Ivan Basso (Cannondale) traveled from Andalucía to Catalunya for the first rest day of the Vuelta a Espana with a smile on his face after another solid performance in the mountains. The Italian missed the Giro d'Italia due to a saddle sore but seems back to his best as he fights to save his pride and remain a Grand Tour contender.
Basso was unable to go after Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard) or Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the climb to Alto de Hazallanas on Monday but looked stronger than other GC contenders Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). He lost 1:02 to Horner but actually moved up to seventh overall, 2:20 down on the American.
Basso lost 1:26 to Nibali in the opening team time trial and 1:16 to Horner. He may lose some more in Wednesday's time trial around Tarazona but is confident for the big Pyrenean stages.
"The big days will come next weekend and it's going to hurt…" he joked to Gazzetta dello Sport.
"It was another good performance from me and I'm happy. I tried every way I could to get away but it didn't happen and so when Nibali went, I preferred to stay on the wheels."
Basso seems content to play a long game, knowing the final week and the final mountain stages could dramatically shake up the overall classification.
"I've moved up overall and I'm relaxed for the rest of the Vuelta," he said, analyzing his rivals.
"Vincenzo is very strong but that's nothing new. Then there's Valverde and Rodriguez: they were the three favourites before the race and they're still up there. But I'm there too and will try to get into the fight for the red jersey."