Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) has praised his teammate Vincenzo Nibali’s Vuelta a España victory and insisted that the duo can continue work together as co-leaders of the team next season.
“I’d never be Nibali’s rival at the team because I’d be the loser from the start. In the next few years he is going to keep improving whereas I’ll be going downhill,” Basso admitted to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Vincenzo is the future of Italian cycling and I’m a fan of his. If he wants, I can help him.”
Basso also confessed that Nibali viewed him with a certain degree of distrust when he first arrived at Liquigas at the tail end of 2008. Basso joined the squad after serving a suspension for his implication in Operacion Puerto, when he confessed to having “attempted doping” under the supervision of Dr. Eufemio Fuentes.
“I think [Nibali] had a very negative impression of me. He didn’t view my arrival well and felt I was out of place,” Basso said. “Then, little by little, our rapport changed. He began to trust me and we became friends. Mainly by talking. I noticed that he began to enjoy being around me, he would ask me questions and listen to my answers carefully.”
Basso first noticed Nibali’s talent by watching him on television during his suspension. “He was doing nice things, you could see that he had what it takes,” said Basso. “Then at the Tour last year, he really showed that he had balls.”
Noted for his fastidious attention to detail, the one chink Basso sees in his teammate’s armour is his altogether more relaxed attitude to the nuts and bolts of preparation. “He’s not very attentive to detail but he is improving in leaps and bounds,” Basso said. “For example, he needs to understand the importance of stretching and of nutrition: eating pasta in bianco or eating lasagna isn’t the same thing, especially when you’re in a hotel.”
Nonetheless, the young Sicilian’s Vuelta victory was no surprise to Basso. “He really has a will of steel, he never gives up,” Basso noted. “His suffering is always under control and he never gets in a panic. Some people only discovered that one Saturday, but I knew for some time that he was a hard man.”
Nibali’s red jersey means that Liquigas-Doimo captured two of the year’s three Grand Tours, after Basso won the Giro d’Italia in May, when Nibali was third. The pair will both be expected to feature again at the Giro next season, but Basso refused to be drawn on how the objectives would be divided between the Liquigas leaders.
“Above all, I would advise Vincenzo to enjoy this extraordinary season and then he must himself understand what his desires are and listen to his sensations,” he explained. “He must understand his dreams and go where his heart takes him.”