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Posts tagged ‘Damiano Cunego’


A postscript to the story about troubles in the House of Lampre-Ngc:

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, team manager Giuseppe Saronni told his riders that they could not participate in any of the post-Giro criteriums. Saronni is not happy about the lack of results from the team during the Giro and said that he would prefer to see his riders out training to prepare for their next objectives than travelling around Italy for the crits. “Instead of wasting time and hours of sunlight to ride at night, we prefer to concentrate on preparing for our many upcoming objectives,” he said. The criteriums are typically held at night for more optimal partying.

Of course, the riders make significant money in appearance fees by “racing” the post-Giro criteriums, so Saronni’s edict is not without conseqences. Damiano Cunego had planned to make six appearances, which would have brought him close to €20,000.00 in fees.

Memo to Lampre riders: Start winning. Today.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Past is Prologue

At last, Andy Schleck has taken the huge potential that has grabbed the attention of the cycling world since he turned pro, and celebrated victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Schleck’s winning move came on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons with 20 kilometers to go. It should have come as no surprise: He launched precisely the same attack in last year’s edition of La Doyenne. In that case, the determined efforts of Davide Rebellin ended Schleck’s bid for freedom. This time, the large chase group could not bring back the flying climber.

Sometimes, it’s easier to stay away from a large group than a small one. Odd, but true. In a small group, everyone is playing to win. There is commitment and urgency. In a big group, well, there’s always someone else who will chase, right? And look, there’s more than one guy from the other team, I’m sure they’ll do the work. Of course, by then, the winning move is well and truly gone.

In the case of this Liège, a sprinter problem also slowed the chase. No one wanted to drag Alejandro Valverde, Davide Rebellin, or Damiano Cunego to the line. Of course, both Cunego and Valverde wanted nothing more out of this race than to reach the sprint. Waiting for the sprint sometimes works. But other times, it becomes a trap, forcing a rider into a passive, defensive role, from which he can not shape the race to his ends.

Saxo Bank, meanwhile, made sure to disrupt the chase effort whenever possible, subtly inserting a rider into the line-up. The Danish team is truly skilled at this manuever: no Cat. 5 style sit-up and grab brake levers blocking here. It didn’t hurt that in Karsten Kroon and Fränk Schleck, the team had two possible winners in the chase group.

Though Andy Schleck won solo, the team deserves significant credit for this win, as he proved quick to acknowledge. In much the same way Quick-Step dominated the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Saxo Bank had tight control over this race. Indeed, put Andy Schleck in the position of Stijn Devolder, and you have exactly the same race. Well, except for the part about the cobbles. Details, shmetails.

Tactically, this Liège bore the marks of a team effort. The successive attacks of Chris Anker Sörensen, Alexandr Kolobnev, and Karsten Kroon wore down the teams and set the conditions for Schleck’s big move to succeed. Lampre-Ngc, in particular, looked short-handed in the finale, and Cunego had no team-mates left by the decisive kilometers. From the helicopter shot, it was possible to see either a Silence-Lotto or Caisse d’Épargne rider (the jerseys look similar from the air shots) waving his arms in Cunego’s direction. What, you expect us to tow you to the line?

Cunego seemed to trap himself in this race. He convinced himself that he needed to wait for the sprint to win, and he seemed to expect that one way or another a sprint would come. Though he tried to follow Andy Schleck on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, he did not appear to have the legs. Even so, he wasn’t the first to react, instead waiting for Davide Rebellin to jump first. Cunego followed much the same pattern on the Saint-Nicholas. He followed the attack of Michele Scarponi, looking for the small group sprint, he’d conditioned himself to expect. Unlike Saxo Bank, Cunego’s Lampre-Ngc could not impose their plan on the race. They could only react.

