Simoni failed to defend his title in the 2004 Giro d'Italia with the emergence of his teammate Damiano Cunego. After some public dispute, Simoni reconciled with Cunego and agreed to continue on the same team, which became Lampre-Caffita. In the 2005 Giro d'Italia the team took advantage of the publicity and played up the rivalry between Simoni and Cunego, boasting their strength for the Giro. The early part of the Giro saw Cunego lose significant time in the early mountain stages - later diagnosed with Epstein-Barr viral infection - firmly establishing Simoni as the team leader for the Giro. However, Simoni failed to dislodge Paolo Savoldelli in the last mountain stage, even with an epic performance which saw him and Danilo Di Luca work together to gain time on Savoldelli. Suffering from cramps, he also failed to win that stage.
Simoni was slated to join Giancarlo Ferretti's Sony-Ericsson team, which was supposed to be the continuation of the Fassa Bortolo team. However, it later turned out that Ferretti had fallen victim to a fraud, and the team did not in fact exist. After a strong performance in which he finished second in the Giro di Lombardia (which was won by Cunego in the previous edition), Simoni signed a contract to join Saunier Duval-Prodir.
On the urging of his frame sponsor, Scott USA, Simoni began competing in mountain bike marathon events during the 2006 off-season for road bicycle racing. He quickly garnered impressive results by winning the Italian National Championship for Mountain Bike Marathon.
Simoni was embroiled in public row with fellow Italian Ivan Basso of Team CSC. Simoni alleged that Basso offered him a stage win in the 2006 Giro d'Italia into Aprica five kilometers from the finish after the two cyclists had broken away from the main field. Basso has denied any such offer, and went on to win the stage by 77 seconds. Simoni retracted his accusations several days later.
In dramatic fashion, with Leonardo Piepoli's support he won the epic stage 17 to Monte Zoncolan in the 2007 Giro d'Italia.
After a lengthy search for a team for 2010, that included negotiations with his previous team Androni Giocattoli as well as with Astana and Rock Racing-Murcia, Simoni re-joined his former Lampre squaddra, rechristened as Lampre-Farnese Vini. The 2010 Giro d'Italia was the final race of his career. He finished 69th overall, 2:40:14 behind two-time winner and compatriot Ivan Basso. Simoni was characteristically frank about his last bid for glory, which poignantly saw him beaten in the sprint for the Cima Coppi KOM prize by the Swiss Johann Tschopp, at the summit of the Passo di Gavia in the penultimate Giro stage. Mobbed at the finish line by Italian media looking for one final quote from a rider who rarely hesitated to speak his mind, Simoni mused:
"Perhaps if I'd played more of a bluffing game, I might have had something left for the finish but never mind. That's bike racing. I'm just glad the Giro is over. I've had enough now."
The Trentinese explained that his curtain call did not go as planned, though he still claimed to have enjoyed closing-out his storied career by finishing a three-week Grand Tour, one of the most challenging events for an endurance road cyclist:
"I've known it was time to retire for awhile It's been on my mind for the last two years. I knew this Giro was my last race. I've been a professional for 17 years, and it really is time to quit. I honestly thought I'd go better than I did in this Giro. I knew I couldn't win it like in 2003 or 2007 (Monte Zoncolan stage), but I didn't expect to suffer so much and for so long during the three weeks. It's been a strange goodbye. I've ridden the Giro almost as an outsider, without the pressure to win and do well. It's hurt but I've been able to enjoy it. Before the finish today, the whole thing flashed before my eyes."
Read more about this topic: Gilberto Simoni
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