Ivan Basso was interviewed by SkyLife.it where he was asked about the current problem in Italian Soccer, Marco Pantani, the USA and his objectives for 2007. The interview is quite frank both the the interviewer’s side and Basso’ side. This is really a refreshing let’s not beat around the bush type of interview. Unfortunately Basso does not want to talk much about Operation Puerto and does not care to see the Pantani movie.
“My first thoughts are with the policeman that died. I would like that no one forgets him and what happened. Then I would like to add that last year on the Giro course there were 6 million spectators and not one punch was thrown. There aren’t as many police present and usually nothing bad happens.
Then soccer connotates violence?
At the moment yes. Why is there violence in soccer and not in cycling? It is difficult for me to give an answer that will satisfy everyone. But my take would be like this: Soccer is closely followed. All it takes is one error by a referee, any mistake could reignite tension with fans. In my world fortunately this does not happen.
Cycling is currently under the microscope. I speak of illegal performance enhancing drugs. What do you think about this?
I don’t know if cycling is under the microscope. But I know I don’t want to go into the merits of doping and Operation Puerto. I pay a good lawyer. Forgive me, but could be talk about cycling as a sport?
Have you watched the Pantani movie? What do you think about it?
I was lucky enough to race side by side with Pantani. More than the film is his tragic story. Those including me who raced with il Pirata remember him in our hearts. I don’t really need to see more stories about Marco. If later on I feel the need to be reinforced with a story of fiction then I would watch it. I am sure that the movie is great work done well, but my emotions are now elsewhere.
Do you think of the parallels with Pantani? Pantani went from the stars to the abyss. Last year you were at the center of controversy after winning a phenomenal Giro.
I don’t think of the parallels. Each story is different with different people in different roles in different situations.
What is your program to get your legs into racing form in the following weeks?
First up is the Tour of California starting February 15th. This is the first race with the new team who are also great friends. The environment is similar to the team from last year. We are talking about the two best teams in the world. CSC and Discovery are two teams that are very similar in management style and methods of preparation. There were very little differences as I moved from one squad to the next. Now I find myself going well with English at least with the cycling part. Next on my program will be Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan San Remo.
This year you will celebrate your 30th birthday. What objectives do you have for this milestone?
These are the best years. My objective is to make it the best possible year. My objectives are very very ambitious.
The Giro and Tour are you goals. Then we expect great things from you.
I have respect for everyone. Old adversaries and new of the Giro and Tour. There are many young riders who are getting stronger. I am very serene inside. The Tour is the most beautiful race in the World. I won the Giro and at the Tour I would like to perform at the top level. (As for what happened last year) I am not angry, and I will not dwell in bitterness. Anger leads to making stupid mistakes. Hastiness and the need for revenge don’t take you very far. I want to go far. I am preparing well and will not say anything more, I can’t revisit the emotions. I need to try and let the fans see the facts.
You know that you are a symbol of America (to Italians) like Tiger Woods? I am referring to your contract with Nike for cycling. You are now associated with champions such as Ronaldinho but for cycling. You are entering a new era.
No, what are you saying? A cyclist can never hope to achieve a level of planetary popularity like that. Not even if they win eight Tours, one more than a certain Lance Armstrong. I consider myself in a category inferior to the other sportsman in terms of popularity and volume of business. What do you want, these are the things I am used to. I will keep my feet on the ground.
Lance Armstrong is a team manager and the gray eminence of Discovery Channel. What is needed for cycling to “discover” America?
Beh, in terms of the people’s passion for cycling it is not yet at our level, but it is getting close. The popularity is always relative. The fans have become very mature. We are trying. The USA already has champions that won everything from one day races to stage races. In effect cycling doesn’t really need anything more to become a great success in America.
Interesting interview from a non-cycling journalist. No touching on Operation Puerto except to say that he has a good lawyer. Basso unlike Armstrong does not use anger or revenge as a motivator when training for the Tour. He sees anger as leading to mistakes. He is calm, but is he pushing the emotions down? He had enough time to reflect on the Operation Puerto scandal and get over it. A new atmosphere at Discovery certainly helps to change things.
One other note is that Basso says that the Tour of the most beautiful race in the world and that he has already won the Giro. Maybe the Giro will not be raced to win this year? But then again Basso is at the age when he could go for the double, so why not.