Simoni ready for this Tour

Saeco manager Giuseppe Martinelli believes he can help Gilberto Simoni confound his critics at the T

Saeco manager Giuseppe Martinelli believes he can help Gilberto Simoni confound his critics at the T
Saeco boss Giuseppe Martinelli told procycling on Tuesday morning that he was "quietly confident" about Gilberto Simoni's chances of finally proving his worth at the Tour de France. Martinelli, a yellow jersey winner with Marco Pantani in 1998, claimed that Simoni had "learnt the lesson" of last year's disappointing campaign, when the Italian could finish no higher than 81st despite a stage win in the Pyrenees. "Last year Gibo relaxed too much after winning the Giro. He thought that he could build up his form over the first 10 days of the Tour," Martinelli explained. "He learnt that you simply couldn't do that at the Tour: it's too intense. In June, he spent two weeks before the Tour training well at altitude, in St Moritz in Switzerland. I believe that he could perform better than at the Giro." On Tuesday, the 2003 Giro winner was one of the first climbers to regain touch after the Carrefour de l'Arbre pav. He finished the stage in 29th position, in the same time as both Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich. In the same conversation on Tuesday, Martinelli may have unwittingly offered a glimpse of the tension which festered between Simoni and Saeco prodigy Damiano Cunego at the recent Giro D'Italia. Speculation continues to mount that the pair's rocky relationship could see Simoni leave Saeco, perhaps in favour of Lampre, at the end of the season. According to Martinelli, Cunego has coped well with a month which has seen him passed like a parcel from one public engagement to the next, solicited to appear at everything from Italian Serie A soccer matches to the Milan fashion show. "After a month it was starting to get a bit silly; now Damiano is concentrating on his cycling again," Martinelli said. "He's watching the Tour on TV, really enjoying it... The plan was for him to make his Tour dbut in 2006, but it could be sooner." Nothing untoward about that. The lapsus came when procycling asked whether, as had been mooted at the Giro, Saeco might summon Cunego to the Tour "just as a tourist. and to be introduced to the world's press," as a spokesman told procycling in May. Martinelli response: "We're not sure yet. We'll have to see how the race turns out. we don't want Damiano to take all of attention away from Gilberto."
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