(Road Bike Action & AFP; Photo: Bettini)
Italian rider Ivan Basso is quitting the Tour de France after revealing on Monday that he has testicular cancer. The two-time former Giro d’Italia winner was due to be a key support rider for one of the favorites, Alberto Contador, in the mountain stages beginning on Tuesday. But instead the 37-year-old — who has previously served a two-year doping ban — said he is heading back to Italy for treatment.
“Unfortunately I have a bad announcement to give to you guys,” Basso said at the Tinkoff-Saxo team’s hotel in Pau on Monday’s Tour rest day. “In stage number five I had a really small crash and on the crash I touched my testicle on the saddle. For a few days I felt a small pain. Yesterday (Sunday) our doctor spoke with the doctor of the Tour and we decided to go to make a special analysis to the hospital. The examination gave me bad news: I have a small cancer in the left testicle.”
“So it’s easy to understand that I have to stop and go back to Italy,” Basso continued. “Our doctor is already in contact with the specialist in Italy to fix the operation as soon as possible. I can’t say to you more details because we discovered this two hours ago, so that’s all. I have to leave but I want to give my support to our captain (Contador) to be in yellow in Paris and want to say thanks to my team for their support in this situation and the whole Tour organization and medical staff.”
An emotional Contador said the news had been hard to take both for him personally and the rest of the team.
“It has been a very tough day for the whole team; we never imagined something like that,” Contador said. “Now the first thing is to analyze what’s happened to Ivan, to support him and hope that everything’s resolved as soon as possible. We want to give Ivan the support of the whole team and you can be sure we will fight for the yellow jersey to bring him yellow in Paris. For me it has been very hard because over the last 180 days we spent 120 days together and we have been very close to each other. But I’m sure that we will be together again in Paris to celebrate the Tour victory.”
Other riders past and present offered their support to Basso, including former star Lance Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer before becoming an inspiration to millions of people by going on to win the seven Tour titles he was later stripped of once the extent of his drug-cheating was exposed.
“Thinking about @ivanbasso and wishing him the very best as he embarks on his cancer journey. #ivanSTRONG!!” he wrote on Twitter.
Basso was once one of Armstrong’s great rivals, finishing third behind the American in 2004 and second during Armstrong’s last Tour win in 2005. Basso won the Giro in 2006 but then served a two-year ban for “attempted doping” related to his links to drug-doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
After returning to the sport, Basso won the Giro again in 2010. He quickly received support from some of his current rivals. Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde said: “On behalf of the whole team we want to give him the best wishes in the world. It’s a shame that these things happen, but that’s life and he has our sympathy and support.”
Nairo Quintana, also from Movistar, added: “We’re a little sad for this news and from now we send him a lot of strength and all the support of the team for whatever he needs.”
Here’s an official press release from Ivan Basso’s Tinkoff-Saxo team:
“Ivan Basso was diagnosed with a tumor in his left testicle and has to undergo operation for its removal. According to Tinkoff-Saxo doctor, Piet De Moor, ‘on stage 5 of the Tour de France, Basso suffered from a minor crash in which his left testicle was slightly injured. As the pain persisted, a lump was discovered and following further examination on Monday morning at the hospital in Pau, the presence of a tumor was confirmed.’
“Further treatment will be decided, depending on the final diagnosis.
“As a result, Basso will not continue racing in the Tour de France and will return home as soon as possible.
“Steven de Jongh, Head Sport Director of Tinkoff-Saxo commented: ‘As everybody understands, today is not a day to speak about the Tour de France, the days ahead or Alberto’s main rivals on the mount stages. All that is irrelevant and we are all here solely to support Ivan. The entire team hopes to meet him again in Paris and hand him the yellow jersey.’
“Team Leader, Alberto Contador, stated on the news: ‘On behalf of the entire team I’d like to say that it has been a blow to all of us. We never imagined such a thing would happen. Ivan’s health is the absolute priority and he has to undergo all the necessary tests to find the best solution. I’d like to stress that the entire team will give its best in order to get the yellow jersey and enjoy it in Paris with him. During the 120 days that Ivan and I spent together, over the last 180 days, I was able to see what a great champion he is. I’m sure he will overcome this and we will see him in two weeks in Paris.'”