Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) was unable to match the best on the climb of the Alto de la Antigua, but the Italian was still satisfied with his display on stage one of the Tour of the Basque Country. A select group featuring stage winner Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) went clear on its 20 percent slopes with 3km to go, while Basso came home 18 seconds later in 18th place.
“It was a real wall, one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done,” Basso told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I started it in a good position, but to do any better than that on these slopes is impossible for me. I have nothing to be unhappy about, during the race I had good sensations.”
While Basso’s stated aim for the season is the Tour de France, he has looked to obtain more results in the spring than has been the case in previous years, and he arrived in the Basque Country seeking to make an impression.
“I want to pick up something here,” Basso said. “I have four objectives: stages, the GC, the time trial and preparing for Fleche Wallone and Liège, although I’m not here to train.”
Basso picked out Thursday’s stage from Amurrio to Eibar as the toughest but maintains that there is no single decisive leg of the Tour of the Basque Country. “The winner will be the one who succeeds in staying at the front every day,” he said.
With an eye on the Tour de France, Basso will be looking to assess his time trialling form in the concluding 24km race against the watch. “It’s a significant distance and I want to gauge my progress,” Basso explained. “But before that there are another four difficult stages and I mustn’t get to Saturday two minutes down on GC.”
Disappointment in Andorra
Basso is familiar with Spanish roads and his last outing came at the Volta a Catalunya. However, the Italian was left disappointed by his showing on the key stage to Andorra, where he was distanced by Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard).
“I expected more from the battle with Contador,” Basso said. “That night I went to bed a little shaken. He is the strongest, but I lost too much in 4km and I couldn’t understand why.”
Nonetheless, Basso is content with his form so far this season, if not the results. He won February’s GP Lugano, but recently voiced his frustration at not converting his March fitness into victories.
“I wanted to do better than last year [in the spring] and I’ve succeeded,” Basso said. “Up to now I’m giving myself a positive mark, even if I’m ambitious and so would like to have won a bit more. But I rode well at Tirreno-Adriatico and in Catalonia there was only one important stage.”