87th Giro díItalia† Interview to the Saeco Team Manager Claudio
After a very successful 2003 season do you think Team Saeco can do just as well
"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
Some people think the Giro could be a Saeco in-house battle between Simoni
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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."