by Kirsten Robbins in San Luis, Argentina
Italian Ivan Basso was the race favourite to win the stage time trial at the Tour of San Luis on Wednesday. The fans waited for hours in the scorching heat to catch a glimpse of the 2006 Giro d'Italia winner in action. While his ninth place performance might have disappointed some, Basso was more than pleased to have the first time trial of the year under his belt.
"I think I did a great time trial," said Basso who clocked in at 24'22. "I did the first half with the second fastest time of the day. I think in the final five kilometres there was a strong head wind and my condition was not one hundred percent ready. I know on paper it is nothing special, but it is still January and a test of my performance. I paid a little today but I am still really happy."
Basso congratulated the top three for their impressive performances. The Tour of San Luis was considered the most important race of the season for South American riders. "I think the two Argentineans who were on the podium are in top form for this race," Basso said, and also noted how difficult the first three stages were. "They were very strong. You can't compare my performance to theirs because I just arrived from a lot of snow in my city."
The race heads back into the mountains during stage four's 160 kilometre road race from San Luis to La Carolina. It includes a 20 kilometre ascent of category 2 ranking. The ascent marks the second of three significant climbs where Basso hopes for a good performance.
"Before the fast part of the climb I was OK but in the last kilometre where the riders started to do a lot of attacking full gas and I was dropped," said Basso regarding stage two's five kilometre ascent to the finish on Tuesday. "It is OK because it is fantastic training and I am happy."