Friday, December 08, 2006

Basso rides with Lance...

Not sure I believe Basso has ever been clean but he is now with Disovery Channel and is going to make a HUGE impact in next year's Tour de France. Hopefully this will not backfire for the American team because of Basso's speculated involvement with Operation Puerto. Only time will tell.

Eurosport -Ivan Basso began training with his new Discovery Channel team-mates in Austin, Texas on Monday, also being joined by old rival and new boss Lance Armstrong.

Basso had not ridden together with the seven-time Tour de France champion since Armstrong's final Tour victory in 2005, during which the Italian finished second. Basso signed with Armstrong's former team (the American is still a part-owner of Discovery) last month. The 2006 Tour of Italy victor said that Armstrong was still riding "strong on the bike" and offered Basso some words of encouragement.

"He said to me, 'it is better late than never. This is your team. Here you can win the Tour,'" Basso told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"For me it is the start of new adventure, one that I hope will finally get me the maillot jaune. I am emotional, like a few years ago when I switched from Fassa Bortolo to CSC.

"But, with respect to that transfer, this time it is a smaller step up. I have grown; I know myself and what I am able to obtain."

Basso and team CSC agreed to part on mutual terms after the rider was suspended from this year's Tour de France for alleged involvement in the Operation Puerto doping ring. He joined Discovery after being cleared by the Italian Cycling Federation in a disciplinary hearing revolving around the Puerto allegations.

Basso said he received a warm reception from his new team-mates, including fellow new addition Levi Leipheimer.

"Everyone is very excited to have me with them. Bruyneel had told me it would be this way, but here I was able to verify this in person; the respect from my team-mates, from [George] Hincapie to [Pavel] Padrnos," Basso said.

"I know that it will not be difficult to feel like a leader of this group."

After dominating the Tour for seven straight seasons under Armstrong's captaincy, Discovery only had one top-20 finisher at this year's race, Portugal's Jose Azevedo.

"We are ready to be back into the game," said team sporting director Johan Bruyneel. "The arrival of Basso has created a rise in the team's motivation. It had felt the lack of a leader for the Tour."