Perhaps Cunego could not do anything more this time, though his performances elsewhere suggest he has the legs to win in the Ardennes. The Italian seems to ride best when he has nothing to lose, and simply rolls the dice, as he did at Lombardia last October. When Cunego has won, he has also made the race, rather than rely solely on his big sprint. And perhaps that is the mark of the best one-day riders: They are able to adapt to the way the race unfolds, seize what opportunites that come their way, and commit without second-guessing. Sometimes Cunego shows those characteristics. This time, he didn’t.

And then, there’s Philippe Gilbert, who has never seen an attack he didn’t like. Gilbert’s move made a certain kind of sense: Anticipate the attack he knew must come from Andy Schleck on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, an attack he knew he couldn’t follow. It nearly worked, except for the part where in Gilbert’s words, “Schleck dropped me like a junior.” At the finish, Gilbert still had legs left to take fourth in the sprint. With just a bit more speed, he’d have taken his second podium in a monument this season, after his third place finish at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Like Andy Schleck, Philippe Gilbert begins to come into his own. In Gilbert, we have a rider who will always dare and always surprise. Hopefully, he’ll win a few, too, while he’s at it.

All of which is to say that the strongest rider won on the day. A big solo escape, perfectly timed and placed to the characteristics of the rider who made it. Andy Schleck will never win a sprint, but he climbs like a dream and has the engine to finish the deal. All of cycling’s sages have marvelled at his abilities since he first turned professional, and all expect him to win the sport’s biggest races. He has a Tour win in those legs somewhere. It’s a matter of if, not when. He’s already made the podium in the Giro d’Italia. The last rider to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour de France in a single season was Eddy Merckx. Only two other riders have won both races in their career: Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil. And they both, like Merckx, won the Tour five times.

But it’s far, far too early to be talking about the Tour de France. We have first the party in Italy to enjoy. Giro!

Liquigas Doimo Giro Team

Liquigas has taken on a new co-sponsor beginning at this year’s Giro. Doimo is one of the leading furniture manufacturers in Italy. So far, the sponsorship agreement covers the Giro d’Italia, but it may extend into a more permanent relationship.

Liquigas also today announced the riders for the Giro Centenario. Ivan Basso fresh off his win at the Giro del Trentino will lead the team. Franco Pellizotti, who finished fourth in last year’s Giro d’Italia, is listed as a co-captain, though it seems likely he will ride in support of Basso when it comes right down to it. Kjell Carlström, Manuel Quinziato, Gorazd Stangelj, and Alessandro Vanotti will drive the team on the flats, while Valerio Agnoli, Vladimir Miholjevic, and Sylwester Szmyd support Basso and Pellizotti in the mountains.

Sadly, Liquigas sprinter Daniele Bennati has not recovered from the injury he suffered at Tirreno-Adriatico and will miss this year’s Giro. He hopes to recover in time for the Tour de France. Given the ambitions of the team’s stage race captains Basso and Pellizotti, Bennati would not likely have had much team support in the sprints, anyway.

In somewhat related news, Damiano Cunego called Ivan Basso the favorite to win this Giro in an interview this morning on Cunego said that Basso had a “good head and motor,” and is a true rider for the stage races. Cunego believes Basso has a “better chance than Armstrong” to wear Pink in Roma. For his own part, Cunego is hoping to make the podium this time around. In the years since his win in 2004, Cunego has consistently finished in the top five. To beat Basso is a big ask, but a podium finish is well within reach for Cunego.

Back lates with some chat about Liège. Yes, that’s very out of order of me. I s’pose you can sue if you like, but I’d rather you didn’t.

Look Who’s On Form: Cunego Wins at Settimana Coppi e Bartali

Really, there should be a law against race names of unusual length.

Damiano Cunego of Lampre-NGC beat out Josè Serpa of Serrementi Diquigiovanni-Androni (whose team has far too many names) in a two up sprint to win today’s Stage 2 of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali. The two riders escaped on the descent from the final climb of the day, the Monte Trebbio. Giovanni Visconti of ISD finished third and took over the leader’s jersey from his team-mate ISD sprinter, Oscar the Cat.

