GILBERTO SIMONI INTERVIEW
-The Tour has been defined as more than just a sporting event and even more than a show. It has been defined as a mental state. Do you agree? Do you feel it in that way?
"Some riders have much more experience of the Tour than I have but I agree that there is a special feeling. As we wait for the race to start in Paris I can feel the tension building. I’d say the Tour, this Tour is a huge emotion which everybody should try."
-Are you happy with your build-up to the race?
"My feeling are different compared to other events but I’m motivated and so I’m happy. I know I’ve made a lot of sacrifices so that I can be competitive at the Tour. I’ve given up a lot of things even after winning the Giro."
-You’ve never stopped racing during this season…
"That’s how you get results, thanks to constantly improving your fitness and thanks to the enthusiasm that good results give you and convince you of your ability. This year my win at the Giro del Trentino set me up for a great Giro. The pink jersey of the Giro has in turn set me up for the Tour de France. Now we’ll see what happens…."
-You are one of Armstrong’s major rivals, that’s a big responsibility…
"Yes but I don’t feel any pressure because of it. When I see him on Saturday I give him a pat on the back and say: I’m in the race as well."
-Is it a duel?
"No, it’s just that I’m convinced I can do well. I went to see some of the Tour climbs because I want to do everything right. I’ve memorised every corner of certain climbs and descents."
-Last year there wasn’t a duel but Armstrong was worried about you…
"We went up against each other at the Tour of Switzerland in 2001. He was first and I was second. He learnt then that I can climb… It was a pity that we didn’t race against each other in 2002. That route was more suitable to me…."
-So are your hopes and ambitions limited?
"No, because if on one hand the route doesn’t really suit me, on the other I’m convinced I’ve got a strong team and that will be very important in the first week."
-Indeed, the first few stages are full of dangers…
"Also because the big mountains come early on in the race. The Alps will be decisive after just a week, especially L’Alpe d’Huez, but I’ve memorised everything, every corner."
-And what do you think about the team time trial?
"I’ve been thinking about it for several days. I think we can do well and be very competitive. I’ve got a lot of faith in my team."
-But naturally you will have to wait for the big mountains to play your best cards…
"Armstrong definitely doesn’t frighten me on the climbs and he knows it."
-How would you summarise your Tour?
"People ask me to beat Armstrong. That’s a big responsibility. Most of all I know I have to beat
myself. If I can perform better than what I think I can, give it everything, I’m sure I’ll have a great
Tour, it’s guaranteed."
-What would be the most exciting thing for you in this Tour?
"To be able to drop Armstrong in the mountains, to make him suffer, and then not give up."
-The idea of racing hard seems to motivate you more than anything else…
"I’m not afraid of suffering even if I admit I don’t like it. But my existence is about sufferance and
riding my bike and seeing new things and new situations."
-You said several times that the birth of your daughter Sofia has been decisive in this great moment
in your life. Is that true?
"My daughter is another great emotion and I live for emotions like that."
INTERVIEW WITH CLAUDIO CORTI SAECO TEAM MANAGER
-What results are you hoping to obtain in the Tour de France?
"We’re not putting ourselves under pressure for great results at any cost. Of course we’re not coming to the Tour de France just to make up the numbers. Our aim is to live up to the potential that I believe we have. That would mean we would obtain some interesting results."
-It’s been a great season for Saeco so far. What are the reasons?
"The team has changed radically in the last two years and now has had time to adapt the changes. We started the season with a very close-knit, very motivated team. That helped us win a lot and become the number one ranked team in the world rankings, it also meant we won races with lots of different riders."
-Is a question of team spirit?
"We’re definitely a good group of riders and very professional team personnel. We’re open to
constructive criticism and dialogue, it’s the only way to grow and improve."
-How was the team for the Tour decided?
"Naturally there was a plan at the start of the season. We knew we’d ride the Giro and the Tour with Gilberto Simoni as team leader. His win at the Giro boosted our hopes of having a great Tour. The team we selected is a consequence of that. We’re sure that the first week of the Tour will be very important."
-In fact the team has a lot of strong rider for the flat stages but what about the mountains?
"The riders selected will allow Simoni to arrive at the foot of the mountains as well as possible. They will protect him in the opening stages and will do well in the team time trial. For the mountains we also riders who can be with Gilberto even if we all know the key moments of the race are an individual challenge and an elimination race."
-Saeco is back at the Tour after a two-year absence…
"And we’re back with lots of enthusiasm without thinking about the past. Two years ago we weren’t
accepted and we kept quiet. Last year we were invited but then the invitation was revoked. We thought that was unfair and we made our voice heard. It’s all in the past now. I think a big team like ours who has been in the sport for ten years and with a major sponsor like Saeco, deserves respect and attention in the general interests of cycling."
-There are riders in the Saeco Tour team who are capable of winning stages. How will they be used?
"Danilo Di Luca will ride the Tour for the first time knowing that the race suits him really well. He’s had to get over the problems of a broken collarbone but he’ll be at his best in a few days. We can say the same thing for Salvatore Commesso. He’s already do well at the Tour de France (he won the stage to Albi in 1999). I wouldn’t forget a rider like Stefano Zanini either. He’s very experienced and that will tell later in the race."
-Why did you decide not to select sprinter Ivan Quaranta?
"It was a technical decision which has nothing against the rider as some might have thought. If we signed Quaranta it is because we believe in him. The objectives we’ve set ourselves in the Tour prevailed over anything else. We’re sure we did the right thing even if leaving Quaranta at home still hurts."
-How is Simoni on the eve of the Tour? Is he looking as good as he did at the Giro?
"Gilberto is a very instinctive rider. He knows how to find the motivation to do well. I’m sure he’s still hungry to win even after having won the Giro. In fact his win has given him the confidence only a great result can give. He’s in good physical shape and motivated for this latest adventure."
-An adventure that has a name and a rival: Lance Armstrong.
"And a great champion who has won the Tour four times who deserves respect. Gilberto is sure his qualities as a climber can cause some interesting results but this does not mean throwing down the gauntlet to Armstrong. We want to show what Simoni can do. It would be great to help make the Tour an exciting and well-fought race. Any results will what they will be, will be a direct consequence of that."
A weekend of racing in Abruzzo and then in Austria
While the Tour de France gets under way in Paris with Gilberto Simoni and his Saeco team mates amongst the favourites, the Saeco team will also be busy in other races.
On Saturday and Sunday the team will ride two races in the Abruzzo region of Italy. On Saturday Bonomi, Bucciero, Galletti, Gavazzi, Pepoli, Pugaci, Quaranta and Spezialetti will ride the Criterium d’Abruzzo. Then on Sunday the same team except without Quaranta, will ride the Trofeo Matteotti.
Afterwards Bonomi, Bucciero, Galletti, Gavazzi, Pepoli and Pugaci will travel to Austria for the
International Uniq Classic from July 9 12. In both races the team will be directed by Flavio Miozzo.