Simoni was born in Palù di Giovo, in Trentino, and began competing as an amateur with the goal of someday winning the Giro d'Italia. Simoni confirmed his potential in 1993, when he won both the amateur version of the Giro d'Italia (known as the Baby Giro) and the Italian Road Cycling Championship. Prior to his retirement in 2010, Simoni would reveal to the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that the Giro was the one race that attracted him to cycling and which motivated him as a professional. “It was the Giro that brought me to cycling when I was a child,” he said. “It triggered my dreams.”
Simoni turned professional in 1994 with the Jolly Componibili-Cage 1994 team, but suffered through an inauspicious rookie season, having to cope with the deaths of both his father and older brother. It was only three years later in 1997 that Simoni won his first professional race, a stage of the Giro del Trentino, while riding for the MG Maglificio-Technogym team of sports director Giancarlo Ferretti.
1998 was another disappointing season for Simoni, and his results sheet was barren after a year spent with the Cantina Tollo-Alexia Alluminio team. He briefly quit cycling and worked as a bicycle mechanic for 1984 Giro d'Italia winner Francesco Moser. However, a resurgent Simoni joined the Ballan-Alessio team in 1999 and finished a surprising third on the general classification of that year's Giro d'Italia. In a race that saw another mercurial Italian climber thrown-off the Giro for doping (Marco Pantani), Simoni was criticized in some sectors of the press for claiming a podium finish without having earned the placing. But he proved his critics wrong by winning a stage in the Tour de Suisse and again finishing on the final podium.
Read more about this topic: Gilberto Simoni
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