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Gilberto Simoni: A career in images

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Gilberto Simoni was back at the 2003 Giro with a vengeance, taking the race lead on stage 10.

Gilberto Simoni was back at the 2003 Giro with a vengeance, taking the race lead on stage 10.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni with his first Giro d'Italia winner's trophy in 2001.

Simoni with his first Giro d'Italia winner's trophy in 2001.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Gilberto Simoni was dominant in the final week of the 2001 Giro d'Italia.

Gilberto Simoni was dominant in the final week of the 2001 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni almost took the 2005 Giro on the penultimate stage.

Simoni almost took the 2005 Giro on the penultimate stage.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Simoni rips it up ahead of Garzelli in the 2003 Giro.

Simoni rips it up ahead of Garzelli in the 2003 Giro.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Autograph time for 'Gibo'

Autograph time for 'Gibo'
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni with wife Arianna and daughter Sofia during the 2003 Giro.

Simoni with wife Arianna and daughter Sofia during the 2003 Giro.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni fulfills the Italian need for speed...

Simoni fulfills the Italian need for speed...
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni is congratulated by then-UCI President Hein Verbruggen after taking third in the 1999 Giro.

Simoni is congratulated by then-UCI President Hein Verbruggen after taking third in the 1999 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni puts Francesco Casagrande in difficulty during the 2003 Giro.

Simoni puts Francesco Casagrande in difficulty during the 2003 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Casagrande and Stefano Garzelli struggle to hold onto Simoni up Monte Zoncolan.

Casagrande and Stefano Garzelli struggle to hold onto Simoni up Monte Zoncolan.
(Image credit: AFP)
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How sweet it is... Gilberto Simoni celebrates victory atop the Zoncolan.

How sweet it is... Gilberto Simoni celebrates victory atop the Zoncolan.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni leads teammate Cunego during the 2004 Giro.

Simoni leads teammate Cunego during the 2004 Giro.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cunego (l) stole Simoni's thunder by winning the 2004 Giro.

Cunego (l) stole Simoni's thunder by winning the 2004 Giro.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Saeco crew (l-r): Danilo Di Luca, Igor Astarloa, Simoni and Mirko Celestino.

The Saeco crew (l-r): Danilo Di Luca, Igor Astarloa, Simoni and Mirko Celestino.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Simoni, Davide Cassani (c) and Alessandro Ballan (r) uip the ante with some extra speed.

Simoni, Davide Cassani (c) and Alessandro Ballan (r) uip the ante with some extra speed.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni (r) and Stefano Garzelli at the Giro presentation.

Simoni (r) and Stefano Garzelli at the Giro presentation.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Four years after his first win up Zoncolan, Simoni takes the stage there in 2007.

Four years after his first win up Zoncolan, Simoni takes the stage there in 2007.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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These two men won four Giro editions in five years: Paolo Savoldelli (l) and Gilberto Simoni.

These two men won four Giro editions in five years: Paolo Savoldelli (l) and Gilberto Simoni.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni switched to Saunier Duval in 2006.

Simoni switched to Saunier Duval in 2006.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni (l) and Damiano Cunego during the 2005 Giro d'Italia.

Simoni (l) and Damiano Cunego during the 2005 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni and Cunego found themselves again riding together at Lampre-Caffita in 2005.

Simoni and Cunego found themselves again riding together at Lampre-Caffita in 2005.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni runs Marco Pantani (behind) ragged during the 2003 Giro.

Simoni runs Marco Pantani (behind) ragged during the 2003 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni rides alone on the road to Faenza, where he took the 2003 Giro lead.

Simoni rides alone on the road to Faenza, where he took the 2003 Giro lead.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Gibo kisses his first maglia rosa of the 2003 Giro.

Gibo kisses his first maglia rosa of the 2003 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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A perfect fit: Simoni and the maglia rosa.

A perfect fit: Simoni and the maglia rosa.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Gilberto Simoni makes Dario Frigo suffer in the 2001 Giro.

Gilberto Simoni makes Dario Frigo suffer in the 2001 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni checks on Frigo's progress during stage 20 of the 2001 Giro.

Simoni checks on Frigo's progress during stage 20 of the 2001 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Vai, vai, Gibo!

Vai, vai, Gibo!
(Image credit: AFP)
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Stage 13 to Passo Pordoi wasn't unlucky for Simoni, who took the race lead that day.

Stage 13 to Passo Pordoi wasn't unlucky for Simoni, who took the race lead that day.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni leads Julio Perez Cuapio en route to taking the maglia rosa on the Passo Pordoi in 2001.

Simoni leads Julio Perez Cuapio en route to taking the maglia rosa on the Passo Pordoi in 2001.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni takes his first Giro stage at the 2000 edition in Bormio.

