There will be a few days' worth of material as we put this fine Giro d'Italia to rest, but it would be disrespectful of what happened to start with anything other than a tribute to the man who absolutely owned the race.
Ivan Basso, whose credentials in France far surpassed that of his competition at the Giro (a term which excludes racers-in-training), confirmed his prowess by joining the circle of Giro winners who vainly pursued him around the Boot the last three weeks. And he did so in a fashion that left no doubt: three road wins on climbing stages, another win in a team time trial and second in the ITT, and more significantly, NO stages (after the Belgium preamble) where any of his perceived rivals ever put so much as a second into him. This was billed as a bear of a parcours, with a relentless lineup of climbs... and in every one of these stages where time gaps were available, Basso placed first among the overall contenders.
He accomplished this knowing that everyone was watching him first and foremost. He did this having to use his team on the front of virtually every stage. He did this while anxiously awaiting the birth of his second child, which occurred on the eve of stage 19. And he did all this without breaking a sweat.
After winning the Giro in order to keep a promise to do so to his departed mom, Basso now commands more respect than pretty much any rider alive, perhaps even Boonen, and you can remove all qualifiers if he duplicates his performance in France. He also has inspired legions of new fans in Italy, and maybe even here at the Cafe... but even if he hasn't, even if you still find him robotically efficient, you have to admit two things: 1) he's the man right now; and 2) his Giro victory has given the Tour it's greatest intrigue: a rider's struggle to win the Double. I'll sit on the fence a bit longer with my admiration, but I thank Basso right now for making the Tour look off-the-charts exciting.