By Andrew Hood
Reigning Giro d’Italia champion Gilberto Simoni kick-started his season– literally – over the weekend, competing in 7.5km cross-country skiingrace near his hometown of Trento, Italy.Simoni and Saeco teammate Leonardo Bertagnolli participated in the racewhich drew more than 5,000 skiers. For the 32-year-old two-time Giro champion,it marked the transition into formal preparations for the upcoming season.“As with tradition, I’ll start my preparation at home then join my teammatesin Terracina,” Simoni told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Some of myteammates will race in Qatar, but I prefer to stay and prepare in Italy.Last year was a beautiful experience and I want to arrive at the Giro thisseason with about 20 days of racing in my legs in order to be fresher forthe Tour.”Simoni will make his season debut at the GP Costa degli Etruschi onFeb. 8.
Evans hopes for smooth 2004
Cadel Evans is hoping this season will be more tranquil than his rocky2003 campaign, which saw the former mountain biker suffer three brokenclavicles.The two-time World Cup mountain bike champion is entering his secondseason with Telekom (now T-Mobile) and told the Melbourne daily TheAge he’s anticipating big things.“The Tour de France is the big event for us this year and it’s fantasticto have Jan (Ullrich) back on the team,” he said. “It’s better to racewith Jan as a leader. He’s a super-talented rider and it’s great to havehim on our team.”Zarrabeita gets send-off
Mikel Zarrabeita, the 33-year-old Spanish rider who recently announcedhis retirement with nagging back pain, got an official send-off from hishometown in Spain’s Basque Country.Zarrabeita was once hailed as a potential successor to Miguel Indurain,finishing second in overall in the 1994 Vuelta a España. His Tourdebut that year was cut short because of pain from two herniated disksin his back. He later missed nearly two years from racing after a car crashleft him with a broke sternum and clavicle.“I returned and I was a good race, but I was no longer a champion,”Zarrabeita told the Spanish daily AS. “I lost strength and depthfor the grand tours. But I didn’t consider myself unfortunate. At leastI could return.”Zarrabeitia was close to joining Liberty Seguros and Saunier Duval,but he finally decided to retire from the sport “tired with hearing unfulfilledpromises and false expectations.”Spain’s ‘Wild Boar’ retires
Spanish rider Cesar Garcia Calvo – who sports one of the most colorfulnicknames in the peloton – has decided to call it quits rather than raceoutside Spain.The 29-year-old Calvo, called “El Jabalí del Bierzo” (The WildBoar of Bierzo), said he received offers to race in Portugal and Italy,but didn’t want to stray too far from his home in northwest Spain.“I had an offer to return to Portugal, where I started my career, butI was beginning to wonder if it was worth it to race so far from home fornot a lot of money,” he told La Crónica newspaper.Garcia Calvo turned pro in 1999 with the Portuguese Boavista team beforejoining the Relax-Fuenlabrada team in 2000 for three seasons. Last yearhe raced with the Division II Labarca-Café Baque team. His biggestwin came in 2002 when he won frigidly cold stage into Vitoria during theTour of the Basque Country.Former Motorola pro Zanoli dies
Former Motorola racer Michel Zanoli died of a heart attack in Hollandon Dec. 29. The Dutch sprinter was 35.Zanoli won the world’s junior road race title in 1986 and raced as apro from 1989 to 1997, riding for such teams as Coors Light, Motorola,ADR and Tulip. His biggest wins as a pro came in 1991, when he took a stagein the Vuelta a España and won the USPRO championship. The nextseason he joined Motorola, but left the team after having a run-in withtop star Davis Phinney.Zanoli, a big man, had an intimidating presence in a sprint. Atthe Casper Classic in Wyoming, American Nate Reiss made the mistake ofgrabbing the large Dutchman’s jersey in the charge to the line. Zanolimaintained his sprint but swung a huge fist back at the offending rider.Reiss later concluded that one “can not beat a 6 foot 7 Dutchman tryingto kill you at 45 miles an hour.”