Ivan Basso is the number one favourite of the 2009 Giro d'Italia but he has to overcome Johan Bruyneel's Astana machine prior to capturing his second overall title in Rome on May 31. Liquigas' Italian told Cyclingnews on the eve of the race that Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, backed by team manager Bruyneel, are a 'dangerous' combination.
"Who is captain is not my problem: I know Armstrong very well and Levi is a great cyclist. Also, don't forget, behind them is a great director who has something like 15 Grand Tour [12 - ed.] wins. He knows very well how to manage the situation," said Basso.
Armstrong and Leipheimer just finished the Tour of the Gila stage race in New Mexico on Sunday. The American duo dominated the race, with Armstrong taking second overall and his teammate winning the overall and two stages.
"I did not follow it directly on the internet, but I knew what happed because what Lance does everyone in the world knows via Twitter, et cetera."
Armstrong must have followed Basso on the internet as well because he told journalists in Rome his rival is the favourite. Basso backs up his status with a recent overall win in the Giro del Trentino, April 22 to 25, his first win in nearly three years. (He served a two-year suspension for links to Operación Puerto's Eufemiano Fuentes.)
Basso and Armstrong both met with the press on Thursday in Venice, where the Giro d'Italia will begin with a 20.5-kilometre team time trial on Saturday. Basso previewed the course last month.