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Tour de France News for July 3, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Simoni ready for Tour challenge

Gilberto Simoni
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Giro winner Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) believes he is ready and able to challenge for the Tour's prized yellow jersey when the race begins in Paris this Saturday. Simoni, who was prevented from racing the Tour last year after he tested positive twice to cocaine (later cleared), thinks that he has fully recovered from the Giro, and is ready to do battle in France with the likes of Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich, Joseba Beloki, Alexandre Vinokourov and others.

"I'm determined to do well and honestly believe I can get a result," Simoni was quoted by Reuters. "I can already feel the adrenaline building up inside ready for the Tour and that means I'm motivated and eager to race.

Simoni admitted that after his competition break following the Giro, he doesn't know how competitive he will be in the Tour. "However I've recovered both mentally and physically thanks to special relaxation techniques, lots of massage and some long training rides in the Dolomite mountains near my home. I feel good."

He also said that he is thinking of his own performances first, rather than worrying about what Lance Armstrong can do. "My Tour will be a battle against myself and against my own limits as a rider. I'll see what happens in the Alps and then I'll start thinking about my rivals," said Simoni.

"Armstrong is such a big favourite that the Tour could become very boring," he added. "We have to try and make something happen. If you want to win the Tour you have to attack Armstrong and perhaps isolate him from his team mates. I'm going to try to do that whenever I can."

Steinhauser anxious

Jan Ullrich's close friend and domestique Tobias Steinhauser says that he's looking forward to his second Tour de France with some trepidation. Steinhauser, 31, first rode the Tour in 1996 and was "in the last 20...Clearly I am anxious how it will go this time, but I am very relaxed and will simply take it as it comes," he told SID.

Steinhauser says that he feels good despite the problems with Team Coast, which was reformed and refinanced into Team Bianchi. "The form has been getting better in the last few weeks. The Coast saga affected everyone's motivation, but that's now water under the bridge."

Steinhauser's role will be to help Jan Ullrich as much as possible. "Therefore I hope that I can also be at Jan's side in the mountains. But it can happen that you can be dropped on the first climb. Then you have to look after yourself for the next few days, and that would not be good.

As for Jan Ullrich's chances, Steinhauser thinks that the podium is likely, "if everything goes well...The problem would be if in the meantime he has a setback, then he can quickly lose a couple of minutes. But he's shown in the Tour de Suisse that he's back, and I think that he'll improve even more during the Tour."

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