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Giro d'Italia: Pre race interviews with Team Saeco
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 5/5/2004
Giro d'Italia: Pre race interviews with Team Saeco

87th Giro díItalia† Interview to the Saeco Team Manager Claudio Corti

After a very successful 2003 season do you think Team Saeco can do just as well this year?

"Things look good even if weíd hoped to do a bit better in the classics campaign. Not everything went as planned and weíre especially sorry that Danilo Di Luca couldnít do as well as he deserved even though he got to good placings. I think the team has shown we can be in the action and in the results in most races and that we are one of the few teams who can actually shape the race with our tactics."

Some people think the Giro could be a Saeco in-house battle between Simoni and Cunego.

"I think thatís a bit over the top, perhaps fuelled by Damiano Cunegoís excellent results in the last few weeks. Itís created a lot of attention, weĻre convinced he can do well but weĻre also convinced it is better to let him grow gradually without putting him under too much pressure. Weíre going
to carry on that way but happy with the results heís achieved so far."

So Simoni is the absolute leader of the team at the Giro díItalia?

"Absolutely yes. Gilberto has every chance of winning the Giro for a third time even if he will have to work hard. There are some strong rivals out there, starting with Stefano Garzelli."

How well is Simoni going at the moment?

"Itís no secret he started off the season much more quietly than last year but thatís all part of a precise plan. Gilberto is one of a few riders who will ride both the Giro díItalia and the Tour de France with the intention of doing well in both of them. His form has improved a lot in the last two weeks and I think he will be in good form for the Giro and will improve as the race goes on."
Simoni has prepared scrupulously for the Giro, looking at all of the decisive stages, "Heís a real professional and so studies every detail of the race."

The Saeco team for the Giro looks very strong and seems able to give Simoni all the help he will need.

"Iím fully convinced of that and we shouldnĻt only think of Cunego in this sense, even if heís in a state of grace. Bertagnolli has also been riding well since the start of the season, while Mazzoleni will be an important part of the team after showing what he can do in the Belgian classics. Szmyd and Tonti are perfect stage race riders, while Fornaciari and Spezialetti will be key workers and have lots of experience. Stangelj is also in form and will do his job very well."

What kind of race do you expect this year?

"Iím sure that our staff of directeur sportifs will know how to chose the right tactics. It wonĻt be an easy Giro considering the uphill finish on stage three at Corno alle Scale ≠close to the Saeco headquarters, but also because the three short but hard mountain stages in the last week will decide the race. Thatís when the riders will have to be at their best."

Is it hard being the absolute favourite?

"Itís hard but weíre used to it. Saeco is a major team that represents a hugely successful company all over the world. The ďred guardĒ is ready for another battle."

87th Giro díItalia: Gilberto Simoniís Interview

Gilberto, tell the truth, aiming to win the Giro díItalia when youíre the big favourite makes things even more difficult?

"Perhaps thatís true but Iíve got an important position and a lot of responsibility at Team Saeco and so itís right I accept my role as favourite."

Are you going to win?

"Iíve got the experience to know that I canít be presumptuous and think Iíve already won the Giro. There are a lot of strong contenders that I have a lot of respect for. Garzelli is just one example, he was riding better than me before the Giro and so itís important to keep my feet on the ground."†

A lot of people are saying Simoni doesnít appears as competitive as he was in 2003...

"I donít think itís a secret that I started the season much slower than last year and so itís natural that Iíll start the Giro with not as good form. However I have to say that I was satisfied with how I rode in the last few races, especially at the GP Larciano on Saturday. To tell the truth I feel pretty good and I also feel that Iíve used up a lot less energy than in the past."

Is the build up to the Giro different after youĻve already won it twice?

"Perhaps Iím not as emotional as in the first few years but thereĻs still the tension of the big races. Iím going to go to the start in Genoa with a lot of determination but also with a clear conscience. I know Iíve done my job and I havenít over looked anything, including looking at all the key stages. I know what I have to do."

Were you scared of not being fit enough for the start of the Giro?

"Iíve had a few problems, especially because of the bad weather. The constant rain and cold in the early races affected my training with the most delicate moment was in Spain in April. I rode quite well in the Tour of the Basque Country and then got a result in the one-day race the Sunday after. However at the Vuelta Aragona I felt out of form again and for a while I was worried."

Then you rode the Giro del Trentino...

"And it was a big help. Perhaps it was because I was racing near home and because the weather was finally good but things finally started to go much better."

