No doubt he is hoping next month to see that headline alter just a tad.
The Giro del Trentino came down to the final climb of the day today, the road to the mountain town of Pejo Fonti. With the help of Danilo Diluca of LPR Brakes, Liquigas forced the tempo up the final climb. Race leader Janez Brajkovic of Astana looked lonely with no team support to be found, and soon fell off the pace. Ivan Basso needed only four seconds to take over the lead, and it was clear long before the finish line that he would claim them.
With just a few kilometers left to ride, Domenico Pozzovivo of CSF-Navigare attacked from the leading group in an effort to steal the show. Not so fast, said Ivan Basso, and the Liquigas captain went to the front. Basso ended Pozzovivo’s bid for freedom, towing Diluca and Giampaolo Caruso of Ceramica Flaminia, among others, along for the ride. Diluca outjumped Caruso and Stefano Garzelli of Acqua e Sapone to take the stage win. Basso glided in 4 seconds behind in fifth, his overall win secure. Though he missed the stage win, Giampaolo Caruso took home the mountains classification, thanks to his solid riding in the steep bits.
In his post-race comments, Diluca said that he started the race “on the wrong foot,” when he rode a less-than-stellar opening time trial. On the Alpe di Pampeago on the following day, he suffered a coughing fit close to the finish. Maybe he has allergies, or maybe it was the suddenly wintery weather of the higher altitude. Anyway, though Diluca tried during stage 3 to win the stage, he had “no luck,” and Robbie Hunter outsprinted him for the win. Today, it all went right for the rider from Abruzzo. “I finally found again the beautiful sensations of success,” said Diluca, celebrating his first win of the season. “Certainly, the victory makes me happy, but I am also tranquilo in view of the Giro.” Diluca will return home to Abruzzo to put the last touches on his Giro form.
For Basso, meanwhile, the win at Trentino marked his first victory after serving a two year doping suspension in connection with Operation Puerto. He dedicated the victory to his family who “in these very difficult two years have suffered along with me, and then, have believed in my return to racing.” Basso also thanked the President of Liquigas, his team, and his tifosi for their support (Signor Liquigas lent Basso his private plane for the trip to Liège). “I am very happy to return to victory… The open parenthesis is now closed, but its mark remains on my career and on my personal life,” he said of his suspension from racing.
Gazzetta proved quick to celebrate Basso’s victory and declared that he had not only returned to his best form, but also “recovered his credibility.” It remains to be seen, though, whether the tifosi on the roads of the Giro Centenario feel the same. In the two years of Basso’s suspension, frequent signs of hostility appeared and more than one sign read “Basso abbasso,” or down with Basso. For some fans, it may prove impossible to close the parenthesis, and all the internet posts about training numbers and blood values, will not convince them that Basso has reinvented himself into a clean rider and left behind the habits of the past.
For me, the Smiling Assassin remains a guilty pleasure. A charming rider with a beautiful style on the bike, especially in the high mountains. But do I believe his assertions of transparency? As the eight ball says, Ask Again Later.
Next time, something funny!