Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) has opted to ride the Giro del Trentino stage race in Italy rather than the Ardennes Classics as he works on his form for the Giro d'Italia and chases his first stage win since returning from his doping ban.
Basso snatched overall classification at last year's Giro del Trentino from Janez Brajkovic but as Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport cruelly reminded him, he has not raised his arms to celebrate a stage victory for 1,424 days, since he won the stage to Aprica at the 2006 Giro d'Italia, before he was fully implicated in Operacion Puerto.
The 32-year-old Italian has gone close several times since returning from a ban in late 2008 and was fifth in last year's Giro d'Italia and fourth in the Vuelta a Espana. However he wants to do better and insisted that this year he would not be satisfied with just a podium place in either the Giro or the Tour de France.
"If in 2010 I only repeated the results of 2009, it would be a huge failure," Basso told Gazzetta dello Sport at the official presentation of the Giro del Trentino.
"I know that in the past I was sometimes too generous. That's why I've tried to change my mental approach. I'm going to be more cynical and not hold back now. I've got to finish off better and I know it more than anyone."
"Of course I can't forget the type of rider I am. To win a stage I've got to drop everybody, I need mountain finishes and there aren’t many of them in races. I went close several times in 2009 but now I'm ready to finally do it. My season is divided into two key parts, the Giro and the Tour and so I hope people will only judge how I've done at the end of 90 minutes, after the Tour de France."
Altitude training on Tenerife
Basso has only raced for 11 days so far in 2010. His last race was the Vuelta a Catalunya at the end of March. Since then he has spent two weeks at altitude on the slopes of the Pico del Teide volcano on the island of Tenerife with Liquigas-Doimo teammates Roman Kreuziger, Vincenzo Nibali and Franco Pellizotti. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, the riders clocked up 28,000 metres or 350km of climbing.
After the four-day Giro del Trentino, Basso will also ride next week's Tour de Romandie in Switzerland, giving him a total of 21 days of racing before the Giro.
"I decided to ride Romandie after listening to my body. I felt the need to test myself in an extra time trial before the Giro but I'm happy how I feel. I'm already at 69kg, while last year I struggled to get under 70kg," Basso said.
"I don't think my form is as good as it was last year. But that's good because my form faded during the Giro. I just hope to be with the best riders on the climbs here. And I want to do better in the time trial. It shouldn't be difficult, I was terrible (19th, 50 seconds behind Kloden)."
At the Giro del Trentino and the Giro d'Italia, Basso will share team leadership with Pellizotti and then Liquigas-Doimo will have Basso, Pellizotti, Nibali and Kreuziger in the team for the Tour de France. Last year the four stage race leaders often stepped on each others toes but Basso insists that team leadership will not be a problem this year, making a football analogy.
"It wont be the last time I get asked about it (team leadership) But I'd like to ask a question: Can a team like Liquigas have just one leader for the Giro? Liquigas is like (soccer teams) Inter and Barcelona and they don't have just one leader."