Pellizotti ready to share Giro leadership with Basso

Basso will ease the pressure, provide second option for Liquigas

Franco Pellizotti is pleased to split the Liquigas team leadership at the Giro d'Italia with former winner Ivan Basso. The Italian explained at a Liquigas training camp yesterday in Moena, Italy, that Basso's presence will ease the pressure on both himself and the team.

"For our team the Giro is very important, and all eyes will be on us without all the big names that we had this year," said Pellizotti.

"It is better to go to the Giro with two captains because you never know what will happen. One of us could crash or have a flat on those tough days in The Netherlands or the gravel stage in Siena."

The Giro d'Italia, May 8 to 30, will begin with three stages in The Netherlands, before it continues in Italy. It ends with mountain stages in the Dolomites and Alps. Organiser RCS Sport will take the riders up the Zoncolan, Plan de Corones, Mortirolo and Gavia climbs in the final week.

"If Alberto Contador or Andy Schleck returned next year they would find a Giro designed for them," Pellizotti continued.

Pellizotti finished third this year and won the mountain stage to Blockhaus. He will not have to face the 2008 Giro winner Contador nor 2007's best young rider, Schleck. US rider Lance Armstrong has already confirmed he will skip return to the Giro in order to race at the Tour of California.

The lack of big stars will put more pressure on Pellizotti and team Liquigas. Pellizotti, 31, says he's glad to welcome back Basso to help share the load.

"This year, all the champions raced and I was able to still finish on the podium. It will be different next year; all the teams will look to Liquigas to do the work. It will be even more important to have Ivan, with his experience, back alongside me.

"With everyone looking at me it can give him a chance to ride free, or the other way around."

A winner of the Giro in 2006, Basso finished fifth this year upon his return from a two-year suspension for his involvement in the Operación Puerto blood doping investigation. His chance for sole leadership could come at the Tour de France.

Pellizotti won the Tour de France climbers' classification this year's Tour. He also finished second and third on stage nine and stage 12, respectively. He will race the 2010 Tour, July 3 to 25, to support Basso and help the team's other classification leaders, Roman Kreuziger and Vincenzo Nibali.

"My goal will be to win a stage, which I could not do this year," said Pellizotti. "If the mountains' jersey is within reach then all the better, but I will be available to help my other teammates race for the classification.

"I know Roman placed ninth and Vincenzo seventh this year, but that is a long way from the win. It takes a big effort to get into the first five places. Ivan has done it twice, he has the experience."

Basso finished second at the Tour de France in 2005 and third in while racing for Team CSC.

Pellizotti will begin his season at the Giro del Friuli, March 3. He will include Monte Pachi Eroica, March 6, in his early season schedule to help prepare himself to ride on the same gravel roads that the Giro's stage seven.

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