As his season debut approaches, Ivan Basso has indicated that he'll be in top condition for this year's Giro d'Italia and will use this weekend's GP dell'Insubria-Lugano as a gauge of his form for the year ahead.
Basso returned to the professional peloton last season following a two-year suspension for doping-related activities, finishing the Giro fourth overall after runner-up Danilo Di Luca was found to have used performance-enhancing substances and subsequently handed a suspension that effectively ended his career.
While Di Luca won't be back at this year's Giro, Basso will, and told Tuttobiciweb, "I'm sure you will find the best Ivan, who can fight with the best both at the Giro and the Tour."
He'll also use the Vuelta a Catalunya as preparation for the Giro, and admitted that while his form at the Spanish race may still be far from optimal, "at the Giro del Trentino and the Giro [d'Italia] I will go better in top condition."
Basso said that last year, "was a very special season with great excitement. I think that racing as much as I did was not a mistake but a choice; the team gave me the opportunity to do whatever I wanted because the urge to race was strong.
"This year the priorities were decided specifically and, eventually, if my condition is still good, there are many other beautiful races that I can do, including the Tre Valli [Varesine]."
He added that this year's Giro course suits him because, "I consider myself a climber and this year the time trials are less influential. Altogether there are nine stages in which an athlete must always be near the front; even if they win another stage they must be consistent and for me, except when I fell ill in 2005, has always been a strength."
Basso admitted that BMC Racing's Cadel Evans, the current road world champion, will be one of the men to watch when he returns to the Giro for the first time since 2002. He also commented on the possible rivalry between himself and fellow Liquigas-Doimo team leader Vincenzo Nibali.
"We must be at the forefront of all races," said Basso. "Nibali has great talent and I think that in five or six years he will be able to gain significant results. But there is difference between a leader and captain; being the captain is not easy to do, being the leader is even more difficult."