Ivan Basso's coach, Professor Aldo Sassi, is convinced that the Giro d'Italia race leader is racing clean and claims physiological calculations prove it.
Sassi manages the Mapei Sports Service centre near Milan and coaches Basso, Cadel Evans, Michael Rogers, Charly Wegelius and several other riders.
He is under treatment for a brain tumor but has fought the nausea of his chemotherapy to visit the Giro d'Italia and see the final mountain
"My dream was to have two riders on the podium, with one of them on the top step in the pink jersey. It hasn't worked but that means we'll do everything we can to make my dream come true in Paris after the Tour de France. In my situation, I've learned to always look to the future. That true in both cycling and life,' Sassi told Cyclingnews.
Despite Basso climbing the Passo del Mortirolo eight seconds faster than he did in 2006, before he was implicated in Operacion Puerto, Sassi insists that his performance was believable.
"I don’t think people should doubt Ivan's performance. He's changed a lot. I totally trust him, like I totally trust Cadel," Sassi toldCyclingnews.
"The power the lead riders put out on the Mortirolo yesterday was about 420 watts. That's about six watt/kg, at the limit of natural physical possibilities."
"The data people should reflect on were the times the riders set during the Plan de Corones time trial. The data showed that the strength to weight ratio of the best riders was somewhere between 5.1w/kg and 5.3w/kg. That's low. It's as if they all rode the 100 metre final in the Olympics in 13 seconds. I think that is enough to confirm that cycling has changed."
Ivan and Cadel
Sassi has been working with Basso since he made his come back from his two-year doping ban in 2007. He has worked with Evans much longer but is very close to both of them and is able to make an intimate analysis of their performances in this year's Giro d'Italia.
"I'm very happy for Ivan," Sassi said. "He's got even more confidence in himself now. He's stronger on the climbs and is back to his real level. You can see the difference between last year, his first season back, and this year. You can see it how he races tactically too."
Evans hinted yesterday to Cyclingnews that something affected his performance mid-way through the Giro d'Italia. He was extremely strong early in the race but seems to have faded, while his some of his rivals have got stronger.
"Cadel suffered a bit on the Mortirolo because he perhaps didn’t choose the right gears," Sassi pointed out.
"I'm sure Cadel will talk about what has affected his race in Verona. Unfortunately a lot of things happen during a three-week stage race. Riders often have to ride through problems. They might have a temperature one day, or stomach problems. Most of us would have a day
off work but the riders have to carry on and it can affect their overall performance."