By Anthony Tan in Brescia, Italy
When maglia rosa Ivan Basso was asked about the difference in popularity between football (or soccer, depending on where you come from) and cycling, he simply replied: "I'm not interested in football."
"This Giro is beautiful and thanks to people like [Luis Felipe] Laverde and [Leonardo] Piepoli, it makes it so. This Giro is beautiful because of all the protagonists, not just me. I think people who like cycling will continue to like cycling, and those who like football will continue to follow football. The symbol of cycling is not only me, but all the protagonists."
28 year-old Basso's popularity has skyrocketed since taking the maglia rosa roughly a week ago, and each day seems to bring new fans. While he's said previously that anyone who doesn't enjoy the limelight is a liar, he added yesterday this year's Giro is a lot like the Tour de France, and that there's only one maglia rosa that counts.
"This Giro is very similar to the Tour; the stages are very fast, there is a lot of competition, a lot of battles, a lot of breaks... the Giro is becoming a big show, a very big show. It's difficult for us, but I think for people on the road and people who like cycling, it is a great Giro.
"My first maglia rosa was filled with emotion because it was the first, but for me now, only one is important - the one on Sunday in Milano," said Basso.
But with Germany hosting the 2006 Football World Cup this year, how does cycling compete, he was asked again.
"I had a friend who came to watch a race one day and now loves cycling, so maybe the first step is to bring people to cycling [races]... when you come to watch cycling, you'll grow to love it."