Simoni takes his first Giro stage at the 2000 edition in Bormio.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Saeco boss Claudio Corti explains why he withdrew Simoni from the 2002 Giro when it looked likely he would win that edition.

Saeco boss Claudio Corti explains why he withdrew Simoni from the 2002 Giro when it looked likely he would win that edition.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni with Mario Cipollini (l), Marco Pantani and Francesco Casagrande during a riders' protest at the 2003 Giro.

Simoni with Mario Cipollini (l), Marco Pantani and Francesco Casagrande during a riders' protest at the 2003 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni remains focused on the road during the 2001 Giro.

Simoni remains focused on the road during the 2001 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni styles it up in the race lead at the 2001 Giro.

Simoni styles it up in the race lead at the 2001 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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And he recruited his teammates to visit the same hairdresser...

And he recruited his teammates to visit the same hairdresser...
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni rides to Arona alone during the 2001 Giro.

Simoni rides to Arona alone during the 2001 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Molto Bellissimo!

Molto Bellissimo!
(Image credit: AFP)
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Gibo was the Giro's new poster boy in 2001 and everyone wanted a slice.

Gibo was the Giro's new poster boy in 2001 and everyone wanted a slice.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Simoni leads Yaroslav Popovych during the 2003 Giro.

Simoni leads Yaroslav Popovych during the 2003 Giro.
(Image credit: AFP)

He's seen champions come and go, competed against legends then been confronted with their passing and all the while Gilberto Simoni has remained a much-loved but polarising figure within Italian cycling.

In a profesional career that began with Jolly Componibili-Cage in 1994, 'Gibo' has ridden against controversial figures such as Marco Pantani, Sergei Honchar and Dario Frigo and made the headlines himself for the right and wrong reasons.

Having been on the radar of most Italian cycling fans since finishing third in both the 1999 and 2000 editions of the Giro d'Italia, Simoni confirmed his status as a Grand Tour star when he won the race in 2001 ahead of Abraham Olano and Unai Osa, taking the lead on top of Passo Pordoi and holding it until the finish in Milan.

He looked set to double his tally of Giro victories in 2002 when he went into that year's edition as a favourite, having switched to Claudio Corti's Saeco outfit (below). A non-negative test for cocaine from a sample taken at the Giro del Trentino forced Saeco's hand, the team withdrawing him from the race and he was forced to watch from the sidelines as countryman Paolo Savoldelli took the first of his two Giro titles.

Simoni had been third overall and taken the 11th stage atop Campitello Matese when his team withdrew him; manager Claudio Corti chose not to wait for the result of the rider's B sample before taking that course of action. It also came just days after Mapei rider Stefano Garzelli had been booted from the race for the banned diuretic Probenecid.

The 'King of Zoncolan', Simoni has won atop the feared peak twice - in 2003 and '07 - his '03 triumph there providing some of the most enduring images of his time as a professional (below). He returned to the Giro that year having been disgraced during the race the previous season and took the race by storm with a brilliant performance on the stage from Montecatini to Faenza that saw him ascend to the overall lead.

He didn't relinquish the race lead after Faenza, sealing his second Giro victory by a resounding seven-minute margin by Milan.

The following year Simoni was at the centre of an infamous polemic within the Saeco team when the then-22-year-old Damiano Cunego won his first (and thus far only) Giro d'Italia title; the defending champion finished third but it was his willingness to undermine Cunego's effort that is still spoken of amongst cycling fans in relation to that year's edition of the race (below).

The pair found themselves riding together again in the 2005 Giro - albeit for Lampre-Caffita - with both missing out to Discovery Channel's Paolo Savoldelli, the Italian taking his second crown by a 28-second margin over Simoni, who charged hard in high mountains of the final week. The penultimate stage to Sestriere will be remembered for the intense general classification battle waged between the two front runners on the slopes of the Colle delle Finestre (below).

A switch to Saunier Duval in 2006 saw Simoni change focus at that year's Giro d'Italia; in the face of an onslaught from CSC's Ivan Basso, which Simoni labelled 'Extraterrestrial', the Trento native tried for stage wins rather than the overall title, managing third in the process. His battle with eventual champion Basso on the slopes of the Mortirolo endeared him to the tifosi, something he built upon in 2007.

With the '07 Giro again heading up the Zoncolan, the king of those slopes entered the building on May 30, turning back the clock and winning atop the feared climb with teammate and fellow veteran Leonardo Piepoli in tow (below). Watching the footage from that day reminds you of Simoni's undisputable rhythm on the tough climbs and his superior power-to-weight ratio.

The past two years have been lean seasons for Simoni, with a 10th overall at the 2008 Giro d'Italia the highlight as the Italian veteran has switched teams a number of times and toyed with retirement. Now riding what he has declared is his last Giro, Cyclingnews presents some of the best images from a career with plenty of highlights and a few lowlights, too.

Grazie mille, Gibo!