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
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
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
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
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. †