuelta
I was a little shocked in Tre Valli and Agostoni. I had been training in cool temperatures and not the 40°C I found back at sea level. I hit back in the Trofeo Melinda Saturday.
Giovanni Visconti won his second race after Agostoni, but I placed fourth. I did not race for the result, but for the feel of the race, above all on the climbs. I was never going to win ahead of Visconti and Garzelli at Melinda, but it was a step ahead with respect to the other races.
My work is now finished for the Vuelta, I just need to re-find my freshness and benefit from all the work I've already done. There is a big difference heading into this race compared to the Giro, I had to always try to confirm myself prior to the Giro because I did not exactly know what the level of my rivals was.
The Giro left me with a feeling of how the others are going. Now, especially in this last week, I am able to follow my own feelings, not the SRM metre.
Who will be the top rivals at the Vuelta a España? They will be the usual suspects, six or seven riders that have the ability to win a Grand Tour. I will watch out for Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans, Samuel Sánchez, Robert Gesink and Andy Schleck, if he races the classification. But what's important for me is to not think of all the others, but to race at my maximum.
Tour de France
I watched Schleck and Evans closely at the Tour de France last month. Andy showed that he matured from the last year and he will be able to go for the win in the next years.
Then there is Lance Armstrong. What can you say about him? It is all amazing! He is still stronger than all of his past rivals and can battle with the new faces to win the Tour. Third was impressive.
Pellizotti did very well to let the classification go and fight for the climbers' jersey. It was a great show and an honour for Italy, it is always hard to win that jersey.
I read how he would like to race the Giro next year as sole captain and then I would be the sole captain for the Tour. The team managers have to work this out over the winter, it is a little early now to plan it, though. We have always had a great relationship, as you saw at the Giro d'Italia. We will work out a plan and win the races.
Talk to you soon. We can catch up on my progress in the Vuelta and my thoughts on the Worlds.
- Ivan Basso
June 18, 2009, 16:29 BST,
June 18, 2009, 16:59 BST
The Giro is over and it's time for a break ahead of the Vuelta
Since I last wrote from Florence, the Giro d'Italia finished in Rome and the first half of 2009 ended with a bang on Mont Ventoux last week. It wasn't quite the way I wanted to go out, but now I am enjoying a small break prior to working towards being in the best form for the Vuelta a España.
Looking back from the comfort of my armchair in Varese I believe it was a good return to the big stage races. Considering it was the first Giro d'Italia in three years it was a important test, and I passed! I never had a day where I lost a lot of time, so this tells me there is regularity and that's important for the Vuelta.
My worst day was the day that Denis Menchov essentially won the Giro, the dreaded Cinque Terre time trial. The course may have looked pretty on your television sets, but I think it was the worst of days for me. The time trial was never flat, never straight; it was loaded with curves, descents and changes in rhythm – it really hurt me.
I shot back with a huge show of force on the stage to Faenza. Stefano Garzelli and I worked together with an attack on the Monte Casale. We lasted for about 30 kilometres under baking sun, until Menchov and his helpers brought us under control.
It could have been a decisive day if I had a little bit more luck. The Monte Petrano and Blockhaus stages gave me another chance, but I think I paid somewhat from the Faenza stage.
To tell you the truth, my best possible overall result in Rome would have been a third. I finished fifth, ahead of me was last year's Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre and in third was my teammate, Franco Pellizotti. Franco took the Blockhaus win and stepped up in the classification.
I think I paid for the fact that I rode well and strong for a lot of months, since the Tour of Argentina in January. I arrived at the Giro a little tired, always under the eye of the press since Japan, last October. My head was strong but my legs were a little less fresh than I wanted for the start of the Giro. I had no choice, I had to do that work beforehand because I did not race in the years before.
I have to have a "softer" programme in March and April next year. And that is sort of my approach for the Vuelta a España, I am at zero again and I will build for the Vuelta with calmness.
My problems at the Dauphiné Libéré last week were sort of a blessing, helping me start from zero. I had a intestinal virus that resulted in a fever and other problems, not what you want when you are up against Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador. In the first days of Dauphiné I had stomach aches and nausea, in the time trial I was feeling so-so and after the Ventoux I vomited – very bad.
Back home, the controls confirmed that I no longer have a virus, but there is still a stomach problem. It will pass after a week or two of easy work on the bike. My next race back will be the Tour of Poland, August 2 to 8.
I will start serious training again in July and then make a trip to train at altitude. I will return for a week at home and then take off to Poland. The last 20 days prior to the Vuelta are still up in the air.
I will turn on the television in July like you to watch the battles at the Tour de France. It is hard to say who will win, there are a lot of strong riders. I think that Contador, Lance Armstrong, Cadel Evans, Fränk and Andy Schleck, and Carlos Sastre are the favourites.
