By Gregor Brown
Italian Ivan Basso seeks to immediately close his period of suspension in the Japan Cup, October 26, according to his Team Liquigas' Manager Roberto Amadio. The 30 year-old will be supported by four teammates as he makes his return from an Operación Puerto-related sanction.
"To win is not easy," said Amadio to Cyclingnews. "It is important for him to race immediately and detach from two years of training and thinking of work -- the result is not as important."
Basso was banned from racing on June 15, 2007, for his links with Spanish Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, centre 2006's Operación Puerto doping investigation. He admitted to giving blood to Fuentes and the Italian cycling federation (FCI) disciplinary commission served him a 16-month suspension. His suspension ends October 24 and the Japan Cup will be his only race in 2008.
Liquigas announced it signed Basso in April for two years. Despite his competition ban, Basso reportedly is training vigorously for his return. He simulated Giro d'Italia stages during the actual race this May and this month, he has completed timed tests on a velodrome near his home in Cassano Magnago.
Basso's preparations mark him as a heavy favourite for the Japan Cup. Finland's Kjell Carlström, Croatia's Vladimir Miholjevic, Slovenia's Gorazd Stangelj and fellow Italian Valerio Agnoli will support him. The team will send Stefano Zanatta as the directeur sportif.
The Japan Cup is in its 17th year and boasts past winners such as Damiano Cunego, Gilberto Simoni and Claudio Chiappucci. It is a challenging parcours that often decided thanks to the Tsuru climb near the finish.