A convincing win in the morning's road stage backed up by a solid afternoon time trial has resulted in Ivan Basso achieving overall victory in this year's 2.HC-ranked Critérium International, beating early leader Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Ukrainian Andriy Grivko (Team Milram), who took second and third place respectively.
Consequently, the 28 year-old's preparations for his assault at the upcoming Giro d'Italia are now one step closer: "I must admit that I wasn't expecting to win anything this early on, but it's a great feeling and a big morale booster to be standing on that podium," said Basso on team-csc.com. "This race is part of my preparation for the Giro, where my form should be peaking, and the win today helps underline the fact that I'm heading in the right direction.
"I'm equally surprised and happy. It means a great deal to me to win here in France, where I've always felt welcome. I didn't actually come here to win and wasn't banking on my form being good enough for a top result, but after the work the team did this morning, I found myself in a position where it was possible. I'm very pleased with my time trial today and it gives me a good feeling in relation to the big stage races."
Said his team manager Bjarne Riis: "The team worked impeccably today. We split the peloton on the climbs and managed to isolate Dekker [on Stage 2], and then it was up to Ivan to finish the job. He deserved this victory and it confirms that his form is extremely good this year. He's actually only just started to build it up towards the Giro, but he's already strong enough to make a difference in a tough race such as this.
"Ivan has got a big result under his belt now and this goes to show he's an all-round rider. It was a good win for the team and we defended our victory from the previous years in a brilliant way. Ivan has impressed in all three stages - and this after a week where he has really worked hard with his training at home. The race has proved a good test, and no one can disagree with the fact that he passed with flying colors. He is very motivated to win the Giro and he'll be even stronger then."
Basso added that up till now, everything has been perfect for him this year. "I feel more ready and I also feel that the work, I'm doing together with Bjarne and the team, is the absolute right way for me to achieve my goals this year. This victory is an important step on the way."