CSC team manager Bjarne Riis believes that his star rider Ivan Basso will be able to back up his dominating performance in the Giro d'Italia with a victory in the Tour de France in July.
"This is the best Ivan I've ever seen. He's shown he's at another level compared to last year and that he's the rider of the future," Riis told a post-race press conference according to Reuters. "I'm convinced Ivan will be strong enough to be competitive in the Tour."
Conventional wisdom says that in the era of riders who specifically target one of the grand tours, it is no longer possible to win more than one in a season. The last rider to do so was Italian Marco Pantani who won the Giro d'Italia in 1998 and went on to win the Tour de France that year.
Basso joined Lance Armstrong on the podium of the Tour de France in 2004 and 2005 and Riis believes it's now his rider's turn on the top step.
"We planned our season in November and targeted the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, and so far it's gone 100 percent right," Riis said. "There's a big difference between the level of the Giro and the level of the Tour de France and come July our big rival will be Jan Ullrich. But Ivan is as good as Jan in the mountains and the time trials."
Riis and Basso may not be copying Armstrong's total focus on the Tour de France, but Riis said they have learned from another of the seven-time Tour winner's techniques, the high-cadence pedaling action that allowed him to attack and react quickly in the mountains of the Tour.
"We saw that Armstrong rode small gears and was very agile on the climbs and that uses your muscles differently and allows you to change pace more easily," Riis said. "We know that Jan Ullrich can't do that because he pushes big gears and so we're convinced he'll struggle to stay with Ivan when he accelerates on the climbs in the Tour de France."