In case there was any doubt, Italy’s Ivan Basso showed the peloton that he’s in charge of the 2006 Giro d’Italia bike race.
The leader of Team CSC not only won another mountain stage, his third, on Saturday, but added at least a minute to all his challengers.
Basso wants to become the 13th bicyclist to win the Giro and the Tour de France in the same year – the first since tragic fellow countryman Marco Pantani in 1998. His competitors for the Tour de France, must be wondering how they’re going to stop him from doing that.
Many consider Jan Ullrich of T-Mobile to be Basso’s main challenger. Riding the Giro to help recover from a spring cycling injury, Ullrich dropped out on Friday’s last climb and would have watched Basso’s achievements today on TV. Other contenders, such as Americans Floyd Landis (Phonak) and Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) chose other races this month.
In Saturday’s penultimate Giro stage, Basso and Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) attacked the lead group on the second climb of the day, the Mortirolo, and gained a minute on other General Classification contenders Damiano Cunego and Jose Gutierrez at the top.
It was just Simoni and Basso leading on the way into Aprica, and Basso attacked with about two miles left. He beat Simoni by one-minute 17-seconds.
Basso and Simoni bicker
Simoni claims he helped Basso during Saturday's stage and hoped Basso would let him win the stage for the favor, Reuters reports.
Simoni: “I thought I'd done enough work to deserve to win but Basso is an extra-terrestrial in this Giro and has totally dominated every stage.”
Basso: “I don't think I stole anything from anybody in this Giro and I don't like being called an extra-terrestrial or a phenomenon. … I want to remind people that I've finished on the Tour de France podium twice, stayed with Lance Armstrong in the mountains and even made him suffer. … I don't like it when people question my ability or describe me as a cannibal.”
Overall, Basso increased his margin over No.2 Gutierrez to 9-minutes 18-seconds, and Discovery’s Paolo Savoldelli fell to fifth place behind Cunego.
More news and results at CyclingNews and VeloNews. The Outdoor Life Network, OLN, will broadcast highlights of the Giro d'Italia from 5 to 7 p.m. (ET) Sunday and from 3 to 5 p.m. (ET) on Monday. Check local listings.