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86th Giro d'Italia Rest Day Special Report
By Fabio
Date: 5/27/2003
86th Giro d'Italia Rest Day Special Report

Check right here on Wednesday (after the stage) for further links to our Giro d'Italia Stage 16 and 17 special coverage!

Tuesday was rest day at the 86th Giro díItalia. Time for riders to take it a bit easier, make their plans for the ultimate stages, and check their bikes and legs on the flat roads and gentle hills of Oltrepů Pavese in the outskirts of Salice Terme, the place where tomorrowís stage is set to start (map). Time for the UCI vampires to show up at the rider hotels and test 33 athletes belonging to 5 different teams (all of them gave negative, and also the fact such things didnít hit the headlines any longer is a very good sign). And, whatís most important, time for the "Daily Peloton" to undergo the most pleasant of all tortures: wandering through the Pavia and Oltrepů Pavese areas, going for more and more news and images of the Tour of Italy main protagonists.

Indeed our site attended two press conferences, given in the early afternoon (later many stars of the Giro peloton moved to the square in front of Saliceís thermal baths in order to take part in a RAI 3 special program dedicated to the race) in two different hotels. And not "minor" conferences at all: the first one was featuring Gilberto Simoni, the other had nobody else than Yaroslav Popovych as main star. The Daily Peloton is honoured to report on thoughts and words from two thirds of the current (and probably Milanís) overall podium. And is honoured to show you a pic of Gilberto Simoni on the Pavia podium, autographed by the Giro díItalia overall leader on Tuesday afternoon.

Gilberto Simoni's Press Conference (Tuesday, May 27th 2003)

Gilberto Simoni (and Saeco's manager Claudio Corti) during the
Press Conference at Salice Terme on Tuesday afternoon.

Plenty of journalists and TV cameras attended the conference that got underway at 15.00 Hours (CEST) in one of Salice Termeís most prestigious hotels. And Gilberto Simoni did not disappoint them: as outspoken as usual, the current maglia rosa wearer had many things to say on several topics. Two of them in particular: the upcoming stages in the Tour of Italy and the next Tour de France. So below are the most significant extracts from the manís interview on the following subjects.

Simoni and the Giro (thus far): The 32-year-old fellow townsman of Francesco Moser (who was staying at the same Salice Terme hotel as well) was questioned about his best and worst moments so far in the race. And, quite surprisingly, neither of them had anything to do with the most gruelling mountain stages. Gibo will certainly keep pleasant memories of him saying goodbye to the rest of the field on the Zoncolan and at Alpe di Pampeago, and must be satisfied with his performance on the Terminillo slopes too.

But he was most favourably impressed by what he accomplished in the stage finishing into Faenza. No more than 48 hours before tackling the Zoncolan, Simoni decided not to wait and save his energies for the awful climb of Friuli, and made a spectactular move where nobody expected to, on the Appennine hills, a bold move which changed everything and earned Simoni the coveted maglia rosa nobody has proved capable to snatch off his shoulders so far. "An attack on the stage was part of my plans," Gilberto admitted, but also added that "I didnít expect such an outcome". A very pleasant outcome, that gave him the greatest satisfaction in the first two weeks of racing.

But the next day (Wednesday, May the 22nd) Simoni didnít have such a good time: his worst moment so far in the Giro came in the (in)famous final straight in San DonŠ di Piave, when Cipollini and GŠlvez (and other riders) hit the ground, with the World Champion and the "reckless" Spaniard being forced to pull out of competition due to the consequences of the crash. A crash that almost involved the brand new pink jersey wearer. A crash that could have changed the whole Giro.

Simoni and the Giro (to come): But now itís time to leave the past behind and focus on the coming, final stages. Thatís what most journalists were thinking, as most questions concerned the next, decisive legs, notably Thursdayís and Fridayís hilly ones. Does Simoni think that the rides into Pontechianale and Cascate del Toce may endanger his overall leadership? According to the manís words, Gilberto fears more Thursdayís stage than Fridayís, as he thinks he can keep control of the situation on the way up to the Toce Falls.

Whereas, in his opinion, the long stage encompassing the Fauniera ascent is appropriate for his main (and probably only) rival Stefano Garzelli to follow Simoniís advices: "If I were him, Iíd launch an all-out attack, going for all or nothing. I would either win or bonk". Simoni is perfectly aware that making his move first on the next mountains is the only option left to Garzelli, and said that heíll try to understand what the Vini Caldirola-SO.DI. rider has in mind, and when the current runner-up will attack.

Simoni and Garzelli: One of the main (good) features of the 2003 Tour of Italy was the presence of a new dualism, a rivalry similar to those that made the history of this sport in Italy. But the two, Gibo and Garzelli, are rivals on the bike only. Simoni said he holds his main challenger in high esteem, both as a rider and person. And thereís one thing Simoni envies of the bald-headed Lombard: "the ability to change his pace and attack. That is of help to him in the sprints too".

Simoni and popularity: Simoni was asked if he was envious of something else too: the immense popularity enjoyed by Cipollini and Pantani: "Itís a matter of fact that Cipollini is the most popular rider in Italy. And I think rightly so. Pantani still has a huge number of fans, waiting for him to win a stage to unleash all of their happiness. As for me, I am satisfied with the several fans I have got".

Simoni best climber?: When asked, "Gilberto, do you think that you are the best climber in the world at the moment?" Simoni did not reply directly, but the huge smile on his face was perhaps more meaningful than any eventual words".

Simoni and Le Tour: Here comes THE topic, the BIG topic of the day. With a man in such a great condition, capable to show all of his skills each time the route goes uphill, wouldnít it be a mistake not to have a go at the most prestigious race of the year? Even though at the beginning he sounded a bit reluctant to talk about this, evntually Simoni said it all. He knows perfectly well that beating Armstrong will be an extremely difficult task, as Lance prepares for the TdF in a very meticulous way. And also because the French contest is the manís undisputed main objective of the season, whereas the same canít be said for Simoni and many other Italian riders, who necessarily have a broader array of targets.

But nevertheless Simoni sounded well-intentioned to make a try, especially if heís able to keep the same condition he currently enjoys. Others tried before, and some (like Pantani) succeeded. As for "the pirate", there were some speculations concerning the possibility of a having mixed team featuring both Ullrich and Pantani in the "Grande Boucle", but Simoni was skeptical: "To set up such a team would be a hard task, but to manage it would be even harder."

One thing is for sure: if Simoni wants to have a go at Le Tour, he needs a strong team to support him, the way he has had in the Giro. And according to Saecoís Team Manager Claudio Corti, the "Red Army" roster in Paris will certainly include combative riders such as Danilo Di Luca, able to start the fireworks at any time, but should Gilberto be in the same, extraordinary condition heís currently displaying, then the whole squad will be working for his leader.

Simoni and the "Daily Peloton": Last but not least, Simoniís press conference ended in a very pleasant way for our site: after briefly talking to the DP, the no. 1 rider in the Giro sent his special greetings to the Daily Pelotonís readers. †

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