Italy beckoning Armstrong to Giro d'Italia

A meeting in Italy with the presiding magistrate of the 'Simeoni affair' appears to have opened the

A meeting in Italy with the presiding magistrate of the 'Simeoni affair' appears to have opened the
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Lance Armstrong was in Lucca, Italy, on Wednesday to meet with Giuseppe Quattrocchi, the presiding magistrate in the investigation opened after the 2004 Tour de France during which allegations were made against the American following an exchange with Italian pro Filippo Simeoni. Those allegations against Armstrong of 'sporting fraud', 'private violence' and 'intimidating a witness' relate to the exchange between the two riders on stage 19 of last year's Tour, which was allegedly linked to Simeoni's role as a witness testifying against Armstrong's former coaching adviser Michele Ferrari. In October last year, Ferrari received a suspended prison sentence of 11 months and 21 days after being convicted for 'malpractice in distributing medicines' and 'sporting fraud'. "I requested the meeting. The Italian magistrate seemed like a good guy," Armstrong told Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport of his meeting with Quattrocchi. "He was very civil, and he appreciated my willingness to talk. I told him everything," Armstrong said. "I told him the truth. I explained in detail everything that really happened that day. I told the complete truth." Earlier this month, International Cycling President Hein Verbruggen told the same newspaper that were it not for the spat with Simeoni, Armstrong would have lined up at this year's Giro, which starts in May. "Without the Simeoni case, his participation in the 2005 Giro d'Italia would have been 100 per cent certain - he promised me," Verbruggen said. "But just you wait and see: he will come to the Giro," Verbruggen cryptically concluded, without specifying whether he meant the 2005 Giro or a later edition. But with speculation rife that Armstrong may announce the future date of his retirement at a press conference the day prior to the Tour de Georgia on April 18, could the American be thinking of battling against the likes of Ivan Basso, Gilberto Simoni and Damiano Cunego for the pink jersey this May? Certainly, by choosing to go to Italy to meet with Quattrocchi, Armstrong would not have to worry about investigators questioning him as soon as he stepped onto Italian soil, as might have been the case before. "It will be a bonus if he comes - a big motivation for me," defending Giro champion Cunego told procycling. "It would also be the last chance for me to ride alongside him and see him in action before the Tour de France." Of Armstrong's comments to La Gazzetta that he would ride "four more months and then I'll shut up shop", Cunego said: "If I was him, I'd go out at the top. It would be a good time for him to finish in four months' time." Cunego's Lampre-Caffita team-mate Gilberto Simoni, winner of the Giro in 2001 and 2003, was not so sure that Armstrong would be in Italy in May. "I don't believe it. He's too far behind in his preparation," Simoni told procycling. "In theory, there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to win it as the course is not too hard, but he is a long way behind in terms of preparation." Basso, who was third to Armstrong overall at last year's Tour de France, also had his own ideas about whether the American might be in Reggio Calabria in southern Italy on May 7. "Simoni's an expert when it comes to talking on behalf of other people," Basso told procycling. "I personally don't think he's too far behind if he wanted to do it. And if he did, it would be to win. "From my point of view, it would add lustre to the event if Armstrong rode," Basso continued, "but by the same token, it would make life very difficult for the rest of us."
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