Following rumours in the Italian press this weekend that Gilberto Simoni would not be renewing his contract with Saunier Duval at the end of the year, BikeRadar can reveal that the veteran climber has in fact signed a one-year deal with Gianni Savio’s Diquigiovanni team.
Although on Wednesday Savio wouldn’t confirm Simoni’s arrival, we understand that two-time Giro winner Simoni has put pen to paper on an agreement which will allow him to combine his road racing and mountain bike ambitions in a swansong season. According to our sources, Simoni will concentrate on the road until the end of the 2008 Giro d’Italia – Diquigiovanni’s wild card invitation permitting. He will then switch his attention to off-road riding between June and September, still sporting the Diquigiovanni colours.
Simoni hopes to collect enough points in mountain bike World Cup events to qualify for the Italian team for the Peking Olympics next August.
The move, worth around half a million euros, will come as a surprise to those who remember Simoni’s spat with Savio at the end of the 2005 Giro d’Italia. Simoni missed out on victory in that race by 28 seconds, and claimed he would have won the Giro had Jose Rujano helped him to overhaul leader Paolo Savoldelli on the penultimate stage to Sestriere. Instead Rujano rode away from Simoni to take a solo stage win.
Savio said recently that the dispute was “water under the bridge”. The Italian will confirm that on September 1st – the date from which teams are allowed to officially announce new signings for the following season, and the date on which Savio will unveil Simoni.