2006 Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso returns to the sport this year with team Liquigas after serving a two year suspension for his involvement in Operación Puerto. Despite his lengthy absence, he is still regarded amongst the best climbers in the peloton and with six mountain top finishes scheduled for this year's Giro, winning the overall classification seems within reach.
This year, Basso will not only focus on his performance on the bike but also the performance of the bike. He will play a key role to the engineers at team sponsor Cannondale as they develop the next generation of its flagship SuperSix Hi-Mod full carbon road frame. According to Basso, testing is well under way and the team has already received several iterations.
"It's a really fantastic bike," said Basso. "It is light and very stiff. I had a good feeling immediately. I've never used Cannondale. I've ridden for many years and I've always used my team-sponsored bike. So, I've never come across a Cannondale in the past. I think it is good on the flats because it is aerodynamic and it is good on the climbs because it is very light. It also rides very well on the descents.
Basso and his Liquigas teammates are all using prototype versions of the SuperSix Hi-Mod that are not yet on the market. The Italian star admittedly was not privy to most of the technical details surrounding them. Basso says he merely tells the engineers what he thinks about how the bike feels and handles uphill, downhill, in crosswinds ... and a new iteration magically arrives shortly thereafter.
That feedback has already resulted in a number of visual changes. Cannondale has added material to the back of the oversized head tube relative to last year's edition and the ends of the head tube are now visibly more flush with the rest of the frame, apparently with the aim of increasing front end rigidity for more precise handling and braking.
Cannondale has added material to the back of the head tube
The bottom bracket area looks similar to before – and naturally is still equipped with the BB30 system – but the seat tube has lost the pronounced steps at the top and bottom where it met the bottom bracket shell and top tube. Only clean and smooth lines now remain. Out back, last year's semi-wishbone seat stays are now separate bits nearly all the way to the seat tube.
"This is a company that is really close to the riders," said Basso. "I met with the engineer last year. When I started to use the bike, he asked me what I thought. He was open and asked for a lot of feedback from the riders. In the end when they release this frame it will be 100 percent perfect. They have a lot of good people to design their bikes but it is nice that they ask us for our input."
Basso's SuperSix Hi-Mod prototype is only one of three Cannondales he anticipates using at this year's Giro, which is set to start on May 9 in Lido di Venice. The second bike will be the aerodynamic Slice Hi-Mod Ultimate time trial bike and the third will apparently be a special machine for stage 12's long and hilly time trial [we were unable to confirm the latter with Cannondale].
One would think the status of a rider like Basso would automatically warrant the best of the best in Italian-made components. However, his SuperSix is currently built with Campagnolo's second-tier Record, not Super Record. To be fair, the two groups essentially differ only in the grade of the hybrid ceramic bearings used and some material changes. Both feature the company's all-new 11-speed drivetrains, wholly revamped Ergopower levers, all-new rear derailleurs, and updated chains and front derailleurs.
The total weight difference between the two groups is barely 50g but Basso is keeping his eyes on every one of them. "I like all my components," he said. "If you look at the bike, we have all the best stuff and we will have Super Record soon."
Basso's SRM, Hollowgram SI SL cranks and Speedplay Zero Titanium pedals
Basso is also using an SRM power meter built into Cannondale's Hollowgram SI SL cranks and BB30 bottom bracket. Even with the extra strain gauge hardware and the beefy chainring spider it requires, total claimed system weight is still just 721g including the bottom bracket and chainrings.
Cannondale says the key to the light weight is the hollow crank arms' aggressively machined 2000-series aluminium interior and the oversized and integrated design, which allows for fewer parts and less material without compromising strength or stiffness. The ends of the crank arms are equipped with Liquigas-green Speedplay pedals.
Rolling stock consists of Mavic's top-end Cosmic Carbone Ultimate wheels – with team-only ‘SSC' graphics – and Schwalbe Ultremo tubulars. Their 1185g weight and medium rim depth makes for a versatile wheelset light enough for climbing but also reasonably aerodynamic, too.
FSA provides Basso with a 13cm-long OS-99 CSI carbon-wrapped aluminium stem, 44cm-wide ‘new ergo' bend Energy aluminium handlebars, and a K-Force SB25 carbon seatpost. Other parts include a white fi'zi:k Arione CX Carbon saddle and Elite water bottle cages.
Basso says his position is mostly identical to what he had on his Cervelo in 2006 but that he has spent the winter months working on refining it nonetheless. Aiding him are no less than famed coach Aldo Sassi at the Italian-based Mapei Training Centre and SRM founder Ulrich Schoberer at his Dusseldorf headquarters.
"There are no big changes to my position over the last few years," Basso said. "Every year it is not exactly the same but the changes are minimal. For example, I moved my saddle five millimetres or I slightly moved my cleats on the sole of my shoes. But these really small differences matter. I do my testing at the Mapei Centre and at the SRM centre. We checked my old positions to make sure that I am as fast as I was in 2006. I want everything the same and I think the bike I have this year is the same, fast like my old one."
So let's see: a new and supposedly faster bike, small adjustments to an already-proven position, and presumably newly invigorated training. Sounds like a winning formula to us.
Complete bicycle specifications
- Frame: Cannondale SuperSix Hi-Mod prototype, 58cm
- Fork: Cannondale SuperSix Hi-Mod
- Headset: Cannondale SuperSix by FSA
- Stem: FSA OS-99 CSI, 130mm x -6º
- Handlebars: FSA Energy New Ergo, 44cm (c-c)
- Tape/grips: fi'zi:k bar tape
- Front brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
- Rear brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
- Brake levers: Campagnolo Record Ergopower Ultra-Shift 11s
- Front derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11s
- Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11s
- Shift levers: Campagnolo Record Ergopower Ultra-Shift 11s
- Cassette: Campagnolo Record 11s, 11-23T
- Chain: Campagnolo Record 11s
- Crankset: SRM Wireless PowerMeter Cannodale SI/SL
- Bottom bracket: Cannondale BB30
- Pedals: Speedplay Zero Titanium
- Wheelset: Mavic Cosmic Carbone Ultimate
- Front tire: Schwalbe Ultremo tubular, 22mm
- Rear tire: Schwalbe Ultremo tubular, 22mm
- Saddle: fi'zi:k Arione CX Carbon
- Seat post: FSA K-Force SB25
- Bottle cages: Elite Custom Macia
- Computer: SRM PowerControl VI and Suunto Bike Pod
- Rider's height: 1.83m (6'0")
- Rider's weight: 70kg (154lb)
- Seat tube length, c-c: 550mm
- Seat tube length, c-t: 580mm
- Saddle height, from BB center to top: 785mm
- Tip of saddle nose to C of bars: 610mm
- C of front wheel to top of bars
- Top tube length: 575mm
- Total bicycle weight: 6.9kg (15.2lb)