By Andrew Hood
Giro d’Italia champion Gilberto Simoni is hoping to arrive at the May 11 start of the Italian tour in top form, but the 30-year-old is nursing a sore knee he suffered during a fall at Setmana Catalana on March 26.
Simoni returned to racing this week for the climb-riddled Vuelta a Pais Vasco which the Saeco rider is hoping to use as a spring-board back to winning form in time for the Giro, his top goal of the season.
“I have to be very careful now. I have to watch how I prepare and be very careful how I race. The Vuelta Ciclista a Pais Vasco is very important for my preparation,” Simoni told VeloNews before the start of Tuesday’s stage. “With the racing I missed during the injury, it’s important that I make as much of this as I can.”
Simoni said his final races before the Giro will be Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 21) and the Giro del Trentino in Italy (April 25-28).
“I hope to be at Liege because it’s a good point of reference for me and my team, but now I am taking it day-by-day,” he said.
And the Tour de France?
Simoni said the team is waiting for an invitation from the Societe du Tour de France, and if it comes, he’ll be at the prologue in Luxembourg.
“Now everything is for the Giro. I don’t even know yet if we will go to the Tour. It’s not up to us,” he said. “Now I am focusing all on being ready for the Giro.”
Francesco Casagrande said he will start Fleche Wallone(April 17) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 21) after X-rays proved his injuries he suffered during a fall in Tuesday’s stage at the Vuelta Ciclista a Pais Vasco weren’t as serious as previously thought.
Casagrande fell at a rail crossing and pulled out about 40 km later when it proved too painful to continue. The Fassa Bortolo rider started the stage fifth overall and bruised some ribs and his wrist in the fall.
Casagrande is looking strong and will be a favorite for the Giro d’Italia.
Coast’s Angel Casero will miss at least another week of training after doctors ordered rest for the Vuelta a Espana champion. Casero didn’t start the Basque Country race after suffering pain in his legs during Saturday’s GP Miguel Indurain.
Casero still hopes to start the Giro, his first major goal of the season.
World champion Oscar Freire (Mapei), who missed the Tour of Flanders due to tendonitis, will return to action at Fleche Wallone (April 17) and race in the fourth and fifth legs of the World Cup — Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 21) and Amstel Gold (April 28), respectively.