"Up to that moment I had respect for Basso," recalled Gilberto Simoni of the 2006 Giro d'Italia stage to Aprica. The two-time Giro winner was interviewed by Luigi Perna of La Gazzetta dello Sport regarding the latest Ivan Basso news and the lead up to the Giro.
On that day, May 27, Simoni alleged that Basso asked for money to allow him to win the stage. "I discovered that it was not his first error in trust. Now, when I talk of Basso I am always a little bit of a bastard. ... I don't need [the friendship of] Basso to live. Last year a little bit of pity on the others because he was able to win the Giro by 20 minutes. This year it will not be the case that one person that can win every stage; we will have a little more fun."
Gilberto Simoni contrasted the work ethic of Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) to those of Basso. "For me Basso only loves the money that comes from this sport," Il Trentino continued. "In this case you don't search for victory but the security of a victory. Like a deposit in a bank.
"Rebellin has given his life, because he is strong. I know how he works in the winter. He does not have the need to travel to Spain," he continued, referring to Basso's alleged visits to Eufemiano Fuentes' offices in Madrid.
The 35 year-old rider from Trento is currently in Liège and preparing for Sunday's Classic, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He is working closely with protégé Riccardo Riccò, and the two are building form for the Giro d'Italia. "To win a third Giro is my motivation. ... We have a squad that makes the rivals scared."
"We share a room," he said, referring to Riccò. "We have relationship like friends, similar to the one I had with Leonardo Bertagnolli. He does not speak of racing, but everything else. On the other hand, Cunego had his own agenda."
Simoni and Damiano Cunego were teammates in 2004 when the latter went on to win the Giro in the mist of an inter-team rivalry. "What happened on the stage to Bormio in 2000, I will never be able to stomach. From the team car they said 'Simoni wins' but, instead, Cunego shot off. Now he is trying to understand how to win the Giro again and he will be dependent on the depth of his teammates.
"Riccardo is different. He was not built, he was born on the road. Cunego is the product of [Giuseppe] Martinelli," Simoni continued, referring to Lampre-Fondital Directeur Sportif's guidance of Cunego. "Riccò is a natural and is not afraid of the others. He says what he wants, if he is able to handle the consequences."
Simoni and Riccò will face stiff competition in this Sunday's Liège. After the Ardennes Classic they will travel back to Italy to preview more of the Giro's stages; the race begins May 12 from Sardegna.