Filippo Simeoni will close a bittersweet year in the prized Italian Champion jersey today at the Giro dell'Appennino. There is little chance he will repeat his 2008 surprise national title win this Sunday in Imola, Italy.
"It was a great feeling to be able to race in the tricolore jersey. It was a dream I had since I was a little boy. It gave me a lot of popularity with all the fans," Simeoni told Cyclingnews.
Simeoni attacked with four kilometres remaining at the 2008 championships in Bergamo and held his advantage to the finish. His move caught the favourites off guard, but the win was unwelcomed by some.
This April, Giro d'Italia organisers refused to include Simeoni's team Ceramica Flaminia in the final selection. The decision by head director Angelo Zomegnan rehashed the Armstrong incident and prompted critics to question the Italian champion's absence.
"You could never find a simple reason from Zomegnan as to why the Italian champion or my team was left out of the Giro, there are no excuses for this behaviour. It remains the bitterest moment of the year."
The decision prompted Simeoni to return his championship jersey to the Italian federation. It was the first time it had been returned in its 100-year history.
"It was a strong gesture that was full of the rage that I had towards Zomegnan and the Giro organisers. When I was racing outside of Italy people would tell me it was wrong, but many would tell me that they appreciated the important and strong message I made and that Zomegnan made a mistake."
Simeoni changed his mind and kept racing in the champion jersey so he would not be labelled "disrespectful". He competed in the Route du Sud in France last week and will wear the jersey for the last time today in Italy's Giro dell'Appennino.
He will line up Sunday at the 2009 Italian Championships in his team jersey. The riders will race 260.4 kilometres, which includes 12 7.5-kilometre closing circuits.
"I think that Cunego had a good chance, 90%. I think he is out to get a great win and take the tricolore jersey."