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Simoni starts season in Argentina

By Gregor Brown

Gilberto Simoni will be the first of the likely Giro d'Italia contenders to start his 2007 season when he takes to the start line of the Vuelta a San Luis, in Argentina. At 20.00 local time he will start the six-day, 606-kilometre race with a 3.7 kilometre prologue.

It may seem that the rider from Veneto only just ended his season, which is true. Gibo was competing in mountain biking and track events up through November. He was encouraged by Saunier Duval-Prodir's bike supplier, Scott USA, to ride off-road and also the desire to make the most of every minute in the twilight of his professional career.

It worked and he won the Italian Marathon Mountain Bike Champion in Costa di Folgaria (Trento). "I am only doing this for fun," said Simoni after the win to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The two-time winner of the Giro d'Italia is looking to take the most out of 2007 by starting off with the South American event, which runs though Sunday.

The Vuelta, also open to amateurs, is UCI a classified 2.2 event and should be considered a climbers' event, with a 11 kilometre time trial on stage three to Mirador (Potrero de los Funes), at 1248 metres. Simoni won't be alone in Argentina; he will be accompanied by compatriots Riccardo Riccò, Guido Trentin and Manuele Mori. The three will join Spaniards Rubén Lobato and José Angel Gomez Marchante to back up the 35 year-old as he builds his training base in view of the 2007 Corsa Rosa.

The Sierras Grande may be a long way from the Alps and Dolomites which will dominate the Giro but, although he won't be giving everything for stage wins and the overall, the climbing will provide plenty of kilometres at altitude, just what is needed for the Italian captain of the Spanish-Swiss team.

The Saunier Duval-Prodir team will be Rubén Lobato, Manuele Mori, Riccardo Riccò, Gilberto Simoni, Guido Trentin and José Angel Gomez Marchante.

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