I don't read the newspaper. I don't know why, I just never have. I get my news from OPB and online. But as I waited for my lunch to heat up, I saw today's paper lying on the table and was surprised by a headline about the Tour de France that didn't involved Lance Armstrong.
Today's story is about Ivan Basso. He's just just extended his contract with his team (CSC) through 2009. According to the article, with the retirement of Lance, Ivan will be second in the professional peloton only to longtime Lance rival Jan Ullrich in terms of how well-paid he is. More interesting to me, however, is a CSC Team consultant who says they need to make Ivan "a warrior. He has all that it takes to win big races. The last thing he needs to work on is being tough. He's a very nice person, a fantastic human being. To go the last step you need to be tough as a sportsman and still keep the good human."
One of the things I really love about Basso is that he does appear to be a good person - if he needs to toughen up, I hope he really can do that without losing his decency.
And if it wasn't obvious that the article was written by a woman from the byline, check this out: "He has a gentle manner, soulful brown eyes and a sentimental streak. Basso's bike has a decal bearing a heart and the initials of his wife, Micaela, and 3-year-old daughter Domitilla." (Not that he's only charming to ladies, just that I found myself nodding in agreement as I read those lines...)
Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if he was the Italian housewives' favorite... (photo scanned from the newspaper article)
But really, what's most exciting to me is that if Americans can get hooked on a new cyclist - no matter where he's from - maybe long-term Tour Fever will really have caught on here, and not just a short-term Lance Head Cold.