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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Simoni to make amends
Gilberto Simoni celebrates victory at the Giro d'Italia in 2001
Simoni could put a miserable year behind him

Former British cycling star Sean Yates is tipping Italy's Gilberto Simoni to bounce back with victory in the Tour of Spain to consign a miserable season to history.

The Saeco rider was suspended from the Giro d'Italia and his Saeco team thrown out of the Tour de France after he twice tested positive for cocaine earlier this year.

But he was eventually cleared of doping by the Italian Cycling Federation, who accepted his explanations - a dentists injection and contaminated cough sweets.

And Yates, who rode two Vuelta's and won a stage in 1988, believes 2001 Giro winner Simoni, and Saeco, will storm back with a vengeance.

Roberto Heras
Heras knows he must perform

"My tip is Simoni. If the terrain is hard, which it will be, the Italian will tough it out," Yates told BBC Sport Online.

"But he should have a battle with Lance Armstrong's deputy, Roberto Heras, in the mountains.

"Heras has done nothing in the last two years and rode averagely in the Tour de France for a climber of his quality.

"He was ousted off the podium by his team-mate Levi Leipheimer in the final time-trial last year.

"And he is getting paid very well so he needs to start earning his money a bit better."

Yates, a former Tour de France yellow jersey holder, also backs defending champion Angel Casero to do well but discounts the claims of Tour de France runner-up Joseba Beloki.

"He is probably not focused enough, he gave it his best shot in the Tour," said Yates.

The former English champion also believes Scotland's David Millar will have to be patient before he lands his first big race win.


Millar's got a very strong personality and mentally he knows what he wants
Sean Yates

"There are a lot of very good climbers in the Tour of Spain and although the terrain is not as hard as in France, it is still pretty severe," said Yates.

"I can't see Millar staying with them on the big climbs.

"In the Tour de France he won his stage, got some good time-trial results and generally saved himself.

"He didn't go into it thinking he was going to get up there and kill himself in the mountains to chase an overall position.

"But he's got to keep trying because he can improve and one day he could be a contender."

Pressure

But Yates insisted that pretenders for the overall crown faced an extra burden - that of expectation.

"It's a mental thing. You've obviously got to be a superb climber but mentally you know you can't afford to let it go on any day," he said.

"Most guys, and particularly specialists like time-triallists or sprinters, know they only have to perform on certain days.

David Millar
Millar can be a contender one day

"But riders looking at the overall classification have to be focused for three weeks.

"There's a lot of pressure. The team is riding for you so if you don't perform you let them down as well."

But Yates insisted that the role of team leader would not be a burden for Millar.

"He's got a very strong personality and mentally he knows what he wants," said Yates.

"If you've got the legs you can be team leader and if it did come to a situation where he could get a good position overall he wouldn't have any problem in calling the shots.

"But it's still probably too early for him to win it."

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