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86th Giro d'Italia - Stage 20 Interviews
By Fabio
Date: 5/31/2003
86th Giro d'Italia - Stage 20 Interviews

Giovanni Lombardi: The 34-year-old from Pavia gave a further display of his huge talent, and a further lesson to all “Domina Vacanze team is nothing else but Cipo” pundits (including someone in a certain corner of Europe ?). After doing his usual leadout work in countless stages, first to help the Lion King, and later for young Daniele Bennati, he made his mark in this Giro too, by taking the 42nd win in his 11-year career, the first in the current season. “It was not an easy victory. I tried to get into the right breakaway since early in the stage. I must thank Gabriele Colombo, who made the break on the ascent, and the teamwork was good. Later I had to work all by myself, but my excellent condition was of help, end everything has gone fine”.

In weeks to come Lombardi could make the headlines in the “rider transfers” section, as he is reportedly leaving his current team (according to some rumors, he’s not excessively happy at the way he was treated after Cipo pulled out of the race, and Bennati was appointed team leader. These are just rumours anyway). Sure that it wouldn’t be difficult for such a professional to find a new team.

But when directly questioned, the man was not that outspoken (maybe due to the presence of Domina Vacanze’s team manager Vincenzo Santoni beside him ?): “My contract expires this year. So I’ll be free to take any offer, but I don’t know what I’ll do. I think that Santoni should have right of pre-emption anyway. Mario and I have accomplished a lot these two years, after all. In the meantime, I hope that we may take part in the TdF and be given a chance to show our skills there. So I think I’m going to take a well-deserved vacation first, then hopefully go to France, and make a decision only in August”.

Eddy Mazzoleni: With Garzelli waiting for tomorrow to battle it out with Popovych, the “ideal domestique” could play the team leader today, and go for a well-deserved stage victory under the glance of his beautiful fianceé Elisa Basso (sister of Fassa Bortolo’s rider Ivan). But Lady Luck was not for romanticism today, and did not stand by Mazzoleni’s side, as the man had to face opposition from another super-domestique aiming for glory: Giovanni “ideal leadoutman” Lombardi. Unfortunately for Eddy (you may easily guess why a man born in the early 70s in a cycling-mad family was given that name - btw) there was room for just one of them on the stage podium.

And here are his first post-stage comments “After doing well throughout the Giro, I wanted to take a stage victory. We made plans for me the get into a breakaway, and that’s what actually happened. Then Lombardi attacked, but Figueras and I caught him (and Velo). I know that I couldn’t stand a chance against him in a sprint, so I made my move with 5 km. to the line, but Lombardi countered and caught me with with just 2 km. to go. I logically tried to save energies then, but it proved pointless and in the end I could snatch second place only. I am a bit disappointed, but nevertheless I’m truly satisfied with my Giro”.

Some words on his team leader as well “Stefano came to the Giro after spending one year far from the races, and I think he’s doing fine. He’s a champion, and hope he may win this race again in the future. I have worked for Garzelli until the end then, in the last two stages, he set me free to go, but unfortunately stage victory didn’t came. I’m satisfied anyway”.

Gilberto Simoni: One day away from winning the Giro for the second time, smiling Gibo spent a few words on today’s ride “I had to struggle even in this stage. I didn’t expect it to be so difficult today. It wasn’t easy to keep the peloton together. And after 20-25 riders broke clear we panicked a bit, as it was a huge group and we didn’t know who was in the break. But later our team director told us no GC threat was there, so we decided not to try to bring it back”.

And a few words on his Giro as well “There’s still 40 km. to go, and I have to tackle those ones too. I think my greatest accomplishment was in the Faenza stage, where I attacked were nobody expected me to do”.

With such accomplishments from a Simoni in extraordinary condition at the Giro, no surprise that journalists keep harbouring hopes for the TdF too, and asking Simoni about his chances in the “Grande Boucle”. Gibo d’Italia turned Gibo de France for a few minutes and sounded optimistic, confident in his chances in mountain stages, and even in the possibilities to limit damage in the ITTs (”that are not completely flat at the TdF”).

“I started my build-up for the Giro in November. I haven’t thought about the Tour yet, but I’ll start soon. Francesco Moser (who said the build-up for the Grande Boucle should start the very day following the Giro end, skipping all celebrations and minor races that could imply a useless waste of enrgies) is right. I do agree with him”.

But in case Giboman wants to have a go at the Tour, he surely needs a strong team, similar to the one whose huge support he enjoyed in the Corsa Rosa. “I hope I’ll have the best possible team at my disposal, to help me notably in the first week, that is very difficult and when teammates like Pieri and Fornaciari are needed. With riders like these protecting you, one can take it easier inside the peloton. And the burden will mostly be on the shoulders of Armstrong’s team in the first week after all” were Simoni’s words about this subject.

Fredy González : Two years later, the Milan podium is going to host again the tiny, light (52 kg) Colombian, who dominated the KOM Competition, giving no chance to combative but unlucky Spaniard Tino Zaballa of Kelme. Unfortunately the energies Fredy Excelino (to be 28 in a couple weeks) spent getting himself into breakaways and struggling to be first across the top of several climbs, notably in the early part of mountain stages (it was impressive to see the Selle Italia rider take THREE KOM primes out of 5 in the “epic” Pontechianale stage), prevented him from going for stage victories too.

But Fredy and his Team Manager Gianni Savio (an Italian, but also well-known in the Colombian cycling scene) chose that way of being protagonists, probably the only “alternative” one for climbers in a Giro featuring such a strong Gilberto Simoni, and succeeded, so no wonder that they sounded satisfied with thier accomplishments when talking in front of the RAI TV cameras”.

Today Marco Pantani attacked again, this time on a very small ascent. And didn’t succeed this time either. But his moves and combative attitude would make the headlines on Italian media one more time, and fans are still beside him. In post-race interviews the Mercatone Uno rider sounded satisified “I’m glad. I saw the route was nervous in its last part, then agreed with some other riders to shake things up. And we made a try”.

Some generic statements concerning his Giro “Well, the GC tells it all. But, leaving that aside, I must say that I’m satisfied with my performance in the race. I even think it’s one the best Giros I have ever done. Sometimes one have be happy at what he gets”.

To the TdF topic now, with Pantani sounding hopeful again “I think taking part to the Tour is not impossible for me. I’ve got a friend in the cycling scene since many years, and I am confident he’ll do his best to take me to the Tour. I’m sure that we’ll come close to get a spot there at least. But I don’t want to go to the TdF just in order to be there. If could take part in the race, I’d like to be in a good condition, capable of doing fine. One should take nothing for granted, as I’m 33 after all, and misfortunes are always around the corner but, again, I think I’ll be at the startline”.

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