By Kirsten Robbins in San Luis, Argentina
Italian Ivan Basso is set to start the first race of his 2009 season with Liquigas at the Tour de San Luis Argentina on January 19. The 2006 Giro d' Italia winner returns to the sport after completing a two year suspension for his implication in Operación Puerto in 2007. According to Basso, his sites are set on a second Giro d'Italia victory in May and the seven-day stage race in Argentina is the first step in his preparations to win pink jersey.
"I need to race now to get the feeling of racing back, to stay in the group, to do the finale of the races at the front, to meet my new teammates and because I miss racing," said Basso who took a lengthy off-season after competing in the Japan Cup last October. "Honestly I'm not ready to make a big come back this early. Of course I won't put on the brakes if I'm feeling good but people who know cycling know it's impossible to have fantastic form in January and keep it through May. I don't want to be the best now, or from now until the Giro. I want to be the best in the Giro."
The Tour de San Luis is the first step in Basso's training preparations and aims to be in peak condition for the Giro. According to Basso, he will take a short recovery period following the race and hopes to improve to the next step at the Tour of California in held in mid-February. He will step into the last training phase in March at the Tirreno-Adriatico held in Italy. " It is three different steps and each step I want to improve a little," Basso said. "I don't want to be the one who is always the strongest. I want to be the one who is the strongest at the Giro. All the other races are for the preparation."
According to Basso several of his teammates in Argentina will race in support of him at the Giro set to start May 9 in Lido di Venice. The Tour of San Luis will allow the riders to improve cohesiveness. "Every race I do we have pressure," Basso said. "We can't put a lot of pressure on the riders here. These riders are to be ready for the Giro so we cant kill them four months before. These guys need to see how I move in the group, how we go to the front and how to take control of the speed of the race. This is what I need."
The six-man team riding in support of Basso at the Tour of San Luis include Vincenzo Nibali, Kjell Carlström, Brian Vandborg, Alessandro Vanotti and Murilo Fischer.