My teammate Roman Kreuziger has lots of talent and he will certainly finish with the top riders. He is a phenomenon and nothing is impossible for a rider like him. He could also win if the race develops in a certain way. He will be one of the biggest riders in the next years.
It will be a great Tour de France and we will have fun watching from our armchairs! I'll check back with you prior to Poland.
- Ivan Basso
May 23, 2009, 14:16 BST,
June 05, 2009, 15:26 BST
We're at the halfway point in the Giro and Ivan is ready to make a late charge
We are already over halfway into the Giro d'Italia as I write this in my hotel room in Florence. It is hot here, but I have the window open to let the Tuscan breeze carry me through my recollection of the last days and calm me ahead of what will be a high-intensity second half.
I can say that I am more or less satisfied with my first Grand Tour after three years. Clearly, I wanted to be higher up in the classification at this point, but it is not so bad considering those who are ahead of me. There are riders who have ruled the past Grand Tours: Denis Menchov won the Vuelta, Carlos Sastre won the Tour, Levi Leipheimer was on the podium at the Tour and Danilo Di Luca won the Giro.
Then, even within my own team, there is Franco Pellizotti. He finished just off the podium of last year's Giro d'Italia, when Alberto Contador won and I was only re-starting. You have to consider that I am right behind all of these high-level riders.
I am not intimidated or scared of them, mind you. The ambition is clear: to do better and better over the next stages. There are still three mountaintop arrivals where I can stake my claim. The long climbs of the Monte Petrano stage, Blockhaus and Vesuvio will be my stomping grounds and I have to have faith, through and through. I can guarantee you that the last week will be full of surprises.
I mentioned Pellizotti above because he is one of the big favourites for this centennial Giro d'Italia. The team leadership situation is just like in the past when I raced with Carlos Sastre at the Tour de France. Up until now, we both have ridden up front at the tail end of a stage. He will try a move and then I will try a move, it is a perfect division of leadership.
Both of us are racing with the ambitions to arrive on the podium after the final time trial in Rome. The problem for us is not how we are going to share the leadership, but how we are going to recover two or three minutes on Menchov. That Russian is going truly fast.
Menchov showed his strength in the time trial on Thursday, even if I had gone to train on it more than any other rider had. In my head, I had the idea to go a lot stronger. The reality is that it was a stage with many changes in rhythm that required you to have good bike handling skills and the condition to ride a time of 90 minutes.
I think that my time could have been a little bit better, but I am okay with the time as it is.
Coming through the window are sounds of fans who have just witnessed Cavendish's third stage win. It has been an amazing Giro d'Italia for his team, from Venice to Florence, 13 days.
The days blur by when you are within a three-week race. It is the same everyday, after the stage I arrive and I have a small lunch, have a massage and relax. Often I am talking to my family via the computer or telephone.
If it involves computers, it also involves my right hand man and roommate Kjell Carlström. He is always helping me out, as I mentioned in my last post. A lot of the time, we will just put the computer aside and talk, old school style.
We talked about the ride of Lance Armstrong in Thursday's time trial. He had a very strong ride if you take into consideration he had a broken collarbone a month and a half a go.
He is doing wonders for this year's Giro d'Italia. I look around everyday and see hundreds of fans waiting for me, but it is nothing when you see the numbers that are there for Lance. I take a peak and I can tell that they are all so happy to get a photo or an autograph from him.
It is better this way, the fans can keep him busy and Pellizotti and I will get about with the rest of the Giro. We are going to do what we can to dethrone Menchov prior to the time trial in the Eternal City of Rome.
- Ivan Basso
May 07, 2009, 14:10 BST,
June 05, 2009, 15:15 BST
It's Giro time as Ivan travels down to Venice for the start of the biggest Italian race of the year
Hello everyone! I am on my way to the start of the centennial Giro d'Italia in Venice, my first after three years. Tomorrow [Thursday] is a press conference, Friday the final bit of training and then Saturday the Corsa Rosa begins with a team time trial in the magical city of Venice.
I'm travelling in a car with Kjell Carlström and we are about an hour away from our hotel on the outskirts of Venice. Kjell will also be my roommate for three weeks. He was one of the first riders from Liquigas I met last year and we hit it off right away. He is a smart guy and knows how to do the work required of a professional cyclist.
Often when we are out training or racing he will give me advice and I take his words to heart; it is best to have four eyes and two heads. If he sees I am pedaling too hard, he tells me to use an easier gear. His help continues when we are off our bikes as he is always assisting me if I have trouble with my computer!
My computer is not the only thing extra I packed in my suitcase for the three week journey. There is always a photo of my family, which will accompany me for these weeks. Certainly I can see photos on my computer, but to have a printed photo is a lot better than anything else. The other thing that I always bring is a pillow for sleeping, you never know what you are going to find at the hotels.
