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An interview with Ivan Basso - Page 2, January 29, 2007

Ivan Basso exclusive: Discovering the Basso era

...Continued from page one.

Basso looks ahead to the 2007 season
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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CN: Johan Bruyneel has some unique leadership skills, given that he managed to work so well with Lance who certainly has a strong, unique personality.
IB: You can tell right away if you're going to get along with people and [Johan] understood me right away, what kind of person I am and what kind of racer I am. He trusted me and listened to me and understood that I listen to him, that I'm very…open, because we want the same results. The objective is to win. I don't want to be too good, I want to learn and work together.

CN: Ivan, how was it to see Lance?
IB: Lance is Lance…he told me 'Welcome! Better late than never', because he and Johan tried to hire me for years. It's been years that Johan understood really well why I didn't go on his team, because there was a different atmosphere (with Lance) and so with great respect. I told him 'no' and he understood why and respected my choice, but we always maintained a great rapport. That's how things went.

CN: You went riding with Lance, too. How did that go?
IB: He went on a few rides with us, but we went very easy. But Lance's style is unmistakable.
We had a lot of fun together, on the second evening, we went to Lance's favorite Tex-Mex restaurant (Chuy's in Austin, Texas) and he put his arm around me and said: 'tonight, forget the diet'. Lance is really great.

CN: It's inevitable that we talk about Operación Puerto. Your case has been shelved by both the Italian and Spanish cycling authorities. What is the situation for you now?
IB: For me, it's out of my hair. I only have to think of being a racer. The case is closed and there are lawyers who took care of this and for me, in my head, this is completely closed. I'm just thinking about being a racer. To train and be focus.

So it's a simple answer because me, my team, my fans, everyone, want me to ride my bike strongly and to ride strong, you don't need to have a lot of useless thoughts in your head. Just think about being a racer. Everyone has their role and some of the elements of [Puerto] are followed by the lawyers. So the athlete shouldn't be involved or have it in his head, his heart or his emotions.

I'm just thinking of my profession, which is a bicycle racer and to ride strongly.

"I'm paid to win races, I have to work hard and to do that I can't worry about things that are not in my competence."

-The Italian plans on leaving any Operación Puerto matters to his legal team

CN: And if something else comes out in the future about Operación Puerto and Ivan Basso?
IB: As I said before, right now I'm only concentrating on my work and if something comes up in the future, we have people who can handle these problems. I think that as a professional rider - one that can get great results. I'm paid to get great results, not to come home in the third group.

I'm paid to win races, I have to work hard and to do that I can't worry about things that are not in my competence.

CN: Talking about your hard work and your objectives for the 2007 season, what will be the key appointments for you this season?
IB: Well the objectives for 2007 are the same ones as before, it's useless to hide that the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France are my objectives, but I'm going step-by-step as I'll start at the Tour of California this year and then go ahead.

I'm a rider who has made my career on the Giro and Tour as the most important points, it's clear that those are the objectives for the rest of my career. That's where the mind goes, but it's a long way away and I'll maintain my calm, first start racing again and win again soon, I hope. I'll get in some breaks, hear the whirr of the chains, the noise of the tires, the attacks, the racing.

So it's useless to talk too much about my race program. I just want to start racing again, to live the race experience again, whichever it is.

Basso is focused on racing while his lawyer, Massimo Martelli (left),
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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CN: Did you have a chance to look at the courses for the Giro and Tour this season?
IB: It's kind of my habit, at least regarding the Tour, to look that far ahead. Right now, I'm more focused on the Giro d'Italia. This winter I've spent a lot of time on technical aspects, because I've changed my bicycle, my shoes, my saddle, so I've been able to take another look at the key points of the Giro, like the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Oropa, the Verona time trial. I know some of the climbs already.

I had extra work this winter and in past years I could spend more time looking at the stages. This year I've spent a little less time on this as I've had the technical things to work on, like the position on my road bike, my time trial bike, saddle, shoes. There were a lot of changes and it was fundamental for me to head to the California training camp with everything in order.
There were plenty of adjustments, just by millimeters. I couldn't go there without knowing what my position was, so I spent more than a month and a half on my time trial bike position.

My road bike was easier to adapt to; the time trial bike takes much more time to adjust the position. After three years of working with one company (Cervelo), then changing to another (Trek), I want to find the same performance.

CN: I understand you are going to do some wind tunnel testing after the Tour of California in San Diego and Lance will be there to consult?
IB: Yes…the problem is that if he compares me to his performances, it will be lousy! Right now, my position is very good aerodynamically and I'm satisfied with it. So I think I really worked well already in the last while on this.

I don't have great condition yet, but I'm convinced that the time I spent in December and January on these little details has really helped me out through this. [Discovery] has followed all the changes which have been a lot and I've needed a lot of material like stems, aero bars and the team was always there. I was doing tests and video position checks; to just be static on the rollers is one thing, but it's really important to go out and test the material on the road.

You need to see your position when you are going 50 kilometres an hour, not at 25 - that doesn't help. So I tried to give a lot of attention to this and I'm really, really, really satisfied.

Discovery Channel has been chasing Basso's autograph
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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CN: There is a time trial at the Tour Of California next month…
IB: I'll have a good position, but bad legs…I think for me the desire to race is high, but my condition isn't that good to have any ambitions. We'll have a very strong team that is really well prepared to get an excellent result.

I'll be there in good condition to ride a good race, but not a competitive level with the best. California is just the beginning of my season. I can't expect a real result in the time trial to be competitive there.

CN: I believe that Levi Leipheimer will probably be the team leader for Discovery Channel at the the Tour Of California. Do you know him?
IB: Yes, I don't know him that well because he's always been an adversary, but we met in Texas and I think he's an excellent rider. [He's] an intelligent person and has ridden with top champions, like Lance and Heras, so he knows really well how to ride as a real professional.

And I think there's room for me, for him, for all on the team. I don't see any hassles because I'm also able to do my job as a professional rider, to stay in my place, to understand if in a certain moment when another rider is stronger, there's no problem to work for them.

CN: Do you know Tom Danielson? Didn't you ride in Fassa Bortolo together?
IB: No, I had already left the team. I don't know him that well but I do know that he is a really strong climber and when he goes, he puts the hurt on!

I'm a person who gets along with everyone. I think if you talk to my ex-teammates from Fassa Bortolo and CSC, no one has ever had any problems with me. Okay, maybe I'm not simpatico with everyone, that's normal, but I know how to stay in my place, how to value the others.

"So what do I expect from this season? I hope to have good health. That's what I am hoping for: health, that's enough."

-Basso is just hoping for the basics this year

CN: It's January 2007 and you have gone through a lot in 2006. Where do you hope to be one year from now as a cyclist, in January 2008?
IB: It's a difficult question, and I've never liked to answer this type of question, about what I want…I like to do things! So what do I expect from this season? I hope to have good health, that will permit me to do the things I know how to do. That's what I am hoping for: health, that's enough.

As for luck, I think you have to make it since it's just doesn't happed. You don't win races by luck, you win with commitment, with constant work and sacrifice. The only thing that an athlete in my situation can ask for is to be healthy.

Return to page one of the exclusive Ivan Basso interview.