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Tuesday's rest day at the Giro has brought a much-needed respite from racing for most of the riders left in this season's first major tour, but there is still plenty to talk about, largely thanks to former winner Gilberto Simoni and a growing spat between Alessandro Petacchi and Mario Cipollini.
Simoni says in this morning's Gazzetta dello Sport that he has "three days to decide everything. I am going to win the Giro." Now just 1-48 down on race leader Paolo Savoldelli, who has said that he doesn't think that he's the favourite for the overall title next Sunday in Milan, Simoni says that "the moment for serious action has come."
The race is set to be decided in three key days: the first the Limone Piemonte mountain stage on Thursday, which finishes with a 25km climb to a summit finish; the second Friday's 34km time trial which includes the climb of the Superga pass; and the final one Saturday's epic run to Sestriere that includes the much talked about climb of the Finestre. And Simoni is confident about his chances of doing well in all three.
"The Limone Piemonte stage will be a rich antipasto for what is to come," Simoni tells Gazzetta. "After that is the Superga time trial, and anyone who thinks that I will have difficulties that day is going to be very much mistaken. The fact that that time trial is very hard suits me very well. Then on Saturday the Finestre will be my launching pad. [Lampre team manager] Beppe Martinelli has told me that he has already won a Giro at Sestriere with Garzelli. We are hoping that's a good omen."
Asked if he fears any rider in particular, Simoni responds: "Who? Me? No one, it's the others who should be worrying about us. Of course it's true that I would have preferred to be in the lead, but it's not a problem. I am going to win the Giro."
While Simoni focuses on the pink jersey, Petacchi is now aiming at retaining the points title he won last year. It is currently held by Paolo Bettini, but the Fassa Bortolo sprinter reckons he has a couple more sprint stages to overhaul his Quick Step rival.
Winner of his third stage yesterday, Petacchi still can't put an end to persistent sniping about his sprint lead-out train from all-time Giro stage win record-holder Cipollini. The recently retired sprint star says in today's Gazzetta that "Petacchi won well, but he is now without any rivals at his level".
Cipo, though, is still not convinced by the Fassa train. "Tosatto did two stints on the front of it. Then Zanini managed to get up alongside them without any help from anyone else and with Bettini on his wheel. Petacchi is winning because he is clearly the strongest, but his men aren't carrying him into the last kilometre as they should be." Cipollini has also criticised the use of Marco Velo as Petacchi's final lead-out rider.
Velo responded to the criticism by telling Gazzetta: "I reckon Cipollini will have another go at us today. He always seems to find something to say about us, but perhaps it's because he would have liked to have had a train like ours." Team-mate Alberto Ongarato's response to Cipollini's comments was reported to be unprintable.
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