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87th Giro d'Italia Stage 3 Interviews - Updated (Twice)
By Fabio
Date: 5/11/2004
87th Giro d'Italia Stage 3 Interviews - Updated (Twice)

Before the Giro start, more than one pundit picked Stefano Garzelli as red hot favourite for the overall win, while Simoni was deemed not as in-form as in the past years. They should be disappointed after the Vini Caldirola leader couldn't match Saeco's showdown at Corno alle Scale. But Garzelli himself isn't, as he never joined the "Garzelli has it won" club: "A few others may have said that Gilberto was going slow, but I did know that he was in good shape, and.the last 2-3 kms. in the stage suited him, so I am satisfied with the way I reacted today after all. Simoni did what he had to, and proved that he's very strong, but there's a long way to go to Milan" was what the Varesino said after the stage.

Most media in Italy preferred Damiano Cunego as winner, but when on the road Giboman stole the show also to his younger teammate in the stage that finished near the Saeco Company headquarters. When talking about his victory, in front of the RAI TV cameras, stage winner/overall leader Gilberto Simoni said that "Today we gotta pay hommage to a sponsor like Saeco, that strongly wanted this stage here; they even closed the plant so that workers may watch the stage, and we almost found ourselves obliged to win" (laughs). And again "It's also true that maybe our rivals were caught in the pincers between Cunego and me. We had two cards up our sleeves, and we played both. Even though we wanted to attack with 3km. to go, Cunego's move was not planned; (when he broke away) I noticed he made the gap, and didn't know if I should follow him or not at first. But when I saw Popovych coming, I didn't wait any longer and made my move, as I knew that my legs were good. The last three kms. were very long and difficult also for me though".

More questions (some of them admittedly provocative) for Simoni from different journalists: "What can you say about Garzelli's time loss?" "That it doesn't mean much. One rider could be really out of contention only if he had lost more than five minutes today, so it doesn't change things. The real Giro still has to begin". And "what does the Maglia Rosa on your shoulders mean to you? "Just that I have to take further responsibilities. My only strength is a team that, if I'm not careful enough, may even drop me (laughs)". To end with the tricky "Wouldn't have been better to let Damiano (Cunego) take the Jersey in the first days of the race?" Simoni's answer: "He was given the opportunity to go clear: he launched a nice attack, but couldn't gain much. In fact it took a huge effort even for me to make some gains in such a route. But I think time is on Damiano's side, and we'll certainly hear his name many a time in years to come".

Damiano Cunego didn't sound upset at not being given the chance to wear the Maglia Rosa anyway: "Gilberto put forth a great performance today. I'm happy for him, but also for the whole Saeco team. that was hungry to do well in this Giro. Simoni is brilliant, and doing better than expected, and I'm sure he'll be a protagonist in the last week too". And about his own race, late attack included, Damiano said that "I paved the way for Simoni's move, then stayed in the bunch with Pellizzotti and Popovych to keep an eye on them and keep'em fron gaining too much (on Simoni)".

Davide Rebellin was among the main suspects to come first across the line at Corno alle Scale, but once again had to postpone his comeback to the Giro podium: "I wanted to win today, but when I couldn't hold the tempo set by the best ones I had to give up. Nonetheless, a stage victory remains my main objective here; we'll see if I can do something good before the end of the race. I'm not going for the overall, so I hope they may let me go some day, and I may have the chance to take a stage. There's room for many riders in this year's Giro, and even if I'm not as in-form as I was in the Classic, I'm still fine, and can still have something to say". Perhaps Saturday's Stage 7, with the second uphill finish of the race (Montevergine di Mercogliano), coming at the end of a not too difficult ascent whose average gradient is about 5-6%, might be the good one for the "waterboy" to finally put the icing on the cake after his great spring campaign.

Lampre's Juan Manuel Gárate admitted he didn't expect to lose so much time in the stage "I thought I colud lose about half a minute, but eventually lost more than a minute in a stage final that wasn't as tough as I expected, and came at the end of a stage that, mainly due to Mazzoleni's break, was also less hectic than expected. The outcome was decided in the last three km., where the Saecos clearly showed how strong they are".

His teammate, and reigning World Champion, Igor Astarloa spent only a few words to comment on his (anything but unexpected) no-show at Corno alle Scale "Just like Freire, I'm not a climber, so there's no point in wasting energies trying to hold to the tempo set by the best ones".

Saeco's Press Release: Simoni and Cunego -a double at Corno alle Scale. Team Saeco take control of the Giro d'Italia: Team Saeco was all over the Giro d'Italia on stage three to Corno alle Scale. On the hats of the tifosi along the roadside and on the banners along the race route that lead to the first summit finish of the 2004 Giro. It was clearly Saeco's day and with the Saeco company headquarters just a few kilometres away, it was a great result for the Italian company with Gilberto Simoni winning the stage alone and taking the race lead, and with Damiano Cunego second just behind his team leader. Simoni pulled on the pink jersey and then pulled the green climber's jersey on top, while Cunego kept the points competition jersey. The whole team celebrated on the podium, united by their strength and unity.

The Saeco red train rode on the front of the bunch for the whole stage patiently waiting for the fireworks to start. Cunego set off the first rocket three and an half kilometres from the finish and it seemed like he was going to win yet again after yesterday's stage to Pontremoli. In reality it was all part of a carefully planned race. "It was up to me to attack first and then we would have decided our tactics on how the others were riding", Cunego said. While Cunego was up the road, Simoni realised his rivals were suffering and so attacked hard and nobody could go with him. He flew past Cunego and powered towards the finish for his first win of the season. He also showed that he is the big favourite for overall victory. Cunego was just behind him with the other riders but then won the sprint to make it a Saeco one-two.

The red Saeco colours went mad in celebration. Simoni was proud of his ride and was congratulated by Saeco president Sergio Zappella. Simoni hugged Cunego and the rest of his team mates. "I won the stage but the whole team won today after riding a fantastic race. The most satisfying thing is that we've given our sponsor a special moment. They've organised a great stage and it was great to see such a huge crowd", Simoni said.

Simoni now leads the Giro with Cunego second at just 15 seconds. Simoni is cleary in control but is also cautious. "We've won a big battle but the war is very long," he said wisely.

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