Basso battles through illness

It was obvious from very early on Team CSC leader Ivan Basso was in trouble on yesterday's stage of the Giro. The 27 year-old Italian was dropped on the lower slopes of the Passo dello Stelvio, and by the top of the 25 kilometre climb, he was already more than 18 minutes behind the lead group, with 60 difficult kilometres left to ride.

"I suffered like never before, but I had to pull through. At the top of the first climb, I tried to eat something, but I couldn't do it. I didn't manage to eat anything at all during the stage, so I was completely drained of energy," said Basso on the team's website,

"Continued Basso: "I had no strength in my legs and it was pure willpower along with my team-mates which kept me going. I got through today, because I still want to try to achieve something in this race. Maybe stopping would've been the sensible thing to do, as I was in a lot of pain, but I couldn't," he said.

It was a sorry sight seeing team manager Bjarne Riis get out of his car to help put a rain-jacket on their fallen leader, who was determined to finish the stage despite his condition worsening overnight, leaving him without energy for a cruel day ahead.

"It was very hard to sit in the car and watch him suffer like that," said Riis. "On the Stelvio, I asked him if it wouldn't be better to abandon the race - but he just said that he couldn't. A bit further up he told me that he already has set his mind on a stage win. It was a tough day for the whole team. I'm so sorry on Ivan's behalf, because I know how much he had counted on winning the Giro d'Italia."

CSC team doctor Piet Daneels said that Basso drank a lot of cold water last Friday, which really upset his stomach. That same evening, he started having problems with digestion, and had to go to the bathroom quite a few times that night; after Saturday's mountain stage, Basso vomited in the team bus.

"Now we'll have to take it one day at a time, but of course he has to recover from that bug to be able to carry on," said Riis. "There's no point in suffering unnecessarily. He insisted on finishing the stage today, and that is only because he has a willpower like few others. Tomorrow morning, we'll make the decision of whether it's possible for him to go on. If he continues, it's because he still has a chance of winning a stage."

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