The quest for the elusive Giro/Tour Double doesn't allow much time between victory at the Giro and the start of an earnest look at the Tour de France. Ivan Basso began his bid for the Tour de France on Monday, only one week after his celebration in Verona.
Basso began a short, but intensive look at this year's principle difficulties in the Alps on Monday. Basso started his recon with a ride through the Tour de France's eighth stage. The first big day in the mountains finishes with two difficult climbs: the Col de la Ramaz (14.3 km, 6.8%) and the mountaintop finish at Morzine-Avoriaz (13.6 km, 6.1%).
On Tuesday, Basso will inspect the 9th stage of the Tour, which includes the climbs of the Col de la Colombiere, Col des Aravis, and Col des Saisies in the first part of the day, then culminates with the monstrous ascent of the Col de la Madeleine - 25.4 km, 6.1%. From the summit of the Madeleine, it will be 30 downhill kilometers to the finish in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - something that will surely push the Giro winner to his maximum.
After two days in the Alps, Basso will return to Italy to settle down to some altitude training atop the Passo San Pellegrino. If you're looking for Ivan Basso, he'll be staying on the mighty Pellegrino from June 9-23. He'll leave his high altitude setting for a race on the 19th of June, and then get ready for a big appointment on the 26th: the Italian Championships. The extremely difficult parcours of this year's Italian Championships could be one of Basso's best chances ever at the Tricolore jersey.
Ivan Basso will head into the Tour de France as an outside favorite, which frankly everyone will be, when put up against Alberto Contador's long, dark shadow.
"I would say that Contador is currently the best rider in the world and in the top three riders in the world in the time trial behind Cancellara. If he does not have a bad day, or if you can't use your team to your advantage, it is almost impossible to beat him. "
Basso sees three factors as key to winning a Grand Tour and feels that he possesses all three: "To win a Grand Tour, you must be good at both the individual time trials and mountains, and also have a good team…I think I can do an excellent Tour."
The big question for many though is whether a second consecutive Grand Tour overall bid is impossible. The two-time winner of the Giro d'Italia thinks going for the Tour de France overall following his Giro victory isn't a bridge too far.
"I think the Giro has been good for me. To race the Giro and the Tour in the same season is tough and can cost a lot of effort, but it's worth the risk. I am happier when I start the Tour after winning the Giro than if I had come fresh to the race. I will rely on my form and my team's strength."
Basso will start the Tour de France in Rotterdam with a powerful Liquigas squad. Basso has high hopes for the overall, but Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger have focused their seasons around the Grand Boucle. There's still no word about Franco Pellizotti status either, but if he's not charged with anything before the Grand Depart, Liquigas will have more than enough talent at the helm in case Basso comes up short.