Simoni’s final Giro d’Italia. Saying goodbye to a loved one.

Simoni. The last champagne.

Gilberto Simoni rides his final Giro and he’s going out in style. Not Armani or Hugo Boss, but style in the deeper sense. He’s reflective, philosophical and content with his place in cycling history and Giro legend. Simoni is having his Zen moments.

“The final victory is not the only one. There are so many possibilities. I just want to be at the height of my own story,” said Simoni. A beautiful sentiment and one that every famous athlete hopes will come true when they last take the field.

Not to win, but to display if only for a moment, on one final mountain climb, the flash of power and courage and spectacle he gave all his fans. One last roar from the tifosi before he slips into retirement, a legend in past tense.

The old scores are settled, the battles fought, apologies given and accepted, there is nothing left but his beloved Giro to be savored. For Simoni this Giro is a tour of memories as much as a bike race. It’s like going through boxes of old photographs for three weeks straight. He’s too tough to cry but expect some watery eyes.

“I have the possibility to watch what happens a step back, I don’t have the pressure of a result,” said Simoni who has ridden the Giro 13 times. He will be stepping back and taking in the view, seeing the Giro from a different perspective — a man saying his goodbyes.

If there is a symbolic time and place to say arrivederci, it will be stage 15, Monte Zoncolan, the brutal mountain climb where Simoni has twice triumphed.

“I love the mountains. It’s a challenge against yourself. An ‘Alpino’ that climbs up the side of a mountain challenges himself more than the mountain challenges him. This is my battle territory,” said Simoni.

Simoni was a hard ass, a tough guy, a straight shooter, a man who forced himself through many a pain threshold. Despite his lack of form, he will challenge himself in this Giro because he wants to honor the race and and because he wants to say goodbye in a beautiful way.

We suspect Gilberto Simoni, a true Italian  Alpino, will go out in style.

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