Courtesy of Saeco--Gilberto Simoni waited a long time before letting
himself go in the celebration of winning the Giro. Perhaps it was just fear of
bad luck, respect for his rivals or just the fear of the unexpected, but Simoni
had refused to speak about having won the Giro in the last few days even if he
had a huge margin over all his rivals.
Simoni waited until the last 30km of racing before finally celebrating his
Giro, a success based on a perfect build up, wins at the Giro del Trentino and
the Giro dellí Appeninno, and with an incredibly strong, made-to-order team put
together by the Saeco team management.
Simoni is from the Dolomite mountains and dominated the 2003 Giro in the
mountains; first at Terminillo where he shook out the whole field, on the hills
before Faenza where he took the pink jersey and then with further attacks on the
Zoncolan, Alpe di Pampeago, Chianale and Cascata del Toce. He even rode well in
the final time trial to Milan, finishing the Giro with a final lead of 7í06Ē.
In a press conference Simoni talked about his Giro and also about the Tour de
France, his next objective in a so far incredible season for him and his Saeco
team who are ranked number one in the world.
"I raced differently compared to 2001. Then I looked for a few seconds on
every stage, even where people didnít expect me to and raced by following my
instinct; I won almost by chance and it was dream come true. This year I had a
completely different mentality and different way of racing. I carefully planned
every part of the race; every attack was arranged with the team. Nothing was
left to chance. Even the attack to Faenza was planned. If I hadnít attacked the
break would have been caught and Garzelli would have gained the 20-second time
bonus. When I attacked I thought: 'Iím going to enjoy myself.í They under
estimated me, making a big mistake." "The team always raced following the
pre-race tactics agreed with the directeur sportifs. The only day things didnít
go right was on the Zoncolan because Mercatone Uno set a fast but steady pace
which stopped the attacks which would have split the field in the last three
"Of my rivals Casagrande was the biggest disappointment. He wasnít as good as
in last few years. He had some problems that stopped him from being competitive.
Stefano Garzelli was my biggest rival. He was affected by the crash that cost
him a last chance to win. After finishing third in 2000 I discovered that
Garzelli was able to win the Giro on the last day and so was always worried
"Pantani surprised me. I didnít expect him to be so determined, while
Yaroslav Popovych was the surprise of the Giro. Heís got a lot of promise and
heís improving a lot but he still needs to learn a lot. Coming down the Sampeyre
I didnít take any risks but Popovych went hard and opened a gap, but at the
bottom of descent he only had a ten-metre gap. He should have waited for us but
he did everything he could to stay away. When we caught him we were the ones who
didnít wait for him.
"At the Tour de France weíll try and cause problems for Armstrong. Heís
always had an easy ride to Paris because heís never faced real climbers. Other
riders on the podium have been Beloki, Ullrich, Moreau, all riders who are good
in time trials but much weaker than Armstrong in the mountains. If we can get
him in a trap, we can make Armstrong panic. The route of the Tour doesnít seem
hard but the route of the Giro didnít seem hard either and looked what happened.
This proves that itís the riders who make the race hard or not."
Simoni also talked about each of his team mates who had helped him win the
Giro: "Paolo Fornaciari creates stability in team even if he is always joking
around. Dario Pieri was always good for team morale, full of energy and drinks
because he was the one who went back to the team car. Alessandro Spezialetti was
the calmest of all and as race went on he made his presence and determination
felt in the team. Leonardo Bertagnolli had a traumatic Vuelta but he told me he
enjoyed this Giro. By racing his first Giro with Saeco, Damiano Cunego will have
learnt a lot. Marius Sabaliauskas was really strong and made himself felt, heís
got a 100 horse power engine. Andrea Tonti never gives up, while Fabio Sacchi
was the most edgy of the team but always kept everybody focused on racing and
made sure we never gave up."
In the press conference a happy team manager Claudio Corti explained the
secrets of Saecoís success and talked about the Tour de France. "We created a
strong and compact team for the Giro which was always in control. Their biggest
strength is the team spirit, a prerogative of the Saeco company which we
transmitted to all of the team.
"In the last few days there has been a lot of talk about the Tour de France.
I can guarantee that Simoni will have a strong team, as strong as he had at the
Giro. However the Tour is a different type of race which is more open to breaks.
Armstrong and his team will have to take responsibility for the race but Saeco
will have a strong team with riders such as Commesso who can go for stage wins
an at the same time work for the team."