By Andrew Hood
Ivan Basso is taking aim at nothing short of overall victory for the 64th Vuelta a España, which clicks into gear Saturday in Holland.
The Italian said he’s better prepared for the Vuelta than the Giro d’Italia earlier this season, where he finished fifth overall.
“I trained myself in the best way without any stress,” Basso said in a team statement. “The final victory is a concrete goal.”
The Liquigas-Doimo rider will be starting the Vuelta for the first time of his career and will face stiff competition from the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
While all eyes were on Basso ahead of this year’s Giro, when he returned after serving a ban for his role the Operación Puerto doping scandal, Basso won’t have all the pressure on him that riders like Valverde and Sanchez will feel racing on home roads.
“I faced the preparation for this stage race with calm and without stress,” he said. “The weeks before the Giro were full of anticipation. The corsa rosa was my first engagement to obtain comparisons to the feelings during training. It gave me useful suggestions. During the summer, I concentrated on improving, on the change of rhythm. In the end, I had a better feeling the race. I chose to rely on personal sensations rather than scientific data.”
With five summit finishes, the Vuelta should suit Basso’s racing style. He’s not being shy about his intention of winning the Spanish tour.
“It’s the first time I’ve raced the Vuelta and I want to leave a mark,” Basso said. “Five summit finishes, hard stages full of climbs and two difficult time trials, I cannot deny this is adapted to my characteristics. This factor, coupled with the good condition I reached thanks to the August races, allows me to be optimistic. The final victory is the concrete goal.”
Basso will be backed by a strong team that also includes Roman Kreuziger, Daniele Bennati and Manuel Quinziato.
“We like to confront the important races of the season at the top of our capabilities,” said team manager Roberto Amadio. “In the Giro and the Tour, we fought in the front line to conquer both stages and leading GC placements. This philosophy brought us much satisfaction. We want to face the Vuelta with the same conviction.”
The Italian team will be looking to put Bennati back in winning form in the sprints and then protect Basso in a run for the overall.
“The line-up is assorted and well balanced and allow us to think to general ranking and single victory. First week is good for sprinters and so for Bennati. He will have the support of Quinziato, Sabatini and Bodnar, a precious help in the last kilometers of the flat stages,” said sport director Stefano Zanneti.
“From second week, the route will begin to go up and the fight for general ranking will start. Basso faced a training period that allows him to cherish the dream to win it. The Giro was the first important engagement after his return, now Ivan has the chance to continue along this way. The help of Szmyd, Carlström and Zaugg will be capital, like the support of Kreuziger. At the Tour, Roman showed a good condition. In Spain he will find a useful ground to grow again, helping Ivan and searching an exploit: the ideal work to refine the leg in view of Mendrisio World Championship.”
Liquigas for Vuelta a España
In other team news, Vicenzo Nibali will miss the world championships in Mendrisio after breaking his left clavicle in a fall during stage 5 at the Eneco Tour.
Seventh at the Tour de France, the 24-year-old Nibali was hoping to shine on the challenging Mendrisio course.