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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 July, 2005, 07:16 GMT 08:16 UK
Ivan Basso
Ivan Basso
DOB: 26/11/1977
Nationality: Italian
Best Tour: 2005 - runner-up
Ivan Basso was a revelation in the Tour de France 12 months ago, climaxing in a stage win and third place overall.

The Italian was the only man to keep pace consistently with Lance Armstrong in the mountains, most notably when winning stage 12 at La Mongie.

But his time trialling eventually let him down, causing him to slip from the runners-up spot to third.

In 2005 he also closely matched Armstrong, to finish second and be marked favourite to win in 2006

His achievement is all the more remarkable, though, in a year of tragedy in which his mother died of stomach and liver cancer.

As a cyclist, Basso has got better and better year by year.

Last year he was there or thereabouts in the classics, finishing eighth in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege - his best classics finish to date.

But his bid to double up on the Giro d'Italia and Tour in 2005 faltered when he suffered with stomach problems and fell well down the pecking order in Italy.

That, though, proved a blessing and left him clear to launch an even stronger Tour challenge this time around.

Prior to last year, he had been criticised too heavily for merely sticking to Armstrong, who has since tried to lure the rider to his Discovery Channel team.

And he is also criticised for his lack of explosiveness in the mountains - more steady than spectacular over the tougher ascents.

Basso is also close friends with Armstrong - one of his peers recently called the Italian "Armstrong's only real friend outside of the Discovery Channel team".



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