By Gregor Brown
Two Giro d'Italia winners, Ivan Basso (2006) and Damiano Cunego (2004), spent their Christmas holidays in the saddle, building up their pre-season kilometres. Both riders will be pointing for a repeat victory in their 2007 home tour, with Basso, recently signed by Discovery Channel, to also aim for the Tour de France.
Cunego surrounded the time with his wife and child by rides around his home area of Verona. "It was pretty heavy training for this time of the year; I wanted to understand at what point I am [in form]," he said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I am very content, I am much better than last year."
On Christmas Eve, "Il Piccolo Principe" rode for five and a half hours (160 km), near Lago di Garda; on Christmas Day, he spent one hour in the saddle; and on Santo Stefano, December 26, he rode for two and a half hours.
Regarding Christmas day, Cunego said, "The temperature was beautiful and it would have been a shame to miss an occasion like that."
Basso and Cunego are fierce competitors on and off the bike, and this time Basso got the better of his rival with more training kilometres. He spent time with his wife and two children, Domitilla and Santiago, before heading out the door near Varese.
"First I opened up gifts with the babies, then two hours in the saddle," said Basso to La Gazzetta regarding his holiday tradition. "I went to Arona, drank a cappuccino in the usual bar and then returned home. I always go out on Christmas; I like it.
"Four hours on Christmas Eve day and on Santo Stefano, when I went to Campo del Fiori, the longest climb I do in this time of the year." From Varese, Campo dei Fiori is a 13.6 kilometre climb that averages 6.1% gradient and rises 832 metres.