Giro: What protagonists thought

There is no such thing as an easy grand tour, but everyone seems to agree that the 2006 Giro is toug

There is no such thing as an easy grand tour, but everyone seems to agree that the 2006 Giro is toug

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Defending champion Paolo Savoldelli, who rode extremely well in the mountains this year but cemented his victory with very good time trialling, felt the 2006 Giro d'Italia route did not suit his qualities as a rider. "It's a very complicated Giro, very different to other editions. It is very mountainous and those mountains are concentrated in the final week. It's a course where the climbers will shine, especially on the final stages," said the Discovery Channel rider.

His predecessor as victor, Damiano Cunego, won't be disappointed by the lack of time trialling and his immediate reaction to the route was "I like it". The Lampre team leader, now of course without the complication of having rival Gilberto Simoni on the roster, added: "It's a course where the climbers will have to set the rhythm to follow. There are a lot of mountains and the final stages are explosive. I don't think the time trial on the final day will decide much. It will be the Dolomites that will decide who gets put in what place."

ProTour winner Danilo Di Luca, fourth in this year's Giro, said he liked the route as well. "I am motivated after the achievements I have had this season. I need a victory in a major stage race and this could be in the Giro. I'm an all-rounder and my best moment of form comes in the last week of big races. I consider myself a candidate for the final podium."

Di Luca did, though, criticise the final day's split stage. "I have experienced something similar at the Tour of the Basque Country (which he won this year), but it is a difficult thing to carry off in a week-long stage race. Imagine then what it will be like in a major tour after 20 days of very hard riding."

Winner in 2001 and 2003, Gilberto Simoni was selected by many, including Italian national coach Franco Ballerini, as the favourite for next year's race. Now with the Spanish Saunier Duval team, Simoni commented: "The Giro is my objective every year. I've ridden many of them and won twice. The next one is a new adventure for me but from what I have seen the 2006 edition is pretty hard. There are a lot of mountains and the early stages are complicated. For me, the key day will be the finish on the Alto de Bondone on stage 16."

Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi has got used to winning a clutch of Giro stages most years, but there look to be as few as seven that are within his reach in 2006. He pessimistically described the route as being "too hard, with only five stages for the sprinters. I am going to go back on look at the route of the Tour de France again because I am thinking about a chance to my programme, which would be doing the Vuelta instead of the Giro."

He said that the split stage on the final day "is good from the point of view of spectacle, but the mountain time trial seems to me to be overly excessive. My preparation is going to be focused on the Tour de France. I can't see myself at the moment being at the start of my country's most important race.

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