Yesterday in a press conference, Johann Bruyneel confirmed the signing of Italian Ivan Basso to his Discovery Channel team. The winner of the 2006 Giro d'Italia signed a contact for two years to ride with Discovery Channel, the same team that took American Lance Armstrong to seven Tour de France victories. After closing out nearly three years with Danish Team CSC, Ivan Basso will aim for grand tour glory under the guidance of Bruyneel.
"It is an ideal squad. I am happy," said Basso late last night to La Gazzetta dello Sport from his home in Cassano Magnago. "It not an exaggeration for me to say that this is the start of a new life, because I feel reborn."
Ivan Basso, 28 years-old, confirmed earlier speculation as to whether or not he would be going for wins in the two major tours. "The group [at Discovery] is ready to give total support to the Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double," reassured Basso. "It is a project that gives me lots of enthusiasm. The team and I have the same ambitions."
According Bruyneel's announcement yesterday, Ivan Basso will be heading to Lance Armstrong's home town, Austin, Texas, on December 3. "Now I am taking a week's vacation at the beach and [will be going] where it is warm. Then I will think of 2007," the Italian concluded.
Basso had toyed with the idea of moving to non-ProTour teams, like Barloworld and Tinkoff. He confirmed he had contact with Tinkoff to La Gazzetta dello Sport but an offer of two million USD a year and a structure built for Tour success was too irresistible.
But what about the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) pact made on 25 October in Paris? The members of the AIGCP claimed that they would not sign riders implicated in doping investigations and request riders authorize the UCI to collect their DNA samples before the end of 2007. Bjarne Riis, Basso's former team manager at CSC, was left confused with his fellow ProTour team.
"In his events I have lost too. I am left without the best in the world, but I also risked my team disappearing," said the Dane to La Gazzetta dello Sport Wednesday afternoon. "Only a few days ago, the ProTour teams had expressed their intentions to no longer engage the riders entangled with Operación Puerto in addition to requiring a DNA test. In reality, in the end, the interests of individuals prevail while the initiatives go disregarded."
German teams, T-Mobile Team and Team Gerolsteiner, were relatively tight-lipped in light of Discovery Channel's signing of Ivan Basso. "[Team manager Hans-Michael Holczer] will not comment on this event for the time being," Gerolsteiner spokesman Mathias Wieland told Cyclingnews. His counterpart at T-Mobile, Stefan Wagner, told Cyclingnews, that "We have our clear line and there is a commitment among all ProTour teams."
T-Mobile Sports Director Rolf Aldag explained to www.express.de, "I find it inconceivable that Basso will sign with Discovery Channel," and added, "Basso and Jan Ullrich, too, should prove their innocence, only then will they be interesting again."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
April 2, 2009 - Valverde indignant over possible suspension
April 1, 2009 - Valverde: Italy requests two-year suspension
March 13, 2009 - Le Monde newspaper hit with fine over Puerto allegations
March 2, 2009 - WADA president Fahey asks for Puerto evidence
February 24, 2009 - Spanish federation seeks access to Puerto blood bags
February 20, 2009 - CONI considers Valverde case while UCI awaits verdict
February 19, 2009 - Valverde under criminal investigation
February 11, 2009 - Valverde summonsed for Operación Puerto in Italy
February 8, 2009 - Eight charged in Operación Puerto