By Gregor Brown in Cittadella
Tour de France winner Alberto Contador has tipped Italian Gilberto Simoni to take a third Giro d'Italia overall win on the eve of the first high-mountain stages. The Spaniard sits third overall with a 1'58" advantage over his 36 year-old rival, who stated that new Giro starts on Saturday with the stage to Alpe di Pampeago.
Simoni was impressed with the sentiment, but knows he will need more then kind words to battle through the mountain stages, including tomorrow's 195-kilometre run through the Dolomites. "Thanks to him, the thought is nice. This is not enough," the Diquigiovanni rider stated at the start of stage 13 in Modena. "I believe that he is here to win the Giro, also [Andreas] Klöden. The whole group is still there, and I believe that tomorrow starts another Giro."
Simoni is now 11th in the classification, at 8'57". His old team-mate, Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott), passed by as he was talking. "And we can't forget Riccò, he is going strong, and also [Leonardo] Piepoli," Simoni said.
His Diquigiovanni team were able to celebrate two days prior thanks to the win of Alessandro Bertolini on the demanding run to Cesena. "I am happy for the win of Bertolini, the team needed it and it gave us some sense of tranquility," he said.
'Il Trentino' will be racing near his home on Saturday, on a finish that saw him victorious in the 2003 Giro d'Italia. "Yes, but I think that the Giro is my home for the most part. Italy is my home."