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After a phony war during the first half of the Giro, Ivan Basso has made clear that he is one of the strongest riders in the race and is, for the moment at least, the rider to beat. "Now, the cards are on the table," said Basso shortly finishing right on Paolo Savoldelli's wheel at Zoldo Alto and taking his first-ever maglia rosa.
"I knew before the Giro that Savoldelli was one of my most dangerous rivals, but right now I continue not to underestimate anybody. The Giro finishes in Milan, not here. There's still a lot of mountains to be climbed," he added, highlighting Sunday's stage at Bormio and the ascent of the Stelvio as the hardest. The race organisers have given the go-ahead for the Stelvio climb to be included despite snowfalls on the mountain earlier this week.
"I felt really strong today. I wasn't giving much thought as to who was positioned where, but just made sure to keep as fast a pace as possible as we hit the Passo Duran climb," Basso explained. "This turned out to be the right strategy, and I could see that not many were able to keep up with me. I had great legs today, so I launched several attacks in order to drop my competitors. Today I showed that I'm a rider capable of pulling off a serious attack under the right circumstances.
"It's a dream come true for me and my team with this pink leader's jersey, but I choose to be very humble about the situation. There are still a lot of tough stages left, and the race is far from over. Today many riders had an actual off-day, but that can happen to everyone in a big stage race - including myself. Now we have achieved an important goal, but of course I'll attack again if I feel as strong as I did today.
"I'm not going to comment on the difficulties experienced by a colleague," said Basso when asked about defending champion Damiano Cunego's day. "It can happen to anybody."
Cunego admitted the stage had gone as his team had planned - at least to the point when he was dropped. "We'd put together a tactical plan to make the race harder, but it just didn't turn out as we'd hoped," said Cunego. "Personally I was suffering mentally, my legs weren't much better."
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM