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Simoni eager for the mountains

Gilberto Simoni (Saunier-Duval) is feeling excited about his prospects when the roads start to climb in the Pyrenees today, "I feel very good! After ten days of flat stages, we will finally arrive in the mountains and this will allow everybody to understand the 2006 Tour de France. Tomorrow will be a 'warm up' [when things start to get sorted out]," he said. Simoni will be backed in the mountains by José Angel Gomez Marchante, David Cañada and Riccardo Ricco.

Simoni finished third in May's Giro d'Italia, almost 12 minutes behind winner Ivan Basso but both Basso and Jose Enrique Gutierrez (second in the Giro) have been sidelined by their teams after being linked to the Operacion Puerto doping affair.

Today's first mountain stage between Cambo-les-Bains and Pau has two major climbs, the hors category Col de Soudet and the first category Col de Marie-Blanque. The 15-kilometre Soudet climbs at an average of 7.3 percent.

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