Italian Ivan Basso will battle for the Tour de France's podium over the next four days in the Pyrenees. The battle is an easy one, considering the one he has already won: acceptance from his colleagues and the race's organisers.
Basso left out of the backdoor of his team's hotel on the eve of the Tour de France four years ago in Strasbourg. The Operación Puerto investigation in Spain finally caught up with him and linked him to blood doping doctor, Eufemiano Fuentes.
"I am happy with the acceptance of the organisers, Christian Prudhomme and Jean-François Pescheux," Basso told Cycling Weekly. "I am in love with this race, it gave me a lot and they were good to me since day one this year in Rotterdam."
Since leaving his hotel in Strasbourg, Basso received a two-year ban for the bags of blood he had stored in Fuentes' offices. After first denying, he served out his suspension and then came back a changed man with team Liquigas. Now, he works with respected cycling trainer Aldo Sassi and the two post his blood values online for transparency purposes.
Basso finished in the top five of the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España last year, and now, after winning this year's Giro d'Italia, has returned to the Tour de France.
The Tour de France did give him a lot: the white jersey of best young rider in 2002, a stage win in 2004 and twice on the podium behind Lance Armstrong (third in 2004 and second 2005).
"Ivan paid his price and he also paid for the other riders. He's returned as an open book," said Liquigas sports director, Stefano Zanini. "We have found support from both the fans and organisers."
Zanini revealed that Basso was stressed in the first days of the Tour de France. He said it was the same as win Basso made his return to the Giro d'Italia last year.
"Everyday there it was an exam, how would he do on the first day, the first mountain stage, the first time trial... It is like that at the Tour too; he just didn't know how the people would accept him."
Basso's battle is no longer for acceptance, though. He wants to place on the podium in one week's time in Paris.
"The battle for this Tour is between two riders: Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck," continued Basso. "I am not sure about [finishing on] the podium, but I have to continue to believe it is all possible. There still four difficult stages to come, where anything can happen."
Ahead of the four stages in the Pyrenees, Basso sits 11th overall, 5'30" behind current leader Schleck.
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
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Hesjedal pushing his way to the Tour's top
Renshaw disqualification overshadows Cavendish's win
Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour
Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?
Cavendish in a 'must win' situation for Tour's green jersey
Millar rides through pain barrier to make time cut
Roche alongside Tour's top men ahead of Pyrenees
Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?
Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage 13: Vino returns to top of Tour after doping ban
Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks
Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour
Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race
Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day
Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head
Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour's white
Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up
Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour
Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage 13 photo gallery
Stage 12 photo gallery
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Tour 2010 wallpaper
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage 13 video highlights
Stage 12 video highlights
Stage 11 video highlights
Stage 10 video highlights
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Stage five video highlights
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Pictures
Tour team presentation, Rotterdam
Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special
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