Cycling: Basso wins 2nd Giro to complete return from ban
VERONA, Italy — Ivan Basso won the Giro d'Italia for the second time today, capturing his first major title since returning from a two-year doping ban.
The Italian took the race lead after Friday's epic mountain stage, stayed in front during another climbing leg Saturday and cruised to victory in the concluding individual time trial, which ended beside Verona's ancient Arena.
Basso won his first Giro in 2006, then was suspended in 2007 for his involvement in the Spanish doping scandal Operation Puerto.
Inside the Arena, Basso celebrated on the podium with his two small children.
"We all suffered together and now we can celebrate together," Basso said, adding that his wife Micaela is expecting a third child.
David Arroyo Duran of Spain finished second overall — 1 minute, 51 seconds behind — and Basso's Liquigas teammate Vincenzo Nibali was third, 2:37 back.
Basso also won the 15th stage, which finished with the steepest climb of the race, to Monte Zoncolan.
"It was a really tough Giro and I think the victory is that much greater (than the first) because it was such a spectacular race," Basso said. "I have to thank my team. They were really fantastic for me."
Basso will now focus on becoming the first rider to win the Giro and Tour de France in the same year since Marco Pantani in 1998.
"I'm definitely not going to the Tour just to participate — I want to compete with the best riders," Basso said. "(Alberto) Contador is in great form, but I think I've improved a lot and the Tour is a big goal of mine. I really believe I can do well."
Basso finished second in the Tour in 2005 and was third the year before.
Gustav Erik Larsson of Sweden won the final 9.3-mile stage in 20:19. Marco Pinotti finished second, 2 seconds behind, and Alexandre Vinokourov was third, 17 seconds back.
Basso's Liquigas teammates gave him a big hand during Friday's descent from the renowned Mortirolo pass and the ensuing climb to Aprica, gaining enough time to take the overall leader's pink jersey from Arroyo Duran, the Spaniard who led for five stages.
Nibali, a late replacement for the suspended Franco Pellizotti — who failed the UCI's biological passport program — was Basso's biggest helper. Nibali entered the final stage with a 1-second lead over Michele Scarponi in the overall standings and gained another 12 seconds in the time trial to secure third place.
Scarponi finished fourth overall, 2:50 back, and world champion Cadel Evans was fifth, 3:27 behind.