Tour de France countdown. 13 days until the Basso grimace.

Basso suffers.

The Tour de France is the epicenter of suffering. In the latest issue of Paved Magazine, rider Saul Ruibal calls it a “three week party for sadists and masochists.”

While a one day race like the Hell of the North is rough, Ruibal states with a certain brutal eloquence that Paris-Roubaix is “just a cigarette burn on the back of your hand compared to the conflagration of the Tour.”

In my eyes, nobody seemed to suffer in the 2010 tour more than Ivan Basso. (Well, no, we’ll award that trophy to Tyler Farrar riding with a fractured wrist.) But in any case, Basso had already endured a leg-killing Giro before he even showed up in France with half his hope still intact.

Every time I saw Basso in the Alps and Pyrenees, he had the same grimace of pain on his face. He looked like he was grinding his teeth so hard I was sure he’d be down to bloody gums by Paris. I was excited to see the anticipated headline in Gazzetta dello Sport: “Basso toothless after Pyrenees.”

So bring on the French sufferfest and be sure to look closely at Basso’s face. He was smart enough to skip the Giro torture this year but unlucky enough to crash on his face while training on Mount Etna. His form is behind schedule and and that only means more misery awaits when Senor Contador decides to destroy everyone on a race bike.

We expect to see Basso and his grimace again very soon.

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