Ivan Basso (Liquigas) showed he is the big favourite for overall victory at the Giro d?Italia by winning the Giro del Trentino on Saturday.
Basso struggled at the start of the four-day stage race in the Dolomites after a two-week training altitude training camp in Tenerife, but was strong in the mountains and dropped previous race leader Jani Brajkovic (Astana) on the last climb of the race.
Italian rival Danilo Di Luca (LPR) won the final stage in Pejo Fonti but Basso was just a few seconds behind, while Brajkovic lost 30 seconds.
Basso beat the little Slovenian climber by 22 seconds, with Przemyslaw Niemiec (Miche) third at 33 seconds.
Britain?s Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) finished next to last overall in 119th place but importantly proved to himself and the Team Barloworld management that he has recovered from his crash and deserves a ride in the Giro d?Italia.
FIRST WINS SINCE OPERACION PUERTO
It was Basso's first victory since winning the Giro d?Italia in 2006 and since he was implicated in Operacion Puerto just after. Basso went on to race for the Discovery Channel team for several months but eventually confessed and was banned for two years.
?The difficult moments in life make you stronger. I wish it had never happened and it's left its mark but I also know I?ve started again from scratch with absolute humility,? Basso said after his win.
?There?s a lot of hard work behind my return by myself and my team but the biggest thanks of all has to go to my family.?
Immediately after the Giro del Trentino, Basso flew to Belgium on a private jet to ride Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He will then spend ten days at home training for the Giro d?Italia which starts in Venice on May 9.
?It?s going to be a tough and very unpredictable Giro,? Basso predicted.
?I?ve worked hard and I?ve worked well but I think all the favourites will be up there and it?ll be a battle between six or seven riders. I could do well but there?s also my team mate Franco Pellizotti.?
Ivan Basso and Danilo Di Luca head the escape
Danilo Di Luca wins the final stage
Andreas Kloden storms to opening Trentino TT win
Basso edges close to race lead in Giro del Trentino
'It's a key indicator the sport is still progressing': Deignan happy with 'dynamic' Tour de France Femmes route
The Paris-Roubaix Femmes winner said the race will likely be won by a 'complete rider'
By Tim Bonville-Ginn •
Build the athlete first: How a broad skill base can improve your riding
Far from being one-trick pedalling machines, the world’s best cyclists are consummate all-round athletes. You too should build a broad base of skills
By Chris Sidwells •