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Pearl Izumi

85th Giro d'Italia (GT)

Italy, May 11-June 2, 2002

News for May 24, 2002

Edited by Karen Forman

Giro news: Lunghi wins 12th stage; Simoni out

Colpack climber Denis Lunghi won Friday's 12th stage of the Giro d'Italia after attacking a six-rider breakaway with 30km to go.

The punchy rider crossed the line 37 seconds ahead of Phonak's Bert Grabsch and Colnago-Landbouwkrediet's Bert Grabsh to win what was a very wet and undulating 200 kilometre leg from Campobasso to Chieti. German Jens Heppner, who finished 13th, retains the overall lead.

Heppner said he had not wanted to risk chasing Lunghi's breakaway in the slippery conditions. Lunghi described his win a "great win". "We (Colpack-Astro) just knew we were going to ride in the last 10 days before the Giro. (Gianluigi) Stanga (Colpack-Astro manager) kept yelling me that I was the strongest, that I should go and so I did!"

Click for larger image
Photo: © AFP

Meanwhile, shock waves reverberated around the peloton after Saeco-Longoni Sport's sudden decision to retire last year's Giro winner and yesterday's stage winner, Gilberto Simoni, from the Giro.

The team made the announcement before the start of the stage, saying it had based its decision on the difficult situation created after Simoni was implicated in a drug test which suggested he had taken cocaine.

"With sadness and deep sorrow, the team came to this decision after considering the difficulty of the situation and atmosphere created, especially after the rider was interviewed by the investigators sent by the public prosecutor of Trento to shed light on the presumed case of doping in which Gilberto Simoni has found himself in," a team spokesman said in a press release issued today.

"The strong suspicion and the doubt that this serious situation represents for the team - which has always tried to be as honest and serious as possible, and for the prestigious sponsors which have linked their name to the team, has become unacceptable."

The positive sample was taken by the World-Anti-Doping Agency in an out of competition test on April 24, the day before the start of the Giro del Trentino, the race specifically begun to prepare Italian riders for their national tour.

At the time, the 30 year old from Palu di Giovo in northern Italy, who turned professional in 1994, claimed the positive test was caused by a pain-killing injection his dentist had given him. He said he went to the dentist to get his teeth sorted out for a photo shoot for an Italian magazine.

The dentist confirmed in a written note on Wednesday that he had indeed given him an injection containing Carbocaine.

Saeco recognises the severity of the matter.

"It is evident that the sporting aspect of the team risks becoming seriously penalised and damaged by the events, as has clearly been seen by the relative attention given to the victory of Simoni at Campitello Matese in respect to the developments of the doping case which he is involved at this time," the team spokesman said.

With this decision, the Saeco-Longoni Sport team wants to confirm its maximum respect towards the Giro d'Italia and its organisers and above all towards the cycling fans. They do not accept that the rider and the team can be the object of judgment and taking of positions by other teams or single athletes taking part in competitions.

The team wants to confirm a feeling of esteem and faith towards the rider that will only diminish in the moment that he results responsible for events. For that aim, the team will act in every way to make clear what has happened, making any decision regarding the near future in absolute tranquillity.

Simoni, who was third in the 1999 Giro, a stage winner in the Tour of Switzerland the same year, a stage winner and third overall in the 2000 Giro, stage and overall winner in the 2002 Giro and third overall in this year's Giro del Trentino, is in his first year with Saeco.

Stage 12 full results & report
Live report

Giro stage 12 - victory comments

Stage winner Denis Lunghi: "I awaited this victory a long time. I made many sacrifices but I am now rewarded. In our team, it is the first victory of the season. I am not the captain, each one has his chance according to the race. I know my defects, I am often too nervous, too impulsive.. My sporting director (Antonio Bevilacqua) often said me to better run. In the escape, I attacked especially to see how the others reacted. I realized that I was strongest, then I have dark. Of course, it is not the ideal moment to gain. We are confronted with many problems. Me, I am already in my fourth season but I think of the néo-pros who must have the head full with all that one can hear."

Overall leader Jens Heppner: "A tiring stage. The escape arranged us well, obviously, but more than five hours under the rain and on such a course, it is never easy. The two next stages, with the arrival at the top and against-the-shows it, are announced risky for me. I feared to lose the pink jersey, but I intend well to defend it until the end. The Simoni business after the Garzelli business? It is a pity. I believe that the best riders of the world do not need all that. In any case, the Giro continues and I will try very hard to honour this pink jersey."

Saeco cancels journos' football game

Following on from its withdrawal of rider Gilberto Simoni from the Giro d'Italia amid cocaine-use allegations, Saeco has decided to cancel the Saeco Football Game set down for Monday in Padova.

A team spokesman said the team's state of mind was "not adapted for living this event in the happy climate that should characterise it".

The game was to be reserved for journalists - a common occurrence in Italy, where members of the press are revered and treated with almost as much respect as athletes. Soccer games for journalists are often held as part of major sporting events, particularly in the motor sports paddock.

Perfetto denies doping

Italian rider Filippo Perfetto (Panaria) has denied involvement with drugs following the doping scandals of this year's Giro d'Italia, which is moving into his final week.

Pefetto was questioned on Friday by the prosecutor of the court of Brescia, Mario Conte, which opened an investigation. He spent one hour in the witness box and disputed the charge against him.

"I do not know why Varriale (Antonio), put me into this," he said. "In fact things do not penalize me much, I did not dope myself," he told the magistrate.