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PAU, France (CT) – What was expected to be a press conference about Alberto Contador’s campaign to win a third Tour de France became something else entirely on Monday when team-mate Ivan Basso revealed he had cancer and would leave the race.
Basso, who joined the team at the start of this season, said that he had been diagnosed with a testicular tumour two hours prior to the press conference and would return to Italy for treatment.
The discovery of the illness occurred through a curious twist of fate. At the press conference at the team hotel in Pau, the double Giro d’Italia winner explained that he crashed on stage five and hit his testicle. He said that the pain persisted and that on Sunday evening the Tour de France medial staff did a scan in the mobile medical unit.
According to Tinkoff-Saxo team doctor Piet de Moor, follow up tests were then arranged for Monday morning. These revealed the nature of the problem.
“Unfortunately I have a bad announcement,” said Basso who, understandably, was emotional. “I have a small cancer in my left testicle. As you can understand that I have to go back to Italy.
“We discovered this just two hours ago.”
He added that medical treatment would be carried out as soon as possible.
The team leader Alberto Contador was very shaken by 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,” he stated.
“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.”
Although Basso only came to the team this year, Contador said that they had grown close in the month since.
“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.”
The team’s head directeur sportif Steven de Jongh said that the team’s thoughts had turned away from the competition, at least temporarily.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Testicular cancer is the most common manifestation of the disease in young males. Fortunately it has one of the highest successful treatment rates. If the cancer is limited to the testicle, the five year survival race is 99 percent.
This drops to 96 percent if it has spread to nearby lymph notes, and sinks to approximately 74 percent if it has spread to organs or lymph nodes further away from the origin site.
At 37 years of age, it is unclear what effect the tumour will have on Basso’s career. However the rider and team’s immediate priority will be his health.