Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) has insisted he has no regrets about his season despite only finishing eighth at the Tour de France, 7:23 behind Cadel Evans and more than a minute down on rival Italian Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD).
Basso struggled to respond to the decisive attacks in the mountains and lost time in both the team time trial and the final individual time test. He blamed his lack of form on the nasty crash he suffered while at an altitude training camp on Mount Etna in mid-May. He hit a road grid, needed 15 stitches in a head wound and was unable to train properly for two weeks.
“There were some serious consequences too. As well as the stitches and the weakening of my vision, I also had vertebrae problems which caused me to lose feelings in my wrists and so stopped me working on my time trialing. I also had to take antibiotics for a long time and make up for the missed training. People can criticise me but my conscience is clear. I did more than 40,000 metres of climbing in the month before the Tour. Maybe that was too much but I’m a perfectionist and I didn’t want the crash to affect my Tour.”
Basso conceded that he was unable to go with the attacks at the Tour de France but suggested that Evans and the Schlecks were unbeatable whatever his level of fitness.
“That happens when your form isn’t perfect. You push a bigger gear to try and compensate for your lack of rhythm,” he said. “But there was little anyone could do against Cadel and the Schlecks. Everyone else was racing for fourth place.”
No Vuelta Espana
Basso will not ride the Vuelta Espana because teammate Vincenzo Nibali will lead the Liquigas-Cannondale team in Spain after winning the 2010 race. He is expected to ride a series of one-day races and minor stage races. Basso will be 34 on November 26 and the best years of his career seem behind him. However he is hoping to bounce back before the end of the season and will still target the grand tour stages races in 2012.
“I’m still very motivated. I’ve been through worse moments: I got through a two-year ban for doping,” he said. “I don’t feel old and believe I can still compete for a place on the podium,” he said.
“It’s risky to put the Tour de France at the centre of your season. But my season isn’t over. I’ll target other races like the Giro di Emilia, the Tour of Lombardy. I won’t wait until next season to try and win.”
The Schlecks of Italy
Basso will decide his major goals for 2012 after the presentation of the routes of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia at the end of October.
He refuses to consider Nibali as a rival and suggests the two teammates could become the Italian equivalent of the Schleck brothers and race with a combined strategy in the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
“We get on really well even if we’re from different generations. Vincenzo represents the future and I can’t expect to get stronger as I get older, so it’s stupid for us to try and compete against each other,” he said.
“He helped me win the 2010 Giro and so I could help him in the future. We’re the Schlecks of Italy. The only difference is that were not brothers. But I could help him at the Giro and he could help me at the Tour. Or vice versa. Why not?”