Ivan Basso's life was turned on its head during the 2015 Tour de France when a check-up with the doctor on the first rest day ended with a diagnosis of cancer. Basso had gone to see the doctor to find the cause of the continuing discomfort he was feeling following a crash earlier in the race.
Not long after, he announced to a surprised press corps that he was suffering from testicular cancer, in an emotional press conference in Pau. A little more than a year later, Basso has recovered from the disease, retired from cycling and begun a new career as part of the Tinkoff backroom staff. Basso appears to be very comfortable in his new life as a link between the coaching staff and the riders. It has been an eye-opening experience for the Italian, who admitted to Cyclingnews that he had been ignorant of much of the behind the scenes workings of the team.
"First I want to say thanks to Oleg Tinkov for giving me the possibility to go in this part of the job because he was really close to me after my cancer so it is nice for me to start with this team. This year, I have tried a lot of things, being first sports director, second sports director, a lot of things," he told Cyclingnews.
"For me, it was a big change because I was a leader for many years so I had to decide to take away my privileges and work really hard. I want to say thanks also to the head of sports directors Steven de Jongh because he has been very good with me, and he has taught me a lot of small details. That is nice because it is one part the work that I have never seen. When you're a leader in a team you only think about riding your bike and that is it. So, for me, it has been very nice and a very good year."
Cyclingnews spoke to Basso the evening before a 'Contador Day' where members of the public competed in a sportive up the Gavia Pass alongside Alberto Contador and Basso. A former Giro d'Italia winner, Basso still commands a lot of support in his native country, and he was given a big ovation as he greeted the staff of the café/bar at the top of the climb. He then spent the subsequent half an hour taking selfies with the fans that had just ridden up, as he struggled to drink a coffee before it went cold.
On Friday, it was confirmed that Basso would move to the Trek-Segafredo team where he is set to work with and nurture the team's young talents. "Next year I will make one step, and I will have one area where I will be in charge. The area is the young riders, and Trek has a big connection with a lot of other small teams," said Basso.
"I think that what [Trek-Segafredo manager, Luca] Guercilena's department has given to me is really good. I am so happy. Like was said in the release, I am trying to give my help to the others on the technical side. I'm not on the sporting side, so I can help the sports directors and try to give my support and help to the sports directors and the riders."
The move to Trek means that Basso will continue to work with Contador, who was also confirmed for the team earlier last week after signing with them during the Tour de France. The two are clearly close, and Basso was keen to continue his working relationship with the Spaniard.
"The relationship with Alberto is more than being colleagues, we are really close to each other," Basso said. "The friendship with Alberto is really strong, and when Tinkov decided to stop, we thought about how we can build something nice together. First of all, we tried to do the best season possible. Alberto did the best to win the Tour, and only the bad luck stopped him and in the Vuelta it was the same."
Following the disappointments of this season, Contador confirmed to Cyclingnews over the weekend that the Tour de France would once again be his main target for 2017. As this year showed, nothing if certain in cycling but Basso says that they will give it their all to take the yellow jersey.
"We can't promise to win, you can't promise that, but we promise that we will give our best 24/7. When you do this work then you have to give all your life for this."