Filippo Simeoni has handed back his Italian national champion’s jersey in protest at his team’s exclusion from the 2009 Giro d’Italia (May 9-31).
Simeoni’s Ceramica Flaminia squad was hoping to be allocated a wild card spot in the 2009 Giro, but instead the Fuji-Servetto team were confirmed as the final team last week. An incensed Simeoni handed his national road race champion’s jersey to the Italian cycling federation’s headquarters in Rome on Monday.
French sports paper L’Equipe reported that Simeoni said: “I?m demoralised. It?s unacceptable that the Italian champion can?t participate in the biggest race in his country.”
“This jersey no longer has any value, no credibility. I?m turning it in because I no longer want to wear it. It?s a strong act, a provocation, against injustice, an act of love for cycling, to break with the hypocrisy that runs through our sport.”
Aside from his victory in last year’s Italian road race championship, Simeoni is probably best known for his spat with Lance Armstrong during the 2004 Tour de France. Few people who witnessed it will forget seeing a yellow-jersey-clad Armstrong riding up to a break containing Simeoni, talking animatedly to the Italian and then witnessing both riders drop back to the bunch.
On the usually sedate final stage of the race, by which time Armstrong had wrapped up another Tour win, Simeoni repeatedly launched attacks and was brought back by the American’s team.
What had Simeoni done to upset Armstrong? Simeoni had accused his former doctor, Dr Michele Ferrari, of supplying him with banned drugs, including EPO. Armstrong – also a client of Ferrari – had openly branded Simeoni a liar, for which Simeoni retaliated with a law suit for defamation. Later, the charges were dropped.
Armstrong is riding the Giro this year for the first time in his career, an event that has been connected with Simeoni’s non-appearance in some quarters.
CERAMICA BOSS WRITES LETTER OF DISGUST TO UCI
In addition to Simeoni’s symbolic jersey hand-in, Ceramica Flamina team manager Roberto Marrone has written a letter to the Union Cycliste Internationale in protest of the squad’s exclusion from the Giro.
“It is unacceptable that despite being among the top 10 teams in the Europe Continental Tour ranking, our team is systematically excluded from most major competitions for the benefit of other teams that will not be more competitive than us (as reflected in the rankings).”
“We have not even received a wild card. What is important to get this recognition if it is ignored by the organisers? When a team works in a serious and correct manner and is supported by reliable sponsor, they must have the opportunity to compete in the most prestigious competitions.”
Back in January, Angelo Zomegnan, the director of the Giro d’Italia, explained why Simeoni’s team had been excluded when the squad’s name didn’t appear on the initial team list. Some thought that Armstrong had influenced the decision.
“The speculation that Armstrong doesn’t want Simeoni (in the Giro) is specious,” Zomegnan said.
“The fact that he’s Italian national champion doesn’t change things. Flaminia wasn’t in (the Giro) in 2007 or 2008 either, when Armstrong was at home fishing.”