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Oct 5, 2015 – Former two-time Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso, who quit the Tour de France this year after revealing he had testicular cancer, announced his retirement from cycling on Monday.
Speaking at the presentation of the 2016 edition of the Giro at the Milan World Expo, the ‘smiling assassin’ — as Basso became known during his storied career — said the aches and pains he felt meant it was finally time to hang up his bike. “For me, it’s not a sad day because I know I will stay in the world of cycling,” said Basso, 37, who in his final season rode for the Tinkoff-Saxo team.
“I’m tired, plus I’ve suffered from health issues that, combined, have made carrying on as a rider very difficult. I didn’t want to finish my career totally worn out. There was a point earlier this season when I realised I couldn’t even cycle properly. “I want to spend time with my family and start a new adventure.”
Basso had a cancer scare during the Tour in July, quitting the race after an emotional press conference. But he underwent a successful operation a couple of days later. Basso came to prominence while riding with the Italian Fassa Bortolo team in 2001-2003, prompting his move to the CSC team run by disgraced former Tour de France champion Bjarne Riis.
During his time at the Danish outfit, Basso’s reputation as a possible Tour de France winner was enhanced. He notably jousted with disgraced seven-time champion Lance Armstrong on the 2004 edition, where the Italian won his first and only stage from the race. Basso went on to win two editions of the Giro d’Italia in 2006 and 2010, although like many riders of his generation the doping spotlight fell on the Italian. In June 2006, Tour de France officials announced Basso and a number of other riders would not be welcome at the race due to rumours of blood doping stemming from the Operacion Puerto scandal.
Basso was eventually acquitted due to insufficient evidence, but was later suspended after he admitted to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) that he had contacted tainted drug doctor Eufemiano Fuentes with the intention of doping. He served a two-year ban from 2007-2009, returning to the sport to ride for the Italian team Liquigas, where he would chaperone an up and coming Vincenzo Nibali.
Nibali, the 2003 Giro champion who ended a 16-year wait by Italy when he won the Tour de France in 2014, said Basso had been a huge inspiration during their time racing together. “Ivan was fundamental for me when we raced at Liquigas, he helped me to grow,” Nibali said on the fringes of the Giro presentation on Monday. “I learnt practically everything from him, from how to eat well to how hard to train.”