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Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) before the start of the Japan Cup.
Italian ready to take on Wiggins and Nibali in May
Ivan Basso has put his disappointing 2012 season behind and is convinced he can be a contender in the 2013 Giro d'Italia against likely rivals Bradley Wiggins and former teammate Vincenzo Nibali.
Basso was 35 in November and has been a professional since 1999 but has cancelled his problems of 2012 and is optimistic for the new season ahead. Basso finished fifth in the Giro d'Italia but was unable to leave his mark on the race and was only 25th in the Tour de France, while helping Nibali try to take on Team Sky.
Doubts that he might be passed his best clouded Basso's summer but he bounced back to win the Japan Cup in October, giving Liquigas-Cannondale one final victory before becoming Team Cannondale in 2013.
"I'm feeling good because I ended what was a difficult season as I wanted (with a win at the Japan Cup). Things didn’t always go as I wanted in 2012. But I've stopped thinking negatively about it all and stopped trying to understand what happened," Basso confided to Gazzetta dello Sport in an end of year interview.
"(Team mnager) Roberto Amadio played a key role in my change. He's really supported me and he's given me the tranquility I need to prepare for 2013. He's taken away the need for me to make up for last season. I felt destroyed after the Giro d'Italia. I'd expected things to be very different, especially in the last three days in the mountains. But on the Stelvio I could only produce 350 watts, which is disgusting. My head was blocking my legs. I couldn't shake off the disappointment for a long time. I eventually stopped looking for reasons why it happened. Now I'm fine."
Basso was banned for his involvement in Operacion Puerto in 2007 and always avoids questions about his past. He worked closely with the late Aldo Sassi at the Mapei training centre when he came back, with Sassi convinced Basso was clean when he won the 2010 Giro d'Italia. Basso will be followed by the Team Cannondale coaching staff in 2013.
Basso has been clocking up the kilometre on his bike since his birthday on November 26 and will spend the New Year in Valencia, Spain, training with fellow veteran Stefano Garzelli.
"You can't compare the weather to where I live (Cassano Magnago, Varese) and the roads are great," Basso said. "I've also got a friend here – Stefano Garzelli – he's almost 40 but is as enthusiastic as a neo-pro."
Cannondale team leader
With Nibali moving to Astana, Basso is the team captain at Team Cannondale for stage races, with Peter Sagan and Moreno Moser leading the Italian-based team in the classics. Basso confirmed he will again target victory at the 2013 Giro d'Italia and so Nibali will become is big Italian rival.
"Nibali is a big loss because he's the Italian rider that can guarantee the best results for Italy in stage races. Now he's my number one rival. No problem, I know how to deal with it," Basso said, revealing the competitive nature that hides behind his friendly nature.
Basso never thought about leaving his current squad, feeling it is 'his' team.
There are always offers for good riders. But I've always had faith in this group of people. I don’t like to change teams often, " he said. "This team has its own soul and identity that I think I've contributed to. It feels like a taylor-made suit for me. The sponsor has changed but the team spirit is the same."
Asked to make a prediction for the best rider of 2013, Basso picked Alberto Contador for stage races and teammate Peter Sagan for the classic. However he predicted he will be a podium contender at the Giro d'Italia, throwing down the gauntlet to Wiggins and Nibali.
"The favourite for the Giro depends who else rides but it could be Wiggins or Nibali…" he said.
"But I see myself in the top three and for the others to beat me, they'll have to be at 110%."