Simoni: Basso wanted cash

Gilberto Simoni's jibes at Ivan Basso on Saturday night in Aprica were but the prelude to a far more

Gilberto Simoni's jibes at Ivan Basso on Saturday night in Aprica were but the prelude to a far more
It took until the last morning of the race but at last a rival's attack seemed to have ruffled Ivan Basso's pink plumage as the Giro peloton set out for Milan on Sunday morning. Having accused Basso of betraying him to win yesterday's final mountain stage of the Giro to Aprica, Gilberto Simoni was in no mood for a reconciliation this morning. Quite the opposite, the Saunier Duval rider sensationally accused Basso of having demanded money to let him win in Aprica. Simoni's exact words to a reporter from RAI television were:" At five kilometres from the finish, he came alongside me and asked for money to give me the stage win". "I've never asked for charity, I've never asked to win: that's not my style," Simoni added. In a press conference at the CSC team hotel in Albavilla on Sunday morning, Basso had spoken confidently of making peace with Simoni. But now he rode into the melee of microphones and said "It's true that I told him we should do the descent together, but everything else is untrue." Simoni chose this moment to twist the knife: "Shall we say how much it was?" The row continued to flare both before and during what should have been a day of celebration for Basso. Sure enough, Basso accused Simoni of "trying to ruin the most beautiful day of my career." "On an emotional level," Basso told RAI, "I can understand Simoni; maybe i should have let him win, but what he said was over the top and not true. I think that I've proved in this Giro that I was superior to the rest. Perhaps I could have been more generous in yesterday's stage, but I don't deserve to be condemned for what I did." This cut no ice with Simoni. Basso tried in vain to persuade Bjarne Riis to offer Simoni a contract with CSC last autumn, and as recently as Saturday evening described Simoni as a "friend". It remains to be seen if Basso revises his opinion after Simoni said today "Basso was definitely the strongest rider in this Giro, but I have no feelings for him any more."

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