Italian to divide up calendar with Nibali
Although Liquigas-Cannondale has two potential Giro d'Italia winners in their ranks, only one of them will line up at the start in Herning next May, according to Ivan Basso.
Speaking to reporters after the route for the 2012 Giro was officially unveiled in Milan on Sunday, Basso explained that he and Vincenzo Nibali would once again divide up the stage racing calendar. This year, Nibali led Liquigas at the Giro, while Basso took over the reins at the Tour de France.
It has yet to decided which of the pair will focus his energies on July in 2012, but Basso dismissed the idea that Liquigas' Tour leader could use the Giro as training while doubling as a gregario di lusso, out of respect for both the race's difficulty and its traditions.
"The programme hasn't been made out yet, but anyone who does the Giro at a high level uses up energy that will be missing later on," Basso said. "If someone like Nibali, who is a winning athlete, does the Giro, then he must do it to win."
While Basso believes that the team's Giro leader can go on to play a significant supporting role in France, he said that the fans on the roadsides would not appreciate if either he or Nibali rode the Giro simply to train for the Tour.
"Whichever one of us does the Giro d'Italia can think about going to help the other at the Tour because it's the second race," Basso said. "In the first race, though, it's unthinkable that one of the two of us would ride to help the other, primarily because the public wouldn't accept seeing Nibali or Basso 20 minutes down on the Stelvio.
"For me and for him, it's very hard even to ride small races for training because the public expects to see us as protagonists, and quite rightly. The public leave their homes, take their cars and go to the roadside to see Basso and Nibali, and they wouldn't have wanted to see Basso coming over the Ghisallo 30 minutes down yesterday, for instance.
"In the Giro d'Italia, it's unthinkable that an athlete like Nibali or Basso would carry out a tactic of that kind. It's more logical to think that whoever does the Giro d'Italia will then go to the Tour in support of the other."
A race for endurance riders
The Liquigas-Cannondale race programme has yet to be established, but Basso certainly appeared to be relishing the prospect of renewing his acquaintance with the Giro after missing out last year. The Italian took overall victory in 2010, 18 months after returning from suspension for his implication in Operacion Puerto.
With the race's major difficulties group in the third week, the veteran from Varese admitted that he believed his diesel engine would come to the fore as the Giro reached its climax. "I like it a lot," he said, grinning. "I think that it's a race that presents the most difficult climbs in the last week, and I believe that's good for a rider like me whose strength is his endurance."
The Giro's final day sees its sole long individual time trial, a 31km test in the streets of Milan, but Basso believes that the troika of major mountain stages in the third week should already have decided the destination of the pink jersey.
"The time trial certainly will be interesting and it might decide a few positions, but I think that Alpe di Pampeago and especially the Stelvio might be the judge of this Giro d'Italia," he said.
Basso welcomed the organisers' efforts to reduce the length of the transfers between stages, even if he recognised that geography makes them something of an inevitability. "Of course it's better if there are fewer transfers, but Italy is a long country," he said, smiling.
Regardless of the vagaries of the route, Basso echoed that oft-cited truism that it is the riders themselves who ultimately decide the difficulty of the Giro. "You could have a stage with 10 climbs, but if the bunch rides slowly then in the end it doesn't turn out to be any more decisive than if there were two climbs," he said, although he welcomed the inclusion of the Giro's keynote stage, to the summit of the Stelvio on the penultimate day.
"We've all seen the images of the Stelvio under two metres of snow, and I believe that having some special stages makes the victory sweeter for the winner and the race more beautiful for those who ride it."
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