The Simoni Roulette wheel landed on yellow, when Saunier Duval offered up a spot to Gilberto Simoni. Simoni accepted on Friday. It was an obvious pick for both Simoni and Saunier Team Management. Simoni had offers from continental teams with ProTour ambitions such as Unibet.com and Naturino, and probably many others. (Hmmm, why didn’t AG2R try to sign Simoni?) Gibo did not want to risk being on a non-Pro Tour team at age 34, so the choice was pretty clear. Gibo joins his old team manager Pietro Algeri who guided Lampre back when Simoni won his first Giro. The Giro is pretty much Gibo’s main goal for next year, so he is pretty clear as team leader for that race since Juan Manuel Garate will be riding for Quick-Step. Simoni’s teammate next year will be prodigal cyclist David Millar, who is coming back from a two year drug suspension just in time for the Tour de France.
The jockeying for the 20th spot in the ProTour may seem like it is a lock for AG2R, but there is some skepticism from all sides. The issue would be weather AG2R genuinely deserves a 20th spot in the “SerieA” of cycling. The performance of the French team is somewhat lacking, and they did not have many notable riders on the roster. Team management tried to help their case of getting into the ProTour by signing such notable riders as Francisco Mancebo and Christophe Moreau. Does that really mean that they have the ability above other teams to race in all of the top events? They were invisible in the Tour de France where they had a wildcard entry. This is contrast to the wildcards in the Giro and Vuelta who performed beyond expectation. Communidad Valenciana, Selle Italia and Panaria more than justified their wildcard entries to their respective Tours by putting on great performances. Granted, AG2R is racing in the biggest race of the calendar, but the least they could do is be visible.
Yesterday I read that CSC had 2 or 3 open spots to fill on their roster and they were going after an older spanish rider named Inika Cuesta. I thought they might go for Stuart O’Grady or Matt White to bolster their lineups now that they are available, or maybe even try for Simoni, but I hesitated to write about this possibility. Turns out that there are rumors floating around pointing to CSC possibly signing Simoni. This would put a hold on Basso’s Giro bid and allow him to concentrate (Lance style) on the Tour.
There have been several pundits criticizing Basso’s ride in the Giro last year. This may be a sign that Basso is leaning on concentrating on the Tour and giving up his Giro ambitions, at least for now. This would also give CSC a different leader for each major stage race, Simoni for the Giro, Basso for the Tour and Sastre for the Vuelta.
Since the collapse of the Sony Ericsson team, all 16 riders and staff have been scramlbing to find employment for 2006. With most rosters already full, it is a challeneg to get on a team let alone another ProTour Team. The most notable refugee is Gilberto Simoni. The two time Giro champ is one of the hottest riders on the open market. At first, rumors suggested a move to Naturino, but recently the new formation of Unibet was in the running to sign Gibo. Today, the latest news is that Saunier Duval has tendered an offer to “Il Ragno”. Of all the teams vying for Simoni’s signature, the best bet would be Saunier Duval, since they are already a ProTour team. Unibet does not have much of a chance to usurp AG2R’s bid to be the 20th team, since they are submitting their paperwork extremely late. Applications were due May 31st, so Unibet may be out of luck. Naturino is still a continental team. They do have the budget and the talent to backup Simoni in the Giro. They did not get the nod to ride in the 2005 Giro, and are not guaranteed a spot for 2006, unless the get Simoni on their roster. It is a wonder that Simoni is wating until Friday to pick a team to ride for 2006. He should simply sign the dotted line for Saunier and be done with the contract talks. Unless there is a last minute offer from Quick-Step or other Pro-Tour teams that has not yet been publicized.
Danilo DiLuca will stay with Liquigas until 2007. Not surprising at all, since he had the best season he could hope for this year. A surprising 4th place ahead of Garzelli and Cioni has made DiLuca the “Go-To” guy for GC at the Giro. Interesting quote though:
Staying with this team we can look for new challenges to conquer. The first of all is the Giro D’Italia
Does this quote hint at DiLuca riding the Tour de France?
Cristian Moreni is one of the first Ferretti orphans to get picked up on a new team. The former Italian National Champ will ride for Cofidis with a one year contract. Stuart O’Grady has entertained going back to the French team, but team manager Eric Boyer said that he burned his bridges when he left, so there is no place for the Aussie. Gilberto Simoni has a likely contract with Naturino Sapore da Mare, but that will mean that he will miss out on the major Pro Tour races. Naturino was not even a pick for the Giro this year. Sioni’s signing will help Naturino’s chances of getting a Giro wildcard, but they still have to contend with Panaria and Selle Italia who have performed admirably well in the Giro. Brett Lancaster got the first Maglia Rosa for Panaria and Jose Rujano and Ivan Parra won stages for Selle Italia. It is very frustrating to see that a mediocre French team AG2R will most likely get the nod for the 20th spot on the ProTour when there are so many more deserving teams. AG2R only added Christophe Moreau and Fancisco Mancebo to their lineup. They focus on the Tour and Vuelta, while the rest of the team will likely be pack filler for the rest of the ProTour. At least AG2R can take advantage of the opportunity and sign riders such as O’Grady, Matt White and Salvatore Commesso to help their standing a bit more.
Cofidis: Cristian Moreni firma per un anno
Ivan Basso and Alessandro Petacchi are still racing as the season winds down. They both raced in the La Cronocoppie Borgomanero a two man Time Trial. Basso and teammate Andrea Peron won the event ahead of Petacchi with teammate Marco Velo. Third went to Marzio Bruseghin and Lorenzo Bernucci. Ciclismo: Borgomanero, La Cronocoppie Va a Basso-Peron
Velonews has a summary of the Giro Di Lombardia wich details Bettini’s blistering performance. Bettini and Simoni traded attacks on several climbs before Bettini unleashed a sprint to get the victory in the last few hundred meters. The theme of the writeup seems to center on the relatively relaxed and nonchalant mood that Bettini had towards the race. He was fairly confident in his ability to win and get into the decisive move.
Now that Bettini has shown improved climbing ability does it mean he will follow DiLuca’s lead and challenge for the Maglia Rosa in the Giro? It would be fun to watch both Bettini and DiLuca battle out the win along with a rejuvenated Cunego and Simoni. Don’t forget about Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso had expressed interest in riding and winning the Giro… Can’t wait for next May.
Giancarlo Ferretti looked all set for his new sponsor to take over the place of Fassa Bortolo. The news was that Sony Ericsson penned a six year sponsorship agreement with “Feron”. Today the deal looks like it is collapsing since the intermediary between Sony Ericsson and Ferretti did not contact the right people at Sony Ericsson HQ. Ferretti is in Sweden trying to straighten out the situation. This would leave an open spot on the ProTour for AG2R, Agributel, Communidad Valenciana, or even Naturino Sapore e Mare.