Basso focused on cracking Hesjedal for third Giro win

Liquigas manager predicts twice as much difficulty on Friday's stage to Alpe di Pampeago

SAN VITO DI CADORE, Italy (VN) — Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) Basso is confident in winning his third Giro d’Italia, but there’s just the problem of dealing with Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda).

After nearly 3000 kilometers of racing, from Denmark to Italy’s southern Campania region and back to the Alps in the country’s north, Basso trails by 1:22 to leader Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) and 52 seconds to Hesjedal. His tactic to win, to surpass his two rivals, is the same as always: grind away on the front. Liquigas has assumed responsibility since day one despite others – Hesjedal and Rodríguez – leading the race.

Sylvester Szmyd is Basso’s top lieutenant in the high mountains and in yesterday’s stage over the Passo Duran, Forcella Staulanza and Giau, Basso needed the Polish workhorse. However, Szmyd was off his game. Basso called on Damiano Caruso and then Eros Capecchi to inflict a high pace before taking over himself. Once he took over, though, nothing happened. In fact, Hesjedal himself was the only rider to attack on the final climb.

At the Liquigas bus, team manager Roberto Amadio explained.

“He’s not an attacker, it’s not easy for him to drop the others,” Amadio told VeloNews. “He has to finish it at the maximum and, like today, someone’s popped.”

The most notable men to “pop” on Wednesday were Roman Kreuziger (Astana), who fell off the pace by 11 minutes, and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD), who lost 1:22.

“Don’t worry, at some point you’ll see his rivals pop,” Amadio added, his voice deep and reassuring. “If not? OK, then we will lose it. We are racing to win, but if we lose it, we aren’t going to go crazy.”

Voices from inside the bus made their way out the door. It was Ivan Basso. He wasn’t inside, but the staff and his teammates were watching him on the post-race TV show.

“The surprise from today was Hesjedal,” Basso said. “He had a great ride, he was right there by me. He has it all and we have to try to distance him, otherwise Sunday we are in trouble… We still have Friday and Saturday, but it’s clear that we have to remain focused on him because none of us want to face Hesjedal in the time trial.”

Journalists stood around the bus and listened. Once he was done, they waited for Basso to arrive. He’s won the Giro twice and is considered king. Fans ask for bottles and autographs, journalists ask for “un minuto.” He wanted to rest, though. He climbed into the bus and showered.

Amadio watched Basso climb in and then looked up at the towering Dolomite Mountains. The race continues Thursday with a sprinters’ stage to Vedelago, but it’s back to the mountains on Friday with a mountaintop finish in Alpe di Pampeago, and again on Saturday at Passo Stelvio.

“Pampeago, in my opinion… If this was hard today, then Pampeago will be twice as hard. [With the mountaintop finishes] we have more possibilities,” Amadio told VeloNews.

“If we arrive as it is in Milan, though, [Ryder] is going to win the Giro. He’ll gain three minutes on ‘Purito’ [Rodríguez] and a minute-and-a-half on Basso. If he continues to stand his ground, there won’t be anything left to do.”