The Giro del Trentino also showed the talents of Damiano Cunego

"Damiano and Davide Rebellin are the riders of the moment. They have both got some important results in recent weeks in relation to the position of their careers. Cunegoís success has really pleased me and if you think Iím jealous of him youíve got it really wrong."

What role do you think Cunego will have at the Giro?

"I trust the team ≠which is really strong, the management and Cunego.

I think Damiano can ride a great Giro and be a protagonist but the roles in the team will be very clear. However this doesnĻt mean that Cunego canít get some important results. Heís got the talent and is in great shape."
So Cunego will have to wait his turn but do you think he can become youĻre heir in a few years time?

"Damiano has got everything that it takes and above all he is very young and has time on his side. I think everybody will soon get to appreciate what he can do. He knows how to do well, heís modest but at the same time heís ambitious. Heís a clever person and also knows how important it is to accept advice even if he always wants to make sure for himself. Heís stubborn but a nice person. I certainly canít criticise him because I was exactly the same when I was his age."

You seem to know every detail of this yearís Giro after inspecting almost every stage, which are the most difficult stages?

"Not necessarily the hardest one. Itís obvious to talk about the mountain finishes at Bormio and Falzes and they are very hard but I think the most difficult stages are those with the most risks: The third stage with the uphill finish at Corno alle Scale and in part the finish at Montevergine and in Cesena could cause some problems. The fact that they come early in the race means it will be important to be vigilant from the start to the finish of the Giro, there is no alternative if you want to win."

A lot of people believe that it will be relatively easy for you to win the Giro

"I donít agree and anyway weíll only know at the finish in Milan."†

What would it be like winning the Giro for a third time?

"I donít honestly think itíll be like 2003 because then I was very determined and very angry. This time I want to win and win well but without overdoing it."

Does the facts that you also want do well at the Tour de France affect your performance in the Giro?

"Major stages races arenĻt objectives where you can try and calculate things. Now itís time for the Giro díItalia and then there is the Tour de France. For the moment the only sure thing is that Iím the only one to have the courage to try and win both major stage races in the same year. Is there anybody else who is going to do it?"

87th Giro díItalia: Damiano Cunegoís Interview

Whatís it like being one of the expected protagonists of the Giro díItalia at just 22 years old?

"Itís true the numerous and important wins Iíve had in the last three weeks have given me incredible motivation and created a lot of interest and Iím going to start the Giro in the best possible form both physically and psychologically but I also know that doesnít mean Iím going to be a protagonist in the Giro."

Does that mean you arenít hoping for a leading role in the Giro?

"I didnít say that. My objective is to do as well as I can for myself but above all for the Saeco team. I want to do my job to the best of my ability and keep improving and maturing as Iíve done so far in my career."

When did you realise you are suited to stage racing?

"I only think Iím suited to stage racing, Iíve still got to show it even if my characteristics as a rider give that impression. But I know I did quite well in my first Giro last year; I finished the race feeling good and thatís not easy for a young rider."

Your first Giro in 2003 was a triumph for Team Saeco with Gilberto Simoniís victory?

"It was a great feeling that we all shared in the team. Winning the Giro is an extraordinary feeling. Itís important to understand that success is built day after day without ever easing off or getting distracted. Working side by side with a true professional like Simoni is a great way to learn"

Many people say youíve learned very quickly...

"Itís normal that people expect a lot from me and make lots of predictions but even though Iíve improved a lot, Iíve still got a lot more to learn. To make things very clear: Saeco has only got one captain and itís Gilberto Simoni."

Do you think Simoni is destined to win his third maglia rosa?

"I think heís the big favourite but that doesnít mean heís got it wrapped up. There are some serious rivals and weíll have to fight hard to beat them."

What Giro do you expect for yourself?

"One where Iíll learn a lot, where I be a big can help to Simoni and if possible have some room for myself."

Martinelli says that, "Cunego will try and win a major stage race in 2006." You seem capable of improving rapidly.

"I always try to do as well as I can. "MartinoĒ is right when he says we have to take things gradually. If the way IĻve worked so far has allowed me to progress so much, why should I change? Thereís no rush, Iím only 22"
Who do you want to thank?

"A lot of people but especially the Saeco team. Itís a perfect ambience for young rider because you can grow and improve without too much pressure."

How interested are you in the world championships in Verona considering they are close to your home?

"The world championships is a very fascinating event, especially considering Iím from Verona and that I won the junior world title in 1999. However Iím not going to give up on my principles: Iím not going to rush and will take things step by step."

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