‘It’s possible to win the Tour de France in one attack’
By Andrew Hood
Ivan Basso was the star attraction at Monday’s second and final rest day of the Tour de France as dozens of journalists crammed into a small conference room at the team hotel to learn more about the sensation of the 2004 Tour.
Basso has been the only rider strong enough to follow Tour dominator Lance Armstrong and sits third overall, just 1 minute, 17 seconds behind the Texan.
“I feel good, I feel strong. Normally, Armstrong goes full-gas, but I stayed with him. I didn’t die,” Basso said. “It’s been a little bit of a surprise, but I knew I had the power before the Tour. I knew of my potential before the Tour. There’s still one week more of the Tour, so I want to stay calm, stay where I am.”
The 26-year-old Italian won Friday’s stage to La Mongie and finished second to Armstrong at Plateau de Beille to keep the Tour interesting. Armstrong is pushing for his record sixth Tour victory, but Basso said he’ll attack if Armstrong falters in three upcoming stages in the Alps.
“It’s possible to win the Tour de France in one attack,” Basso said. “Last year at Luz Ardiden, Armstrong won the race in one attack. I don’t know if Armstrong will have a bad day. If he does, we will be ready. It’s not worth it to attack just to gain 10 to 20 seconds.”
Riis said they will carefully watch the American and pounce if he shows signs of weakness.
“We will attack Armstrong only if he shows weakness. We are waiting for that. We will watch him carefully, if we see a weakness, we will attack,” said Riis, who won the 1996 Tour. “First, we will ride to protect Ivan. I believe he can finish on the podium. If he can follow Armstrong in the next few stages that will be very important.”
Basso could find himself isolated, however, with key helpers Bobby Julich and Carlos Sastre hampered by injuries. Julich is expected to be able to continue despite injuring his right wrist in a fall in Saturday’s epic climbing stage while Sastre was going in for X-rays on his back after a fall in the first week.
Jakob Piil, the Danish attacker who held the distinction of riding with the most kilometers in breakaways, won’t be starting Tuesday’s stage after he hyper-extended his knee and could barely walk following Sunday’s stage.