PIC BY TIM DE WAELE
Ivan Basso has vowed to avenge what he believes was his unjustified exclusion from this year's Tour de France by triumphing in next year's Grande Boucle.
Speaking to L'Equipe, Basso said that he is confident Tour organisers ASO will ignore persisting doubts about his crediblity and hand him the chance to compete for victory in next year's race. "I love the Tour and I trust its orgnaisers," Basso said. "I'm sure that I'm going to ride it again and win it. I'd even be willing to bet on it."
Basso earlier revealed that he has not given up hope of honouring the final year of his contract with Team CSC, despite having been "hurt" by Bjarne Riis's response to his alleged involvement in the Operacion Puerto doping enquiry. Basso flatly rejected Riis's claim that he visited his former team leader at home after the Tour. "I don't know why [he didn't come].I asked myself a lot of questions about his lack of communication. It hurt, really hurt me," Basso said.
Contrary to reports over the weekend, Basso - the reigning, if suspicion-saddled Giro d'Italia champion - will not have a face-to-face meeting with Riis to discuss his future this week. Instead the two are likely to speak over the telephone, with Riis having left his Swiss home for a holiday in South Africa on Monday.
Basso said that he "hopes" the outcome of the talks will be his fourth season riding for CSC, which he still considers "his team". Monday's La Gazzetta dello Sport, however, suggests that any conversation with Riis will serve only to "define the terms of the divorce".
Should the latter scenario come to pass, Basso claims that he won't be short of offers. He told L'Equipe that Discovery Channel have made him "a concrete offer" but added that he is also "open to other solutions", including a move to an Italian team. It is believed that Milram and several continental division teams are keen to sign the 29 year old.
While not able to offer any explanation for his implication in Operacion Puerto - "I can't explain it; all I know is that I've got nothing to do with it" - Basso admitted that his image has been tarnished by the affair. "Tarnished but not destroyed," he said. "There will always be a doubt in some people's mind but the public is different. Their's is a different kind of doubt. They're already looking forward to the Giro and seeing whether I'm still as strong, now that doctor Fuentes is no longer around. And that's the only arena in which I can give people an answer."