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By Agence France Presse
Saeco team leader Gilberto Simoni, a two-time winner of the Giro d’Italia, is so fed up with the Tour de France that he wants to go home.
The Tour has yet to reach the tough mountain stages, where Simoni last year had a tough time trying to challenge eventual winner Lance Armstrong for honors. But it’s not the upcoming climbs that worry Simoni – it’s the team time trial that went so wrong for him on Wednesday.
Saeco’s TTT performance would not have been so bad for Simoni, had he not finished behind the leading five riders in his team. The time for Wednesday’s event was taken on the fifth rider to cross the finish line, and under a new but controversial format this meant that Saeco lost only 90 seconds to the U.S. Postal Service team.
Unfortunately for Simoni, he trundled in well behind the five front men, meaning that his actual time deficit – nearly three minutes – was taken into account. He started Thursday’s stage more than three minutes behind Armstrong in the general classification, practically out of the running for any of the honors on this year’s race, barring perhaps a stage win in the mountains.
“I feel really bad, I just want to go home,” said the 32-year-old Simoni, who earlier this year had to suffer the humiliation of seeing a younger teammate, Damiano Cunego, take the Giro’s pink jersey and hold onto it until the race finish in Milan.
“I can cope with bad luck, but what can I do about race regulations? One hundred and twenty guys finished behind me yesterday, but I lost a minute more than them. It’s a stupid rule.
“I came here hoping to win the race but my morale is in my boots. I’ve never liked the Tour anyway. I want to go home. I’ll be carrying on, and we’ll see what happens. But it’s really difficult when it’s like this.”
Last year, despite a disappointing performance overall, Simoni claimed victory on the 14th stage to Loudenvielle in the Pyrénées ahead of Frenchman Richard Virenque.
This year, there are some difficult climbs in the 10th stage, at 237km the longest on this year’s race. But the first real climbing stage of the Tour is not until July 16, when the 12th stage climbs from Castelsarrasin to La Mongie in the Pyrénées.
That’s a long time for Simoni to wait for his chance to shine.