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Last Updated: Monday, 12 July, 2004, 05:45 GMT 06:45 UK
Basso aims to emulate Pantani
By Matt Majendie

Ivan Basso
Basso believes he is a potential Tour winner
Ivan Basso believes he can become the first Italian since Marco Pantani to win the Tour de France.

Basso is riding for CSC at this year's race under the tutelage of team boss Bjarne Riis, who won the Tour two years before Pantani in 1996.

The 27-year-old Italian was among those to lead the tributes to "the pirate", as Pantani was known, after his death.

And he said winning the race would be the perfect tribute to his countryman, who died from cocaine poisoning.

"What happened was a massive loss to cycling," Basso told BBC Sport, "and the peloton will miss him this year.

"I believe I am good enough to win the Tour de France and what a perfect way to remember him."

Riis believes Basso is a "natural leader" and feels his major weakness - time trialling - has improved monumentally this season.

The Dane said: "For me that was the only weakness. We'd be hoping for at least a place in the top five this year maybe more.

"As for winning it, it may not happen this year but I definitely think he will win within two, maybe three years."

Last season Basso rode to seventh for Fassa Bartolo.

But following his switch to CSC - the leading team in the world rankings - he belives he has the confidence and the ability to match even the best.

"To have someone telling they want you to join the team because they think that you can win the Tour is amazing," he said.

"I feel better prepared than ever before and have an even better team behind me.

"My initial aim this year is to go for the top five. After that who knows. Winning it this year is not impossible. It's a very open race."

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