ROME (AFP) – Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso will not be defending his title when the Giro begins on May 7 in Turin, he said Thursday.
Instead Acqua & Sapone’s Stefano Garzelli, the winner in 2000, will wear the number 1 jersey usually reserved for the champion.
Basso, who will instead set his sights on July’s Tour de France, said he simply wasn’t in the right shape to race, although he would only have taken part to help Liquigas teammate and compatriot Vincenzo Nibali. Basso won the Giro in 2006 and again in 2010.
“It’s a great sacrifice for me to pull out of the Giro but unfortunately with the shape I’m in at the moment I wouldn’t be able to do it justice,” he said. “At the beginning of the season the idea was to ride the Giro before the Tour de France with the view of helping Vincenzo Nibali in his quest for the maglia rosa. Right to the last I tried to find the feeling that I could be comfortable and confident, but it hasn’t arrived.
“So it is in conjunction with the team that we’ve come to this painful decision,” Basso said. “I would have wanted to be there to help Vincenzo but instead I’ll be in the first row supporting him. He’s young and has enormous talent and I’m convinced he’ll be right up there.”
Organizers published a preliminary start list of riders from 23 teams, although changes can be made up until one week before the race begins.
Three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador is in the line-up, with his new team Saxo Bank, alongside former Tour winner Carlos Sastre and the Giro champion from two years ago Denis Menchov.
Meanwhile sprinters Mark Cavenish and Alessandro Petacchi and former world champion Alessandro Ballan should provide fierce competition for stage wins.