Ivan Basso will race for the first time this weekend since the Tour de Romandie as he makes his comeback from a saddle sore problem that forced him to miss the Giro d'Italia.
The Cannondale rider will be in action in the Italian national road race championships. He will not ride the Tour de France but has his sights on a podium spot in the Vuelta Espana and a place in the Italian Squadra for the world road race championships in Florence.
Basso only has 22 days of racing in his legs and hasn't pinned on a number for 63 days. Due to his reported golf ball-sized saddle sore, he was unable to ride his bike for 35 days.
"I've never had such a long break, even in the winter," he told Gazzetta dello Sport before Saturday's road race in the Val di Non, near Trento.
"I was in great shape for the Giro but after starting again, the bike didn't even feel like it was mine. Now I've got 2,000km in my legs and I really want to keep working hard."
"I won’t be riding for myself in the nationals but to help Moreno Moser and Damiano Caruso, who could go well if he's kept his form after the Giro. This is the start of my season with the Vuelta as my big goal. But I know I've got to take it step by step."
The Vuelta and the worlds
Basso is 36 in November and is aware that he faces an important moment in his career. But he is confident for the rest of the season.
"There's no problem. I know what I did, how I train and what I can still do," he said.
"I don’t know if I'll win the Vuelta but I'll go close. There are 13 uphill finishes, of which ten are real climbs… I think I'll be competitive. I think I can finish on the podium."
Basso also intends to be part of the Italian national team in Florence to help former teammate and Giro d'Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali.
"I'd love to ride and be part of the team," he said. "All you have to do to get an azzurro jersey is ride consistently well. Bettini knows what I can do and give to the team. There's no need to say much else. I'm confident I'll have a great second part of the season."