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Following a very successful spring campaign, Team CSC is preparing to launch their next missile in the shape of Ivan Basso, who is targeting the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. Even though he's riding Sunday's Lige-Bastogne-Lige and has a pretty good chance of winning it, he still considers it preparation, writes Susanne Horsdal.
"Both Flche Wallonne and Lige are part of our plan towards the Giro, which is why I won't ride Lige with a lot of pressure. We already have a very strong team and I don't expect to be flying on Sunday, but it's part of our preparation and we've also used this opportunity to check out the Giro stages raced in Belgium," said a smiling and relaxed Basso at a press conference on Thursday.
Ever since he made it public that he would ride the Giro and the Tour with the aim of winning both, he's been labelled as one of the favourites for both races - but, in his own eyes, he is perhaps too much of a favourite.
"My impression is that everybody thinks that I'll win the Giro easy, but it's not like that. The Giro is hard and the other favourites have been showing good form lately," admitted Basso, who believes he's got four main rivals for the maglia rosa.
"In my head [Gilberto] Simoni and [Paolo] Savoldelli have the same characteristics. They're experienced and they have won before. The other two: [Danilo] Di Luca and [Damiano] Cunego are more unpredictable," said the 28-year-old Italian.
But, according to CSC team manager Bjarne Riis, the other contestants had better get their stuff together if they want to battle it out with Basso. "For sure we have to take them very seriously, but Ivan has been training very hard and made a lot of sacrifices, and I don't think he can be more ready. If somebody can beat him, I'll say 'chapeau', but they'll have to be very strong," said Riis.
The idea of taking on both the Giro and the Tour with the intention of winning both was made public in December last year. But, in reality, the decision was made last September.
"Ivan came to me, tired after the Tour and said: 'Next year I won't be doing the Giro and the Tour.' I said OK, then we'll focus on the Tour. But in September he came to me again and said: 'If the route is good I want to also do the Giro. I didn't agree with him but after we saw the route we made the decision to do it," explained Riis.
Whether that's biting off more than Basso can chew remains to be seen, and the Italian realises that the risk of failure is eminent: "Last year I lost the Giro but that's part of life and, honestly, my goal is to win one of the big tours this season. But for now I am focusing on the Giro and after that I will start to think about the Tour," said Basso.
According to Riis, the plan is to let his team captain have a recovery week after the Giro, then to train very hard for five-six days, followed by another week of recovery training. "But for Ivan it's not a problem physically, it's more a matter of mentality. Now Ivan is focusing on the Giro, but that's also working towards the Tour," said Riis, who doesn't believe it's that impossible to go for two big tours in the same year.
"I know it's a risk to do both, but if it works out, hey - goddammit - we've done it, and if it doesn't work out then next year we'll do something different. But if you don't dare to make a mistake you don't win. And we're not afraid to fail. Ivan's not and I'm not," declared Riis.
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