Ivan Basso will help lead team Liquigas-Cannondale in the Ardennes Classics next week in Belgium despite suffering a setback.

He abandoned the Tour of the Basque Country last week due to a “health problem”.

“It was probably just that the he was sick and worn out,” team manager Roberto Amadio told Cycling Weekly today. “He’ll make his return in Flèche Wallonne and in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, then we will re-evaluate.”

The Italian, winner of last year’s Giro d’Italia, finished 22nd in the second leg of the Basque Country race. The next day, Wednesday, he abandoned. He told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, “If I kept racing, I would have just made it worse.”

Amadio explained that Basso took several days rest upon returning to his home near Varese in northern Italy.

“We are waiting for one last blood test to make sure everything is fine, all the others turned out okay,” added Amadio.

“Maybe it was because at the Tirreno-Adriatico [March 9 to 15] he was not well. He kept working instead of taking a rest then and it went downhill from there. However, now, we have nothing to worry about, it’s under control.”

Basso finished fourth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico and continued to the Tour of Catalonia, placing seventh. However, he was unhappy with his performance in Catalonia and said he wanted better in the Basque Country.

He will captain Liquigas for Flèche Wallonne next Wednesday and join Vincenzo Nibali as captain for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. Nibali is training at altitude on Mount Etna and will race the Giro del Trentino beforehand.

Basso plans to let Nibali lead the team at the Giro d’Italia and focus instead on winning the Tour de France. Amadio said that Basso’s setback would not affect his chances in the race, which starts July 2 in western France’s Vendée department.

“The Tour’s in July, we are still four months away, you could be sick five different times before then.”

The two will sit down to plan Basso’s programme after Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He’s left open the door to race the Giro d’Italia, but it’s likely he’ll skip it and use the Dauphine Libéré, June 5 to 12, as his last major stage race prior to the Tour.

  • KeNNY G

    Translation sick = doping programme went awry and got him a bit ill afterwards. Once a cheat always a cheat.