The most important thing is to have a lot of enthusiasm for this Giro, which I have because I have been waiting for it for a long time.
It is not just Kjell, but all of my teammates who are great. We have guys who can hammer on the flats and others who can fly up the passes. We are all able to pull the weight if one of us is having a bad day.
First, there's Franco Pellizotti who knows how to lead the team. Manuel Quinziato and Alessandro Vanotti will lead the charge on the flats, Sylvester Szmyd and Vladimir Miholjevic are our mountain goats, Valerio Agnoli will guide us through the technical finales and Carlström is like our multi-use tool, he's a complete rider that covers our every need.
Venice's time trial
The crono will be a high-speed affair that will depend a lot on the wind: If there is no wind the average will be high, if there is a strong wind then attention will need to be given to its direction. It will be a very spectacular crono with only four or five turns in 20.5 kilometres. I don't even want to think about rain. We will have to just focus ourselves on a safe ride and take our rain capes if it does.
Rivals, rivals, rivals
Everyone asks me who will be the man to beat, who will be my strongest rival. I can tell you it will be a very challenging Giro when you consider the rivals I am facing. Each team has two men who can challenging for the overall: Armstrong and Leipheimer, Cunego and Bruseghin, Di Luca and Bosisio, Simoni and Scarponi, Basso and Pellizotti. Then look at the others, like Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov... It will be very dangerous with all these guys battling for the maglia rosa.
The overall winner of the maglia rosa is easy to figure out, however. The winner will be the one who goes the fastest in the mountains and the strongest in the time trials.
- Ivan Basso
April 21, 2009, 13:34 BST,
June 05, 2009, 14:46 BST
Two weeks of solid training as the former Giro champ prepares for his main objective of the year
Ciao to everyone at Cyclingnews and all the readers worldwide. It has been a great two weeks since I last wrote a diary and it is only around 20 days until the start of my season's objective, the Giro d'Italia stage race.
I returned Saturday [April 18] from the Spanish island of Tenerife, the place now famous thanks to Lance Armstrong's winter training camp. I passed a good 14 days together with my teammates training at altitude. Pellizotti, Stangelj, Miholjevic, Carlström and Szmyd joined me on the trip.
It was a time to get in some work, but also to stay together as a team like we did earlier in the year at the Benicàsim camp. We always headed out on our training rides together, but with each of us having different variations depending on our form.
Though it is a small island, every day we were able to ride a different route. Pellizotti and Miholjevic were there a few months ago and so they knew the island roads well. We were able to do some interesting rides, climbs and flats.
Some days I rode for up to nine hours. Usually I do not take an iPod, and fortunately, for these long ones there was Carlström with me to pass the time and chat about life. In addition, there is always something beautiful to see on the horizon – it is a beautiful island.
Though it is a tourist spot traffic is not so bad. When we got away from the lowlands we had a lot of peace and could really focus on our training.
Sweet home Varese
I had a nice weekend with my family at home, relaxing ahead of another tough week. It will be essentially my third week of hard training: I returned Saturday, today [April 20] we previewed the team time trial route in Venice, I will race the Giro del Trentino from Wednesday to Saturday, then fly immediately after the race to Belgium for Liège-Bastogne-Liège Sunday. Trentino and Liège back-to-back will be a huge demand on my energy, but I look forward to it because it is a good physical test, to put my body under the stress of day-to-day racing.
I don't expect a result in those races; I think it is still too soon to reap the benefits of Tenerife. Will I win a stage in Trentino? It is hard to say if I will be the favourites, I have just come back down from altitude and so it is an unknown.
Team time trial
It was good today in Venice – always a magical city. It was my third time there to try the 20.5-kilometre team time trial course and I am now very familiar with it. We were able to hit it hard three times, thanks to the help of local police who blocked the course. We did it a fourth time, but only to spin out the legs.
It is always important to win when there is a chance in the Giro d'Italia. If we start well it will help our morale. Liquigas is a team that has always done well in the time trial: a win last year in the Vuelta a España and two years ago at the Giro d'Italia. It's obvious – sending the riders to Venice, having the police block the road – the opening day will be important to us.
I was also able to fit in parts of the San Martino di Castrozza stage and the Alpe di Siusi stage in these days. After those: basta, I have seen all of the stages and I am ready for the start on May 9.
I know that everyone has been focused on Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, but not me. There was not good coverage of the Classics in our hotel or I was just too tired to follow. I know Roman Kreuziger and Vincenzo Nibali did well in Amstel Gold. I can tell you that they are both strong riders and have a big future ahead of them, you already caught a glimpse of that at the Tour de France last year.
