By Gregor Brown published
Italy's Ivan Basso will skip defending his Giro d'Italia title and aim to win the Tour de France next year.
"I can win the Tour," Basso told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper today, on his 33rd birthday.
"Certainly, if I won the Giro d'Italia I would be on a special list of three-time winners, but the yellow jersey would give a special light to the two pink jerseys I already have at home."
Basso won the Giro d'Italia in 2006 and twice finished on the podium at the Tour de France behind Lance Armstrong (third in 2004, second in 2005). Following a doping suspension, he returned to win the Giro d'Italia this May. He maintained his fitness through July at the Tour de France, but a fever knocked him out of contention mid-way through the race.
Next year, Basso will focus solely on winning the Tour de France. However, he and his Liquigas team will only officially announce their plans at the team presentation in Milan on January 10.
"I want to respect the millions of fans that line the roads and cheer for me. I don't want that they are offended by my possible absence from the Giro," added Basso. "The offence would be to go there and go slowly through the Dolomites."
The Giro d'Italia starts in Turin on May 7 next year. The race features three time trials and seven mountaintop finishes in three weeks, including two times up the Mount Enta volcano and the gravel road pass over Colle delle Finestre.
"It's normal that Ivan wants to be at the Giro with the number 1 on his back, but wearing the yellow jersey on the Champs Élysées is a lifelong dream," said Liquigas President Paolo Dal Lago. "And it would not be a good image to go to the Giro, which is extremely hard, just for training. The Giro remains the most important race for us, but also at the Tour we want to have a very competitive team."
Italy's top team will instead race its home Grand Tour with Italian Vincenzo Nibali as leader. Nibali helped Basso win his Giro title this year, won the stage to Asolo and stood alongside his captain on the podium, finishing third overall. In September, he won the three-week Spanish tour, the Vuelta a España.
"Vincenzo is maturing and is no longer a little kid. There is a lot of respect between us and I am grateful for him staying at my side this year," said Basso.
"Vincenzo, how he showed at the Vuelta, can win the Giro. He won't be just a fall back plan for Liquigas."
Liquigas will meet at Passo San Pellegrino in the Dolomite Mountains for a team camp next week. The Italian team will then transfer to Sardinia for a second meeting, from December 9 to 22. After the team presentation in Milan, some team Liquigas' riders will begin their season on January 16 at the Tour Down Under in Australia. Basso will start racing at the Tour of Argentina on January 17.
Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.