Basso starts season, ready for Catalunya fight with Contador
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Basso starts season, ready for Catalunya fight with Contador

by Samuel Morrison at 4:44 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Volta a Catalunya
 

Italian Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) is ready to begin his season at the GP Insubria and the GP Lugano this weekend, but is anxiously awaiting the battle with Alberto Contador (Astana) at the Volta a Catalunya next month.

"The last test, in January, they told me that I am ahead of where I was one year ago," Basso told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "There was no reason to wait any longer, so we anticipated my planned debut. I will race Insubria and Chiasso, then you will see Basso already on par with the best at the Volta a Catalunya."

The Spanish stage race, March 22 to 28, starts off with a 3.6-kilometre time trial and features a mountaintop finish to La Seu d' Urgell, at the border with Andorra. Basso is anxious to race against the two-time Tour de France champion, Contador.

"Very much so, yes, because it will give me a reference point. When I am up against him it is like when I found myself against [Lance] Armstrong. I will wait for the first mountain battle, to Andorra, to see how he attacks and if he will be unable to drop me. Nothing's certain, though, maybe I will attack first."

The last time they went head-to-head on a mountain stage was in last year's Dauphiné Libéré stage up Mont Ventoux. Basso, though, had just finished the Giro d'Italia and suffered from intestinal virus – he finished 35th, Contador finished eighth.

"Mother nature gave him something special," continued Basso. "We have yet to lock horns in a race, but I remember a training camp in California when we were both with Discovery Channel in 2007. I arrived one day late, tired from jetlag, but on a climb we went like mad at each other."

Over the winter, Contador and Armstrong divided up Astana. Contador remained, but the structure changed drastically, and Armstrong took most of the top riders to form his own team, RadioShack. Basso will have to manage both of these teams if he wants to win the Tour de France this July, his fist time to race in five years.

"Contador is number one, but Armstrong will be stronger than one year ago, plus he has an impressive team. A season of racing put him in rhythm, like me. He will be a tough costumer. I am not awestruck by him, but I have a special admiration for him because of what he did to help my mom when she was sick [with cancer]."

Prior to the Tour de France, Basso will race the Giro del Trentino, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro d'Italia.

"I am certain that I can battle for the pink jersey at the Giro and for the podium at the Tour. It would be a mistake not to have these ambitions after I placed fifth at the Giro and fourth at the Vuelta last year, and with two years suspension behind me."

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