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The Smiling Assasin: Ivan Basso Part 2
By Guest Contributor
Date: 4/29/2006
The Smiling Assasin: Ivan Basso Part 2

The Smiling Assasin: Ivan Basso Part 2
Part 2 of the profile and history of the “il Terribilo” CSC's Ivan Basso the mild-mannered rider from Gallarate, Italy.

By Michael Akinde

Giro Stage 17 on the way to a stage victory. © Tim de Waele

Persistent rumours that year had it that US Postal was trying to sign him, but in September of 2003, Ivan Basso signed with the Team CSC of Bjarne Riis. Bjarne Riis was looking for a new team leader, after loosing Tyler Hamilton to Phonak, and Basso was looking for a new start to his career. It was a decision that neither has so far had cause to regret.

Team CSC’s military-style training camps are justly famous, and Basso’s first encounter with them has often been mentioned as a turning point in his career. In one exercise, the riders were forced to jump off a six meter high cliff into the ocean during the middle of the night, followed by an additional four meter dive into the sea to recover an object. Something of a challenge for Ivan Basso, who had never learnt how to swim, a test of his fortitude and courage. Others could be let off a task, if they couldn’t handle it, but Basso was to be team leader – he had to complete every task. And he did complete the challenges and in doing so took the first steps toward becoming the team leader that Bjarne Riis was looking for.

At Team CSC, Ivan Basso found himself again, as he has occasionally stated in interviews. This was evident already early in 2004, where the aggressive, attacking style which his old fans are familiar with was in evidence at the Tour du Romandie, and even more so during the Giro dell Emilia and Giro di Lombardia at the end of that year. This year also saw the development of Ivan Basso the time trialist as, for the first time in his career; he was dedicated training solely to improving this facet of his riding.

A stage victory and a third place in the Tour de France of that year was a spectacular result – a much stronger result than expected. Despite this, Basso’s riding was criticized for being defensive and uninspiring (with ammunition being drawn from the past two years of poor results); and not doing enough to challenge Armstrong. The answer to these challenges came in 2005, when Basso put Lance Armstrong – and everyone else – on the wire during the last mountain stages of the Tour de France. Everyone else snapped, but Lance Armstrong stayed strong to take his magical seventh Tour de France victory.

Ivan Basso leading from the front, here flanked by his lieutenants for this years Tour, Bobby Julich and Frank Schleck (with Carlos Sastre behind), at the Criterium International, 2006. © Tim de Waele

If one can say that Basso re-found himself in 2004, he practically reinvented himself in 2005. In the wake of the Shooting Star of 2004, Damiano Cunego, many dismissed the return of Ivan Basso; but 2005 forced everyone to sit up and take notice. His decision to ride both the Giro and the Tour that year, was in itself worthy of note, but his dominant riding during the Giro shut the mouths of even the most ardent critics. Basso’s collapse with a stomach disorder while riding in the pink jersey cost him the chance of victory, but his decision to fight on, and subsequent back to back stage victories won him the enduring love of tifosi everywhere.

Ivan in his first Grand Tour leaders jersey. © Tim de Waele

His convincing riding in the Tour de France 2005, while nowhere near enough to unseat a dominant Lance Armstrong, was still enough to earn him the respect that was denied him in 2004. Quiet, unassuming, and charming – Basso’s conquests in 2005 could only have been greater if he had actually won one of the two Grand Tour’s that he’d gunned for.

2006 will perhaps be the watershed year for the Italian from Varese; and many fans of Cycling will be hoping this will be his year. In a time when most Grand Tour riders have jumped on the Lance Armstrong bandwagon, and work on the principle of single-minded dedication toward a few, carefully selected races, Basso stands apart with his belief and the ability to ride multiple Tours in the same year at a high level from the start of the season. Meticulous and methodical on a scale that stands comparison to Armstrong, Basso also stands apart in his recently avowed intent to be competitive in every race he enters that suits his talents.

The smile of the shark has been in evidence early this year; here at the Criterium International where Basso takes his first win of the season after riding Dekker off his wheel. © Tim de Waele 2006

His seventeen victories last year (eight of them in UCI-registered races) was an impressive tally for a non-Sprinter, and a demonstration of the attitude of the “new” Ivan Basso. His victories in the Criterium International (1 stage, Overall, and Points jersey) have already demonstrated that his results last year were no fluke.

Last year, Ivan Basso secured himself an enduring place in the annals of Italian cycling history with his comeback to win two stage victories in the Giro d’Italia; but he still lacks the huge win that is within the reach of his talents. After playing at domestique at the Fleche Wallone and stretching his legs at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Basso’s races (the Giro d’Italia, and Tour de France) are just around the corner, and the message from Team CSC is that Ivan Basso has never been stronger.

The throne has been vacated and Ivan Basso looks very much as if he intends to ascend it.

Basso, as his fans will be hoping to see him on July 23 – clad in yellow. © Tim de Waele

Photos Courtesy of Team CSC and © Tim De Waele
The Smiling Assasin: Ivan Basso Part 1

Rider Stats
Name: Ivan Basso
Country: Italy
Born: 26.11.1977 (28 years old)
Height: 182cm
Weight: 70kg
Pro since: 1998

Web: (Italian) (English)

Current Team: Team CSC (since 2004)
Previous Teams: Asics (Stagiare 1998), Riso Scotti (1999), Amica Chips (2000), Fassa Bortolo (2001-2003)

Career Highlights

Criterium International (Overall and Points Jersey)
Criterium International, Stage 2
Circuit de la Sarthe, Stage 2b (ITT)
Giro d’Italia, Stage 17
Giro d’Italia, Stage 18 (ITT)
2nd Place, Tour de France
Tour of Denmark (Overall and Points Jersey)
Tour of Denmark, Stage 1
Tour of Denmark, Stage 2
Tour of Denmark, Stage 3
Tour of Denmark, Stage 5 (ITT)
Tour de France, Stage 12
3rd Place, Tour de France
Giro dell’Emilia
2nd Place, Tour Méditerranéen
3rd Place, Giro di Lombardia
7th Place, Tour de France
2nd Place, Clasica San Sebastian
Best Young Rider, Tour de France
11th Place, Tour de France
2nd Place, Giro dell’Emilia
3rd Place, Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Tour Méditerranéen, Stage 1
Bicicleta Vasca, Stage 5
Österreich Rundfahrt, Stage 5
2nd Place, La Fléche Wallonne
Regio Tour, Stage 1
Regio Tour, Stage 3B (ITT)
U-23 World Champion

Thanks and acknowledgement to Michael Akinde and his website.

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