What's Cool In Road Cycling

Basso Meets The Press, Bruyneel Does The Talking

Ivan Basso and Team Discovery held a press conference before the launch of the 2007 Giro corsa last Saturday in Milano. Although Basso said nothing that was new, it was Johan Bruyneel who sent a strong message to cycling sport’s organizing bosses to get their act together. Pez was there and here’s how we saw it.

It’s just five minutes late when Basso arrives in the press room located inside the Teatro Arcimboldi in Milano. It’s the 1st December and the sky is grey. The Teatro Arcimboldi will host the Giro Ceremony a few hours later but in the morning we’re called for this important appointment. Basso joined the Discovery Channel team just a few weeks before and this press conference is one of the most interesting event of this fall.

Basso comes together with Bruyneel and with his lawyer Martelli. There are many journalists in the room, some TV and radio operators too. PEZ is there too; when a big event calls we cannot fail.

Johan Bruyneel, Ivan Basso, and Basso’s lawyer answer questions in Milan.

A brief introduction to the conference rules and a reminder of the time limit. Basso has to join a live TV interview later and the the time must be strictly observed. This means that although we are still in Italy that this time the rules must be followed.

As usual, Basso does not surprise us with any declaration or new scoop to the journalists. When you listen to him you feel to live a sort of continuous dиjа vu because his statements are always aligned to the previous one you’ve seenor heard before.

“As I already said I have full respect of Discovery Channel Team; the presence of Lance Armstrong in the management is a reason why I prefer this team to another one. My relationship with Riis is something professional, he is not my father or my brother and I never look at him in this way. He followed the Pro Tour Ethics Code because he cannot do any other way. It’s not the DNA test that’s the reason I left the CSC; it was a long relationship and now I feel that I have to change. I have nothing to demonstrate to anybody, it’s not me that I have to ask for the DNA test but in certain condition I would be ready to do it.”

After half an hour of nothing new the Italian journalists would like to reopen the discussion of the DNA control and to the Operacio Puerto case, the few English language ones are more interested in next year’s programs and the relationship between Basso and the Team. The time goes faster because the interpreter has to jump from the questions to the answers translating from English to Italian and vice versa.

The Italian TV correspondent Alessandra De Stefano tries to come back to the hottest moment of the last season and ask about the Strasbourg escape. She tries to open a passage through the rubber wall in front of us. But Basso is stronger today than on the Mortirolo.

“I just follow the orders of my team.”

Bruyneel and Mr. Martelli listen and sometimes write something on a piece of paper. But they just start to speak after an unexpected question from a Danish journalist. His direct questions about Basso’s position in the Operacion Puerto sound more as a reminder to everybody about the not yet closed investigation. But the reaction of the lawyer is very strong. The fact that the question comes from a Danish journalists looks more important than the question itself.

“I don’t know if my answer will sound pleasant … but I have to observe again that Basso has been completely absolved by the competent Authorities from any accusation on the base of the whole documentation available. My client has nothing more to explain, has nothing more to show and there is no way and no reason to open a parallel media trial.”

It’s clear that with the Danish press there has been difficult relationships in the past months. In any case it looks like that this story will not finish here and during the next season we will have to face again strong moments.

Bruyneel is the only one who really shoot the right target; inside his speech there are very important themes. “It’s a critical moment for the cycling. The most actual and important problem of the cycling today is that there are not qualified people when it’s the time to take a decision. In Strasbourg we faced a very confusing moment and we took a solution. At the moment it looked the best one, but now it’s clear that we just added more confusion and now we suffer for it. These kind of themes must be treated by qualified professions and not by an assembly of Team Managers. It’s not our work and we have not so open view to look at tomorrow or after tomorrow. Before signing Basso for the next season we consulted professionals in order to avoid mistakes. Now we are really relaxed and sure about Basso position and about our Team. That’s why I have not to worry if any organizer declares today that Basso will not be invited to a race. We are a Pro Tour team and this is the only answer I have for these people”.

At the end the problem is in front of everybody. Cycling has enormously grown in the last ten years. For certain a point of view has changed forever. It’s really not more possible think to a homemade management as it was before. The doping is really just a part of the whole matter. We are now in front a situation where big organizers as ASO, RCS and UNIPUBLIC are against the UCI which should be the final arbiter but aspires with the Pro Tour to get an important slice of the organization market. We have the Teams which with the Pro Tour are involved more then not in the past. There is for them the obligation to stipulate long period contracts and to guarantee large investments for year. There is for them also the obligation to apply the Ethics Code to the riders and to themselves too. There are the riders which are the last and the weak part of the chain. They have to suffer on their bike and they have to answer for mistakes that sometimes involves also many other people.

Then there’s us, fans. With our passion. We need answers. We need the cycling powers that be to take charge of the problem as Bruyneel said and work hard for all the winter. It’s our right. Our passion is a good reason why.

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