Ivan Basso's season has been disrupted by a nasty saddle sore and suggestions that he is past his best but the veteran Italian is determined to bounce back and prove his critics wrong with a successful second part of the season.
The 35-year-old Italian was forced to miss the Giro d'Italia due to a golf-ball sized saddle sore and spent four weeks off the bike. However since then he has been training hard and is convinced he can finish on the podium at the Vuelta a España that starts on August 25. Basso last rode the Vuelta in 2009, finishing fourth after serving his ban for blood doping and links to Dr. Fuentes.
Basso finished fifth on the opening stage of the Tour of Poland on Saturday and was equally as strong on Sunday, crossing the line just a few seconds behind new race leader Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff). He is 11th in the general classification, 20 seconds from the yellow jersey.
"My season been like riding against a headwind so far but I don’t think anyone is pessimistic about what I can do. I'm not lowering my ambitions," he told Gazzetta dello Sport recently.
"My season starts again with the Tour of Poland and I'm convinced that after the Vuelta people will have changed their opinions. I don’t know if I'll win in Spain but I think I'll finish in the top three overall."
Back in the top five and some pseudo science
Basso hadn't secured a top five finish since winning the Japan Cup last October to end Liquigas sponsorship of the team. He was pleased to see his name in the results again.
"It gives me a lot of faith for the racing to come," he said. "It shows I'm on the right road.
"The Tour of Poland is a hard race, with the two Dolomite stages and long and hard stages in Poland too. It's the right race to take another step towards the Vuelta. My form is coming good after working hard. But I've still got room to improve. I want to do well in Poland but it won't be easy because it's become a lot harder and a lot more recognised as an important race. I want to finish the race with better form than when I started it, that's my personal goal."
Basso revealed some of his own power data from a recent training camp in the Dolomites to back up his enthusiasm.
"At the San Pellegrino I did a test over five kilometres and I produced an average power of 435 watts. That's a good number. Some people thought it was perhaps time for me to retire but time is still on my side. I can still do well as a rider."