Discovery Channel manager Johan Bruyneel believes that the pressure will be on CSC's shoulders during the Giro d'Italia and isn't too impressed with the state of play for stage 17 up the Plan de Corones.
In an interview on thepaceline.com, Bruyneel said, "I think Basso is the big favourite, at least that's what his director, Riis, says...so from day one the race will be on Basso and CSC's shoulders, and we'll see where it goes from there."
The Belgian DS won't be directing the troops for the first grand tour of 2006, and said defending champion Paolo Savoldelli is feeling good for the race - but was quick to play down his chances of overall victory. "While Paolo Savoldelli is not a specialist climber he is a very complete rider. He is also very strong in stage races and of course he has his chances. He may not have as big a chance as say Basso, Cunego, or Simoni as they are all specialist climbers, but he did well in the mountains last year - he rode his pace and did not panic - and then did very well in the time trials," he said.
In terms of the parcours, Bruyneel isn't too happy with organisers' attempts at igniting even more interest in the race. "This course is really very, very hard and you have to ask yourself - why?" he said. "The interest in the Giro was higher than ever last year; it's always an intense race right up to the second-to-last stage.
"So as a director I would prefer it to be less hard - I think the makers of this course have lost their minds a bit," he continued. "Paolo and Tom went and previewed a lot of the course recently, including Stage 17 - there's no road at the end: it's 5.5 km up a ski slope!" exclaimed Bruyneel.
"We'll be using 34x28/29 gearing - that's not cycling. We have struggled more with making sure we have the right components and equipment than at any other race in our team's history; even at the Tour de France we know that as long as you have a 39x25 you're good, but this race..."