Ivan Basso was born at Gallarate in Italy on the 26th November 1977. There, in the North of Italy, Basso grew up in the traditional cycling region of Varese. Son of Italian tifosi and next door neighbor to legends such as Claudio Chiappucci, it may have been inevitable that the passion for cycling would be transferred to Ivan Basso at an early age. Basso’s first racing bike was his by the time he was five, and within a year he would start riding competitively.
It was only a few years later that he made the decision to conquor the Stelvio. The legendary mountain pass on which so many Giro d’Italia have been decided was to be scaled; and if only his parents would drive him there, drop him off at the bottom and wait for him at the summit, he and his bicycle would take care of the rest. His parents acquised; Basso was dropped off for the 25.4 kilometer and 7.25% gradient journey up the 2757 meter high summit. His parents waited for him at the summit for most of a day.
They did not wait in vain.
Humble and soft-spoken, the young Basso still possessed the stubborness, cast-iron will, and patience of a Champion racer. A successful junior racer, Basso’s first big victory came when he won the Coppa d’Oro (the Goblet of Gold) in 1993, the most important race of the Student Category in Italy (a race also won by such legends as Saronni and Bugno). And if anyone did have any doubts about Basso’s potential, it was removed two years later at the Junior World Championships in San Marino, where only a puncture on the last 10km cost him the victory. Compatriot Valentino China went on to take the World Championship victory instead, but Basso confirmed to take second in front of yet another Italian, Rinaldo Nocentini.
As Basso matured, he developed a calm and methodical approach to Cycling. From his time as a student, Ivan kept records of his rides; distances, times, weather and road conditions, cardiac frequency, feelings, and countless other notes on every race and situation in which he found himself on the bike. 1998 was to be the year in which the carefully methodical preparation paid off. His 11 victories in the course of the year was an impressive harvest, but was to culminate with the twelfth and ultimate victory: the U-23 World Championship in Valkenburg. Calm and prepared, neither the competition nor the cold and windy weather could disconcert Ivan Basso as he rode alone across the finishing line to win the rainbow jersey. The Italian squad completed a dominating and impressive performance with Rinaldo Nocentini and Danilo di Luca taking second and third behind Basso.
World Champion for Zalf
The doors to Professional world were wide open, but Bassso delayed signing a contract for half a year. Out of respect and gratitude for his amateur team, Zalf, to gain more experience, and to complete the final and fourth year of his studies in Technical Geometry. Meticulous and careful, as always. He would go on to win four prestigious victories in 1999 wearing the rainbow jersey for his old team, before turning professional with Riso Scotti-Vinavil in May 1999.
His debuted professionally in the Giro d’Italia; a transition, in Basso’s own words, “like passing from the Earth to Mars”. Though retired from the race by his DS after stage seven, the experience provided important lessons for the future. A good first year was capped off with a selection for the senior Italian World Championship squad. A solid ride as a helper for Casagrande gained Basso no medals, but a lot of respect.
Amica Chips 2000
Riding for Amica Chips-Tacconi Sport in 2000, Ivan Basso rode the Giro again. Although he gained no victories, he gave the peloton a taste of his talents when he made it over the mythical Passo di Gavia with the favorites on the tough 14th stage. A 52nd place finish overall was nothing to write home about, but Basso was learning with each tread on the bike. The experience he was gaining was put to good use when he scored his first professional victories at the Regio Tour International; winning the first stage from a breakaway group of nine, the short individual time trial on day 3, and gaining second overall behind then teammate Filippo Simeoni. His first victories were followed up by an impressive ride at the Giro dell’Emilia, where he finished in 5th.