RYDER Hesjedal’s bid to successfully defend his Giro d’Italia title will be supported by Scotland’s David Millar, American squad Garmin-Sharp has confirmed.
Millar – who became a dad for the second time this week – Peter Stetina, Ramunas Navardauskas, Robbie Hunter, Thomas Dekker and Nathan Haas are joined in the team by two former team-mates of Lance Armstrong whose evidence contributed to the Texan’s downfall.
Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson, both Tour de France top 10 finishers, will make their Grand Tour returns, having served six-month suspensions which ended in March after their doping admissions in evidence given to the United States Anti-doping Agency.
It is an experienced line-up as Hesjedal seeks to fight off the challenge of Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) to retain the maglia rosa he won 12 months ago.
“Winning the Giro d’Italia in 2012 was a dream come true and it will be a true honour to pin on the number one bib on Saturday,” the Canadian said. “My season has been built around the Giro again this year with the goal of defending my title and the whole team is coming into it very focused and extremely motivated.
“I want to do my best to honour the race, to honour the number one bib, and take it from there, day by day. I know we have a great team to be able to do that, and we will work hard, every day, with our goal in mind.”
Two-times winner Ivan Basso has pulled out of the Giro two days before the race starts due to a cyst.
The Italian’s Cannondale squad said that the problem is located in the rider’s seat area.
Basso won the Giro in 2006 and 2010 and was considered one of the outside favorites for this year’s race, which starts in Naples on Saturday.
“My morale is shattered,” Basso said. “But the first thing to do is take care of this problem and come back right away to prepare for the Tour de France and Spanish Vuelta. I’m an athlete who has already gone through tough times and I’ll come back from this, too.”
Basso served a two-year ban in 2007 and 2008 after being linked to the Operation Puerto doping case, which was the subject of a court ruling in Spain this week.
Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes was found guilty on Tuesday of endangering public health and given a one-year suspended jail sentence.
However the World Anti-Doping Agency is considering a possible appeal of the ruling by Judge Julia Santamaria, who ordered the destruction of more than 200 bags of blood and other evidence gathered in police raids on Fuentes in 2006.
Damiano Caruso will take Basso’s place in the Cannondale squad for the Giro.