It will be the same for Flèche Wallonne Wednesday, unfortunately. I will not be able to see any of it because I will be racing Trentino. However, I think I have a good idea of who will be the strong riders for Liège regardless – they are always the same 10 or 12 guys.
I think that these races and the work I have done – in Argentina, California, Tirreno-Adriatico and Tenerife – will certainly produce results in the Corsa Rosa. We will find out soon enough, talk to you later.
- Ivan Basso
March 31, 2009, 13:06 BST,
June 05, 2009, 14:17 BST
Ivan races his first Sanremo in years and talks about Armstrong's recent crash.
It has been an exciting couple of weeks since I last wrote thanks to the fantastic win of Mark Cavendish and the unfortunate news of Lance Armstrong's fractured collarbone.
I was very sorry to hear about Lance. Sure he is my colleague and my rival, but he is also a great friend. When a friend has an accident the first thing you think about is what happened and his health, and then you think about all the other stuff.
I have broken my collarbone before, but you can break them in many different ways. I don't know how difficult it will be for him to return because I don't know the exact details of how he fractured his collarbone – I have not followed it as closely as Cyclingnews! There are a lot of things you have to know in order to determine how and when Lance will return.
I am sure that he will be back strong because you know how Lance is, he is out of this world. He has done a lot of work in these last months, so in ten days he won't lose it all. Certainly, this incident will upset him, but he has the experience and capacity to overcome it. He is an extraordinary rider and a great champion.
I don't think he is out of the running for the Giro d'Italia title. All you have to do is think about what happened with Alberto Contador in 2008. He had not even planned to race, he had a strong season, he was in the middle of vacation and then he won the Giro.
Milano-Sanremo "like a Roman Emperor"
I did not do anything above average in Milano-Sanremo, but I did the best I could do for the team. I am happy with the race because it shows that I am going well in this phase of the season, after Tirreno-Adriatico. My form is progressing well and this brings me the most satisfaction, I think you could see that at Sanremo.
Nibali and I did well for Daniele Bennati, who was in great form for the race. When a grande campione like Mark Cavendish goes off for the win it is hard to do anything to stop it.
I can tell you that we have a good relationship, every time I see Mark we always exchange a few words and a grin. Often we will talk about the races or whatever when we are out on the road. When someone like him, a 23-year-old, wins, you have to applaud him – he did a heck of a number. Clearly, though, I would have preferred that my teammate won.
I saw the sprint afterwards, that night in the hotel. I don't know how he did it. It was a dominating type of win. He ruled the day like a Roman Emperor.
Bennati was not happy, clearly. I told him that he does not have to worry because sometimes a guy can win on the first attempt and sometimes it takes many attempts. Look at Mario Cipollini who won after 13 attempts!
Il Giro and Il Crono
After Sanremo I went and drove the Giro d'Italia's Sestri Levante time trial stage. It is not the key stage, but it is one of the key stages. I know that you read about me riding it twice already, but I wanted to see it yet again, and this time in my car.
It's like anything in life: the more times you see or do something, the more you become familiar with it. There are a lot of intricacies with this stage. There is the length, the descents, the climbs, the curves... it is inevitable that you have to see it many times to learn. Every time out there I learn it a little bit better.
Thursday, I had a long training ride on my time trial bike at home. I did 170 kilometres, three times the distance of the Sestri Levante time trial! Friday was another long one, but on my road bike: 230 kilometres. The week was strictly dedicated to hard riding, relaxing afterwards and spending time with my family.
I am taking off for the Spanish island of Tenerife on April 3. I will stay there with some my teammates until the 17th. The Classics team is there now, but they will leave and the stage racers will arrive. Of course, sleeping at altitude helps with the blood levels and the weather is always great there.
I will return from Spain to race GP Arona, Giro del Trentino and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The night after Trentino finishes I take a plane directly to Liège. It is not an ideal situation to race Liège the day after, but I promised I would ride Trentino and I need to stick to my word.
Liège and Lombardia are the two classics that are most adapted to my characteristics. I will give it a go, but I don't know how it will be. Certainly, my form will be coming on target as the Giro d'Italia starts only a few days afterwards.
We will see how I progress in Spain. I will send in another diary entry when I am in Tenerife.
Take care and thanks for reading.
- Ivan Basso
Ivan Basso is back to racing after a forced rest of two years due to his involvement in Operación Puerto. The Italian, winner of the 2006 Giro d'Italia, hopes to set the record straight and prove himself stronger than before while giving Cyclingnews' readers an inside look at his training and racing.
Back from a 16-month suspension, Basso ended his ban at the Japan Cup, October 26. He finished third in a close finish behind Damiano Cunego and Giovanni Visconti. The result was promising and Basso hopes there will be even brighter days ahead in 2009. Stay tuned as he recounts his journey back to the top of the sport.