Before starting at the French Circuit de la Sarthe on Tuesday, where T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich would have made his racing debut this year hadn't it been for a hurting knee, Ivan Basso (CSC), second-placed at last year's Tour de France, reconnoitred the first time trial of the 2006 Grande Boucle on Monday, April 3. For the Italian Giro d'Italia and Tour de France favourite, everything unfolds as planned in this first part of the season, as his form developed according to schedule and he has already scored a victory (at Criterium International), which gives him a mental advantage over his rivals. Now, by pacing along the 52 km-route twice behind the team car with his teammate Giovanni Lombardi, another step towards his goal in July has been accomplished, as this day of reconnoitring had been planned since December last year.
"Nice, very nice," were Basso's words after having completed the parcours from Saint Grégoire to Rennes twice - the first time easy, and the second time with a little more edge. "I think it's the best time trial course in the last five years; it's very suitable for power."
The 28 year-old has been progressing in the discipline against the clock. "A couple of years ago, I would have said that this parcours is not good for Basso," said his directeur sportif Alain Gallopin. "But he is now part of the specialists, like Zabriskie, Landis and Ullrich." Gallopin thinks that the wind will be an important factor when the Tour de France peloton will roll out on the parcours in Saint Grégoire on July 8.
"This time trial will create the first gaps between the leaders," Gallopin continued. "The wind will play a great part if it blows, like today, from the west: the first kilometres will then be decisive. Afterwards, with the back wind, it'll be very fast until Rennes. The time trial' ending in the streets of Rennes is beautiful, and more importantly not twisty at all, which makes it safe, just like the whole parcours."
Basso will test his skills against the clock at the Circuit de la Sarthe on Wednesday, April 5, when the peloton will take on a 8.8 km-long prologue-like time trial in Angers in the afternoon. "We have high expectations for this time trial, especially on behalf of Ivan Basso," added Gallopin. "We have brought a good team to this race with quite a few of the riders who are also participating in the Giro, and they are working together really well so far."