Simoni wearing the maglia rosa in the 2003 Giro.
Giro route reactions - Gilberto Simoni: The two-time winner and defending champion from Palú di Giovo was one of the riders often seen in front of microphones after the Giro route presentation: he gave his opinion about the parcours and his main rivals, and also made ap particular “invitation" to the next tour of Italy.
Asked for his opinion on the 2004 Giro route, “Gibo” started saying that “If look attentively, I may say this parcours bears resemblances to the route of the edition I won in 2001, with just one, quite long ITT, and a very intense final part, with truly selective stages, like those finishing into Bormio and Presolana, after climbing the likes of Gavia and Mortirolo.
The above mentioned stages will be short (120km. for the Bormio stage, 121 for the next one) and Simoni didn’t sound much satisfied with that, but nevertheless he said that “this might make for some spectacular satges at least, and one will have to get there in a good condition, after doing a good preparation work. Stages like these, short and difficult, are a kind of double-sided weapon: you gotta be ready for everything, in every moment, and notably you are not allowed to make any mistake”.
But the 2001 and 2003 Giro winner warned against the risk of regarding those two stages as the only important hilly legs: “We’ll certainly have to wait until the end to know the winner’s name, but I think that also the first demanding stages, the ones finishing into Corno alle Scale and Montevergine di Mercogliano will start shaping the GC.
Asked about whom he considered as main rivals for the GC victory, Simoni mentioned his “podium mates” in the last Tour of Italy: “Garzelli, who is a young, dedicated and tenacious rider, and Popovych, who has improved a lot in the last year”. But then he said the words that will certainly hit the headlines in the English-speaking media: “When it comes to rivals, well, this kind of route wouldn’t be bad for Armstrong. If he really said that he wants to race the Giro once in his career, I think the 2004 edition may be the good one.”
And Gibo doesn’t think Lance’s eventual participation would hamper his chances for a sixth consecutive TdF win: “This year the Giro ends in late May, such that Armstrong would have all the time to recover; while the Tour will be decided only in the last week, where the decisive ITTs and “queen stages” are located. So one can even take it a bit easy at the start”. Simoni threw down the gauntlet. Again. Will Armstrong accept the challenge and finally show himself on Italian roads in May?
Italian reporter Gianfranco Josti sounded skeptical though: “Sure the route is good. But in the end it’s the riders themselves that make the race. And I hope this time (Giro boss) Castellano may bring more world-class riders than he did in the past years. To have Lance Armstrong racing here would be wonderful, but he has got his own vision of things, and I’m not hopeful that he may come here. But I think it would be enough for us that to have Ullrich or Beloki, or anyone able to pose a significant challenge to Simoni, who is a world-class rider, and deserves a better opposition than he got in recent years.
More and more and more reactions from riders, DS and cycling personalities to come later. Stay tuned!!!