PIC BY TIM DE WAELE
Within 48-hours of Ivan Basso stating in an interview with L'Equipe that he hoped to serve the final year of his contract with CSC in 2007, the Danish team has announced that the Italian will not be racing in their colours again.
CSC boss Bjarne Riis confirmed today that he and Basso have agreed to rescind the rider's contract - thought to be worth 1.8 million euros per year. "It has been a very difficult decision, but both parties agree it is time to move on," Riis said in a statement. "We would like to take this opportunity to thank Ivan for his time with the team and for the great results he and the team have achieved together."
Riis made no direct reference to Operacion Puerto - referring merely to "what happened this summer" - but it is widely believed that the he and CSC's coporate bosses had determined Basso's fate well before the pair held talks this week. Several times this summer Riis spoke of the damage Basso's alleged involvement in Operacion Puerto had done to his and his team's image. Basso may have been cleared of doping offences by the Italian Olympic Committee, but his soon-to-be former employers clearly don't consider his credibility fully restored.
If Basso is to be believed, the same can't be said of Discovery Channel. Lance Armstrong's former team are long-term admirers of the Italian and must now be the clear favourites to secure his services. Basso claims that the American powerhouse has already tabled a formal offer to sign him. Reports in Italy suggest he could meet team boss Johan Bruyneel later this week.
German outfit Milram have also been linked with Basso but their team manager, Gianluigi Stanga, told procycling today that their interest in him is now over.
"Our roster is now complete for next season," Stanga said. "We were interested in Basso but, after discussing it with our sponsors, we've decided not to pursue it. We admire Ivan and he's a personal friend of mine but we've decided to stick with what we've got. The continuing confusion over Operacion Puerto might have played a role in the decision...but then so did lots of other things."
Stanga also categorically dismissed recent rumours that his team were interested in signing Jan Ullrich. "We've never even considered it for a second," he said.