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Italian veteran Gilberto Simoni has been a fan of mountain biking for some time.
Ex-Giro winner eyes move to controversial US outfit
Gilberto Simoni’s agent on Wednesday revealed that Rock Racing are “clear leaders” in the race to sign the veteran Italian for his swansong season.
Alex Carera of A&J Sport Management said that he and Simoni could fly to the United States to conclude negotiations with Rock Racing boss Michael Ball as early as next week. However, Carera also stressed that both Rock Racing’s offer and that of Italian squad Lampre-NGC hinged on forthcoming UCI announcements about the teams’ status for 2010. Rock Racing’s application for entry to the Professional Continental division is currently under review by the UCI, as is Lampre’s bid to have their ProTour licence renewed.
“We’ve been in talks with Rock Racing for a couple of months now. Gilberto really likes the idea of riding for an American team, and the project they’re putting together,” Carera said. “If he was to sign with them, it wouldn’t just be about him racing, but also getting involved with their bike brand, and bringing three Italian riders and an Italian directeur sportif to the team. One of the riders would be his old Diquigiovanni team-mate Denis Bertolini.
“The Lampre idea is different, in that he has a very good relationship with the Galbusera family, the Lampre owners,” Carera, whose clients also include Lampre star Damiano Cunego, continued. “Should they get their ProTour licence, it would also be a different type of race programme. In both cases, Rock Racing and Lampre, the offers are on the table and we could very quickly come to an agreement, depending on what the UCI announces. We’ve also had offers from the Meridiana-Kamen Continental division team and a Bulgarian Continental division team.”
Now 38, two-time Giro d’Italia champion Simoni hinted earlier in the winter that, should he ride, the 2010 Corsa Rosa would be his final race in a career about to enter its sixteenth season. While Lampre are almost certain to line up in the Giro, Rock Racing’s chances of a starting berth are considerably slimmer, whatever the UCI’s licence committee decides.
However, Carera suggested that Simoni may now be eyeing a retirement date well beyond May 30, when the Giro will finish in Verona for the first time since Simoni’s idol Francesco Moser sealed victory there in 1984.
“Gilberto’s been training a lot on the new Montichiari track, near Brescia,” Carera revealed. “The way he’s been training there, I’d say he was getting ready to ride a full season. But it’s always hard to say with Gilberto. Whatever happens, 2010 will be his final season.”
Carera said that the UCI’s decisions on Lampre and Rock Racing – and Simoni’s next employer – would “hopefully be determined by early next week”.