CINGOLI, Italy (VN) – Training. That’s what Ivan Basso is doing at Tirreno-Adriatico this week. He also happens to be two seconds out of the lead in the general classification after Sunday’s fifth stage. In an interview Sunday night, the reigning Giro d’Italia champion said that he was uncertain that he would stand atop the podium after Monday’s challenging run-in to Macerata.
The middle of his room on the first floor at the Relais Borgo Lanciano villa outside Castelraimondo. That’s where Basso lay, receiving a massage Sunday night after 244 wet kilometers in stage 5, where he finished 11th to move into second on GC. Only one more night remains in the tour and Basso sits just behind new maglia azzura Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
“It’s difficult to see,” said Basso of Monday’s penultimate stage to Macerata. “It’s not a king stage where you say, ‘Tomorrow we make attack.’ Tomorrow is three laps, but it’s a climb of 2km… I can do nothing because I’m not good enough to drop riders like (Damiano) Cunego or (Michele) Scarponi in the climb of 1-2km. I have to stay here and try to do my best.”
After 125km, the finale includes 2.5 laps of a tough circuit, including the winding, cobbled climbs of the Madonna del Monte (1.5km at 9.4 percent, max 16 percent) and Borgo San Giuliano (500 meters at 11.3 percent, max 18 percent). With the top nine riders on GC separated by just 27 seconds, Macerata is the final chance for rivals like Cunego (Lampre-ISD) and Thomas Lovkvist (Sky) to make up time before the short, final-day time trial.
Basso admitted that without a long climb in seven days of racing between the Terrenic and Adriatic coasts, he was at a disadvantage.
“Tirreno is one of the first nice races in my country, so I have to think about that,” he said. “Of course, we don’t have a real good stage for me. It’s a lot of hard stages, but not to make a big difference.”
There is not a big difference in the times of the top riders. Cunego and teammate Scarponi are both within five seconds of the lead. So too is Rabobank’s Robert Gesink, who wore the leader’s jersey for two days before losing and handful of seconds Sunday. Basso’s teammate Vincenzo Nibali leads another group of riders 12 seconds off the pace.
As he trains for major objectives like the Tours de Romandy and France, Basso said he is experimenting at Tirreno-Adriatico. “It’s a test for me as well to see,” he said. “I may be after five stages the top rider, but of course there are not good roads for me, a lot of technical roads. But I think it is good training for (Volta) Catalunya, (Vuelta al) Paîs Vasco, Tour de Romandy.”
The short, steep ramps of Macerata may be too much of both, but Basso said he would again try to put his mark on the tour. When asked what he needs to do Monday with the time trial looming the following afternoon, he tilted his head and shrugged.
“I don’t know,” said Basso. “It’s the first time trial of the year after Argentina (Tour de San Luis), but that is a race for training. I don’t know at the moment. It’s like a prologue, not a really time trial. It’s 9km, so it will be more a prologue and we arrive after a three-hour stage.”