Simoni wants boost from TDU

Having seen Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady enjoy great seasons after success at the Tour Down Unde

Having seen Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady enjoy great seasons after success at the Tour Down Unde
PICTURE BY TDWSPORT.COM There's nothing like a humiliating defeat on a race you expected to win to inspire thoughts of revenge. At least, that's what appears to be Gilberto Simoni's motivation ahead of his first ride on this year's Tour Down Under, writes Justin Davis. Simoni, who normally starts his season in late February, has claimed that the form of Aussie sprinters Stuart O'Grady and Robbie McEwen in mid-season had prompted him to reconsider his preparations for the rest of the year's races. "I've noticed in the past that when McEwen and O'Grady compete here they tend to have successful seasons, do well at the Tour de France and even right up to the world championships. "So I thought I would come here to try and begin my season earlier. I also wanted to experience the race," said Simoni, who on the six-stage race should have no problems negotiating the smaller climbs on the hills surrounding the southern city of Adelaide. The impression given by the Italian is that he is determined to avoid becoming Lampre-Caffita's second string contender for the pink jersey come June when he will be bidding for a third Giro title. In normal circumstances, Simoni would normally begin his season in late February. But the events of last year, when he was spectacularly upstaged and ultimately humiliated by young team-mate Damiano Cunego, have given the 33-year-old climber food for thought. Cunego's eventual victory on the Giro has propelled him to the top of the tree in the three-week stage races. Along with Australia's Michael Rogers and Cadel Evans, fellow Italian Ivan Basso and Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych, Cunego is now part of an exciting bunch of young guns who are hoping to inherit the Tour de France crown that will be left vacant by six-time winner Lance Armstrong if he does decide to call it a day. The situation at Lampre-Caffita, with both Simoni and Cunego vying to be team leader, has created an atmosphere of uncertainty. Cunego has already stated to the Italian press that it needs to be clarified, and it has also had direct implications with other riders at the former Saeco team - Leonardo Bertagnolli, a friend of both riders who felt stuck in a rut, has upped and left to join Cofidis, who have promised him a leading role in the Giro. Simoni, meanwhile, has admitted to a lack of form, and complaints of a sore leg mean that he is not expected to be challenging for honours at the TDU. Could it be he is on a PR exercise in a bid to raise his profile ahead of what could be a crucial season in his career? The Italian made no reference to last year's debacle on home soil, but it was clear he is hoping to get a head start in what will be largely more kinder climes. "It's true the conditions are a lot different. It's almost zero degrees at home right now. But I hope to do the best I can here. It's part of a different approach for me leading up to the Giro," added Simoni. Stuart O'Grady, meanwhile, has stated his victory intentions. For the 31-year-old Adelaider failure to deliver after missing out on the national title to Davitamon-Lotto sprinter Robbie McEwen a few days ago would not go down well. "I'm here to try and win the Tour Down Under. Full stop. If I said I wasn't here to win I'd be lying. And I'd probably get shot," said O'Grady, who won here in 1999 and 2001.
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