Gilberto Simoni's bid for a third Giro d'Italia title suffered an early set-back as the Italian withPIC BY TIM DE WAELE
THOUSAND OAKS - Gilberto Simoni pulled out of the Tour of California on Saturday morning, declaring the race "too hard" for him in his present condition and "like a world championship for the Americans". Simoni made the comments to procycling in Santa Barbara ahead of the race's penultimate stage to Thousand Oaks, home town of race sponsors Amgen.
The Saunier Duval rider had ridden solidly in the opening stages of the race, finishing in a lead group of just twelve riders in San Jose on Tuesday after the difficult ascent of the Sierra Road. Yesterday, however, Simoni was never in the mix on the more benign San Marcos and came in a lowly 93rd, almost eleven minutes behind stage winner George Hincapie.
"I'm not recovering, not sleeping," Simoni told procycling this morning. "A race like this is too hard for me at this stage of the season; I've only done 4000km in training so far. It's like an American world championship. The Americans are absolutely flying. "I went too hard [on the Sierra Road] the other day. I shouldn't have forced it. I'm not ready for that yet."
Simoni, who is targeting a third Giro d'Italia title in May, said that he would try to recuperate with gentle training over the weekend before visiting the Allied Aerospace Wind Tunnel in San Diego on Monday and Tuesday. There, the Italian will be testing time trial equipment with team-mates Jos Angel Gomez Marchante, David Millar and Koldo Gil.
Millar, banned for EPO-use until June 23rd, is due to arrive in Los Angeles this evening. Simoni said that he has still to decide where he will make his next competitive outing.