Gilberto Simoni believes his loss of the Giro title could be a blessing in disguise as the comes toNot much more than a year ago Gilberto Simoni was talking himself up as the rider who would push Lance Armstrong all the way in the Tour de France. Come the first mountain stage Simoni was dropped like a stone, only to reappear briefly for a stage win in the Pyrenees when already well out of overall contention. Simoni's return to safer pastures at this year's Giro d'Italia was no less traumatic than that Tour appearance as he was convincingly beaten by Danilo Cunego, a young member of Simoni's own Saeco team. Since that defeat, Simoni has hardly competed at all, preferring to train at home in Italy and in Switzerland, but with redemption clearly on his mind. While Italy awaits Cunego's first Tour appearance, which won't be before next year at the earliest, Simoni is aiming to remind fans everywhere of his ability. His goal is another stage win and a high overall finish to go with it. "I'm still convinced I've got the right characteristics to be a contender at the Tour," said Simoni after his arrival at Lige for the Tour's start. "Naturally the experience of last year taught me a lot and I'm trying to use it all this year. I'm going to start the race quietly and prudently. I'm going to wait to see what happens in the team time trial and then day after day I'll try and understand what I can do." Simoni believes that defeat at the Giro could turn out to work in his favour. Deprived of the stress of leading the race, he feels he is coming to this year's Tour fresher and with more energy than last year. "I can't deny it and I think it could be an important factor in the final part of the Tour. In the key moments of the race, when things get really hard, I think I'll have something left to give," he said. "I want to be in the action, fight on equal terms with the best because I'm convinced that I'm up to it. I'd like to get some results just as I did last year when I won the stage in the Pyrenees, but this year I want to do it without losing sight of the overall classification." Unlike some others who feel that Armstrong may not be as strong this year, Simoni's favourite is the Texan, based on some inside knowledge. "I know people who saw him training on the Mortirolo and so I think differently. He knows what he wants."