Simoni rides home as King of Monte Zoncolan

Simoni wins Zoncolan

Simoni wins Zoncolan (Image credit: Sirotti)

Gilberto Simoni will be returning home as King of Monte Zoncolan when the Giro d'Italia's stage 19 arrives in Terme di Comano, just 20 kilometres west of his home in Palù di Giovo. The Saunier Duval rider is riding high after conquering the Monte Zoncolan and just might use this enthusiasm to attack race leader Di Luca on home roads.

The stage finale presents the 15.6-kilometre Passo Ballino at 13.8 kilometres to go; its maximum gradients of 10% do not come close to the 22% pitches of Zoncolan but they may provide a launch pad. "We will try something," noted 35 year-old Gibo to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday. "Even with the climbs that are there and even if Di Luca seems likely not to give up. There is still life and there is hope."

Simoni's persistence may be aided by fresh-faced Andy Schleck (Team CSC). The 21 year-old Luxemburger would love to move himself closer to Di Luca to have a real chance of catching him in the 43-kilometre time trial to Verona on Saturday. The duo may be inspired by the northern shores of Lago di Garda and put the Liquigas team on edge.

"I am tired," Simoni continued. The climb up the western slopes of Zoncolan may have zapped the warrior we saw with the knife blade in his teeth on the run to Bergamo, who was out for blood and the pink jersey of Di Luca. "Even for a climber the Zoncolan is a hard climb." Gibo seems to be content his former Saeco teammate now has the race lead. "I don't see how Di Luca can lose this Giro. Cheers to him for winning it."

Praise Gibo gave to Di Luca reinforces the two-time Giro winner's humanity. "It was a touching telephone call," revealed Directeur Sportif Pietro Algeri of Simoni's conversation with his mom after Wednesday's stage win. "Also in 2001, coming down the [Passo] Pordoi, he called her. Gibo is direct and strong but he is also profound."

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