Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Basso ain't resting!

Don't think that disgraced Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso is idly wasting his time while he serves out his two-year ban for links to the Operación Puerto doping scandal.

Basso says he's riding and staying fit.

The 29-year-old Italian is plotting his return when his ban ends October 24 next year and is already in contact with several teams for what will be a full racing schedule for the 2009 season.

According to a story in La Gazzetta dello Sport, Basso has been staying busy since admitting to Italian anti-doping investigators in May that he was a client of Spanish doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the alleged ringleader of the Puerto ring.

Basso has maintained his training schedule throughout the early months of his ban and put in 30,000 kilometers this year before a planned vacation in the coming weeks to the Caribbean. That's only 5000 less kilometers than he put in when he raced the Giro-Tour double in 2005.

Basso also said he's keeping close to his ideal racing weight of 70kg, training on his Discovery Channel team-issued Trek bike but opting for discreet training jerseys without a team logo.

Basso even said anti-doping officials have called on him to take controls since he began serving his ban.

Basso was linked to Fuentes in May 2006 when the lid was blown on the Puerto ring, but he lied about knowing Fuentes and signed a million-dollar deal to join Discovery Channel for the 2007 season.

He was poised to defend his Giro title until building pressure from Italian investigators forced his hand just days before the start of the race. Officials from Italy's Olympic Committee gained access to blood bags allegedly linked to Basso and were prepared to force DNA tests when Basso prudently decided it was better to come forward.

Basso offered less than a full confession, admitting only his intention to dope, a claim that disappointed many who were hoping that the Italian star would come clean on the full extent of his Fuentes relationship.

CONI did Basso a favor and broke protocol to count days that Basso was sidelined after he was forced out of the 2006 Tour against his time he would serve for his ban, allowing him to return to competition next fall rather than during the summer of 2009.

Basso remains popular with Italian fans and most of the influential national cycling media continue to treat him as a hero for stepping forward despite admitting he worked with Fuentes.

He's hoping to race in the Japan Cup next October just days after his ban ends and hinted that he could compete in other international events in South America to gain fitness ahead of a full comeback in 2009.

Several teams are reportedy staying in close touch with Basso, who will have to wait to see what kind of reception he receives when his ban finally does end.

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