Basso to attack - if Lance lets him

Can Bjarne Riis do for Ivan Basso what he did for Tyler Hamilton and make him a true Tour contender?

Can Bjarne Riis do for Ivan Basso what he did for Tyler Hamilton and make him a true Tour contender?
Team CSC leader Ivan Basso on Thursday issued a mitigated message of hope to his fans - and a watered down warning to his rivals - vowing that "you will see a different Ivan Basso in the mountains this year. Lance Armstrong permitting." Yesterday, Basso pronounced himself "happy" with the first week-and-a-half of his Grande Boucle campaign. Before today's first summit finish of the 2004 Tour at La Mongie, Basso nestled safely in 20th position on GC, just short of 11 minutes down on race leader Thomas Voekler. Basso spoke yesterday of his desire to shed his image as a defensive, some would say dour, performer in the Alps and Pyrenees. Asked if spectators could witness a Tour de France first - a Basso attack - at La Mongie or on Saturday on the way to Plateau de Beille, Bjarne Riis' Italian proteg smiled: "I hope so. "I can't say that I'll attack at any costs, but I hope that I'll be in a position to try at some point," Basso, a seventh-place finisher in the 2003 Tour, told procycling before Thursday's 11th stage from Saint Flour to Figeac. "My concern is called Armstrong: he has looked extremely strong over the past few days and certainly much better than last year. I'm sure he'll want to stamp his authority on the race at the first opportunity - at La Mongie. He's the pharaoh of the race. It's OK for any of us to say that we will attack, but we have to be able to follow Lance first." Some pundits claimed on Thursday that Basso and other would-be challengers to Armstrong passed up their first opportunity to test the Texan on Wednesday in the Massif Central. Laurent Jalabert lead a chorus of criticism for the wait-and-see tactics of all but stage winner Richard Virenque. Basso was eager to defend himself yesterday: "It would have been pointless to attempt an attack," the CSC ace protested. "The difficult section of the hardest climb, the Puy Mary, wasn't hard enough to create a gap. Also, the peloton let Virenque escape but would never have let me ride away. Two days before the Pyrenees, to attack would have been a waste of energy, too."
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