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Ivan Basso: “At the Tour like a Debut”

– Reported by Gazzetta dello Sport –

After the misfortune of last year, the Varesino from Fassa Bortolo will try it again: “I don’t know the mountains, but I hope to honor Italy”.

MILAN, 3 July 2002 – It’s not a debut, but it’s as if it were. Eight days, seven road stages, not enough to know a race of three weeks like the Tour de France. Ivan Basso is the first to understand this and admits for him “it will be like my first time, above all going forward, when we will arrive in the heat and the mountains, situations in which I haven’t been tested”. Less than three days to the Grande Boucle, but the adventure of the Varesino from Fassa Bortolo begins today, Wednesday, on the flight from Bergamo to Luxembourg, where Saturday begins the 89th edition of the French race. One year ago the world champion under-23 from Valkenburg ’98 packed his bags after only eight days, the result of a fall that fractured his right collarbone, when he was thrown down along with Jalabert, Voigt, Roux, and Cuesta during the stage to Colmar.

Now the Tour represents for him the appointment that could give him sense to an entire season, characterized by being so close to victory: second on the Alto del Campello climb in Velencia, behind Di Luca, third at Liege-Bastonge-Liege dominated by the Bettini-Garzelli duo. “I live for the day, knowing that the Tour is 22 days. I’m not already at 100 percent – explains Basso, forced to stop for two weeks after the Tour of Romandy, becuase of problems with his knee – but the Italian championships Sunday gave me positive signals. The stages of the Tour are very particular: there aren’t the classic flat stages in the opening week in which you only have to worry about the wind. The first two are demanding and stressful, becuase they travel across the typical narrow roads of the North. It’s not said that the sprinters have an easy life”.

It was fitting that escapes were the motif of the first stages of the last years Tour: in that of Aix-Les-Bains the Russian Sergei Ivanov scored the only success of the Fassa Bortolo team. The Italians, on the hand, went home with and empty sack. “The Tour is like that – reflects Basso – everyone feels alot of responsibility, everyone wants the results, everyone knows that to wear the yellow jersey gives value to an entire career. There’s much pressure. But for us Italians we must do something important for our nation”. Among Ferretti’s riders there will also be a certain Wladimer Belli, who in the past edition barely missed out on a stage win on the climb to Luz Ardiden. The Bergamasco is not a man for the general classification: he could be “sacrificed” for stage wins. While Francesco Casagrande, escluded from the Giro for an encounter with Garcia, has leveled his sights on the Vuelta this September. The experience of 2001, when he was forced to abandon the Giro for a broken wrist, cost him heavily. The rythm of the Tour made him abandon on the fourth stage.

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