Friday, September 11, 2009

Ivan Basso faces 'hellish' Vuelta stages

Italy's Ivan Basso (Liquigas) faces three consecutive mountain stages starting today. He is 53 seconds behind the Vuelta a España race leader, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

"Three hellish stages are waiting for us. The race becomes hard, like I like it," said Basso. "Long climbs, the right type terrain, days where the differences come via resistance."

Basso, 31, faces a 179.3-kilometre stage that finishes up the 13.3-kilometre Alto de Velefique climb today. The stage also starts with the Alto de Velefique and then the Calar Alto and Castro de Filabres climb, which leaves 16 kilometres to the base of the second ascent of Velefique.

Spaniard Valverde leads the Vuelta by seven seconds over Australia's Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). Netherlands' Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is in third place at 36 seconds, USA's Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) is fourth at 51 seconds and Basso is fifth.

"Every day holds surprises and you have to be smart to benefit from them," said Basso. "I have always insist on patience because a Grand Tour is only won on the last day, before then anything can happen."

Basso's patience will continue to be tested on the weekend's stages, both stages end with a climb. Saturday stage covers 172.4 kilometres and ends with the Sierra Nevada, 16.9 kilometres long and an average of 5.5 percent gradient. Sunday's stage covers 157 kilometres to La Pandera, 8.4 kilometres and an eight percent average.

It is Basso's first time to race the Vuelta a España. He finished fifth in this year's Giro d'Italia and won the 2006 edition. He placed second in the 2005 Tour de France.

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