By Kirsten Robbins in San Luis, Argentina
2006 Giro d'Italia Winner Ivan Basso was amongst the favourites to contest the three mountaintop finishes at the Tour of San Luis. However, prior to the start of stage two, a 175-kilometre stage that finished atop the Mirrador del Potrero ascent, Basso told Cyclingnews that he will use these climbs as training ultimately to prepare for the Giro d'Italia in May.
"I want to go day by day and this is a training race week without going over the maximum level," said Basso, who rode amongst the lead group of climbers in the tactical five-kilometre ascent to the finish. He is sitting more than three minutes down in the general classification heading into the stage three 20-kilometre time trial.
"I can do well on the climbs here, and I will do my best," said Basso. "I also want to go in the breaks, and I try to stay at the front of the field. When it is time for the sprinters to sprint, I stay in the back. I think in this week we are going to have some good days and some bad days because our fitness and overall condition are not yet ready. It's only January."
Liquigas added the Tour of San Luis to its early season schedule as an opportunity for the team to gel before the Giro d'Italia, which starts in four months. According to Basso, the team is not expected to win the race. The riders are expected to practice riding at the front and to learn how to move within the field - aspects of racing for a team leader that need to be fine tuned well before the start of a Grand Tour.
The six-man team riding in support of Basso at the Tour of San Luis includes Vincenzo Nibali, Kjell Carlstrom, Brian Vandborg, Alessandro Vanotti and Maurilo Fischer.