For years it's been the common belief that it's impossible to go for victory in more than one of the three major tours in the same season. But Ivan Basso is ready to challenge that belief. This year the Italian is aiming to win both the Giro and the Tour, writes Susanne Horsdal.
"I don't think it's impossible to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year, but I don't know. After I've tried it, I will know how it worked out," said Ivan Basso in a press conference in Lanaken, Belgium on Thursday.
The CSC captain, who made a genuine breakthrough when finishing third in last year's Tour, thinks it is nothing out of the ordinary for a rider of his type to do more than one major tour. "Last year changed my career. I learned to take responsibility. And if you're a rider for the big tours it's not normal to do just one. I have a big desire to do the Giro, and now I believe it's possible to do well in two tours in a year," Basso explained.
Team manager Bjarne Riis obviously agrees with his protg. "Basically it hasn't been seen since [Miguel] Indurain for someone to try to go for a win in two tours. But we'll try it. Last year Ivan was maybe the only GC rider for the major stage races who did well from the beginning till the end of the season and I think he has the capacity to do two major tours, but the most important thing is that he does what he feels like," said Riis.
Despite the Giro being harder than ever with all of the ProTour teams participating, it's fair to assume that a rider of Basso's calibre can take victory in the Italian race. But can he topple Lance Armstrong in the Tour? That is an entirely different question. Asked what it would take to beat the American, Basso first resorted to a smile and a shrug of the shoulders.
"I'm stronger than last year, but the problem is, I didn't lose by 10 seconds, I lost by five minutes. With Armstrong I'm realistic. When you lose five minutes in two time trials it's a problem. I hope to lose less time this year and maybe he'll have a bad day in the mountains. But basically I'll do my own race. I have to focus on my own preparations and not worry about the other riders. My objective is to do better than last year, which is by finishing second or first," said Basso.
For many, Ivan Basso is regarded the most likely heir to the Tour throne, but what the race will be like when Armstrong has taken his last bows in France was not a subject the tall Italian would go too much into. 'With Armstrong there you have one team that controls the race. That'll probably change a little when he's gone, but that's for Bjarne (Riis) to worry about," said Basso with a grin. And as for Armstrong? "I think he'll come with the same form as in the past six years. He'll be just as motivated and he has nothing to lose."
With Basso it's a different story. One thing is being one of the very few riders who has the guts to take on two major tours, but will it come at a price? Only time will tell. For Ivan Basso and Bjarne Riis it's a risk worth taking, and a well prepared one at that. For months, team manager and rider have been working closely together fine-tuning everything - obviously to fulfil the objectives, but maybe also to prove, that it's possible to do things differently.
"I think it's a well established fact that we're not a conservative team," Riis pointed out.