By Gregor Brown
Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso won the GP Lugano today and confirmed his plans for early season dominance.
"I have no intention of arriving at the Tour [de France] empty handed," Basso told La Gazzetta dello Sport last month. "I have to try to bring home something beforehand."
Italy's Ivan Basso began his season at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina last month. Today's win in Lugano, Switzerland - ahead of Fabio Duarte and Giovanni Visconti - was his first since the one-day GP Carnago in August.
Last May, Basso won the Giro d'Italia, one of three Grand Tours. His Liquigas team-mate Vincenzo Nibali won the Spanish Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España. This year, Basso will likely skip the Giro d'Italia to try to win the Tour de France. The responsibility of defending the Giro d'Italia title will be in Nibali's hands.
Basso admitted in October that he wants to win the Tour de France for his former trainer Aldo Sassi. Sassi died in December after suffering with brain cancer since last April.
"This one is for Aldo Sassi. We were on our roads in Lugano, near my home," said Basso today. "However, he wants another win."
Basso also won the Giro d'Italia in 2006. He twice finished on the Tour de France podium behind Lance Armstrong (3rd in 2004, 2nd in 2005). Following a doping suspension, he returned to finish the 2009 Giro in fourth and to win it last May. He maintained his fitness through July at the Tour de France, but a fever knocked him out of contention mid-way through.
He wants to continue to try to win from now until the end of April, when he will likely take a break before preparing for the Tour de France.
"I said that I wanted to have a good spring," he added. "You have to have some luck in these races, also condition. I'll start Tirreno with more motivation and confidence."
Basso's next objective is the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, March 9 to 15. It starts and ends with a time trial and features three difficult mountain legs.
After Tirreno, he will continue with two more stage races: Tour of Catalonia, March 21 to 27, and Tour of the Basque Country, April 4 to 9. At the end of April, he will race the one-day Ardennes Classics, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
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