An early breakaway departed the main field after 35 kilometers. Alessio Signego of Adria Mobil and Luca Fioretti of Centri della Calzatura built up a maximum lead of 5’38” after the first ascension of the Monte Carla (sister to Monte Carlo?). But Liguigas and ISD, the team of race leader Oscar Gatto, soon went to work, not willing to allow the break to have too much fun. By kilometer 125, it was all over for Signego and Fioretti. Gruppo compatto.

On the Monte Trebbio, a split opened up in the field, and nine riders escaped. The new break included: Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto (who won the overall last year), Damiano Cunego of Lampre-NGC, José Serpa of Serramenti Pvc Diquigiovanni Androni Giocattoli (Ha!), Sylvester Szmyd of Liquigas, Domenico Pozzovivo of Csf Group Navigare, Robert Kiserlovski of Amica Chips Knauf, Massimo Giunti of Miche Silver Cross, Giovanni Visconti of ISD, and Przemyslaw Niemiec of Miche Silver Cross. Pre-race favorite Michele Scarponi, who won the Settimana in 2007, did not make the move. With 200 meters to climb, José Serpa launched an attack. The move came at the steepest section of the climb. Only Cunego could follow.

From the top of the 500 meter climb, there remained 20 kilometers of descending to ride to the finish. Cunego and Serpa put their descending skills to work and maintained their advantage. After the descent came a flat 600 meters. Cunego easily won the sprint over Serpa by several bike lengths.

Behind, the group of seven followed by 19 seconds. Giovanni Visconti of ISD won the sprint for third ahead of Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto. Visconti took over the leader’s jersey, thanks to his team’s win in the rainy crono on Tuesday.

Cunego recently returned to Italy after a training camp at altitude in Tenerife in preparation for the Ardennes races, which represent his first major objectives of the season. “This victory is good for me,” he said afterwards. “And also for our team, which has suffered from the illness of Ballan and the indisposition of Lorenzetto on the eve of Sanremo. It is also a victory achieved against a worthy, strong, and on form adversary,” Cunego continued. “It shows that the work I have been doing is right,” he concluded.

For his part, Serpa was disappointed to miss the stage win, but also was also content with his developing form. He will be “at the shoulder” of Davide Rebellin at Flèche-Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, after the team received notification today that the ASO has offered them an invitation to both races. Serpa is also looking forward to the Giro d’Italia, and considered today’s ride a good sign of things to come.

The new race leader Giovanni Visconti is hoping to defend his jersey, though tomorrow’s hilly stage will certainly complicate his task. With just seconds in hand over Cunego, Visconti will have a difficult time defending his race lead. “I had hoped to win the stage, but the jersey is a nice consolation,” he said. Visconti made the group of the favorites on the climb, but when Serpa and Cunego attacked, he did not “have the legs to follow.” “I am hoping for the overall victory: Tomorrow will be a difficult stage, I will try to hold on to the jersey.”

Wednesday’s stage 3 covers 163 kilometers between Borgo S.Lorenzo and Serramazzoni. It is a lumpy, bumpy affair, with few flat stretches, and should favor the attackers. Visconti’s lead will no doubt come under pressure, as the course will make controlling the race very difficult for ISD. Cunego needs only 9 seconds to take over the lead. The finish is a quick uphill, that looks made for a rider like Cunego or Diluca, the fast finishers who do so well in Italian cycling. Course details.

Sources, Gazzetta dello Sport and, who has full results listed.

Falling Leaves

(Photo shamelessly stolen from Graham Watson)

One of my favorite races of the year. What’s not to like about Italy in Fall? (Or any other time, for that matter.)

Together with Ricco, Cunego escaped on the final climb of the day, San Fermo della Battaglia. Over the top, they had just five seconds in hand over a chase group containing a pair of CSC’s, Rebellin, Cadel Evans, and Sammy Sanchez. Despite the best efforts of kamikaze descender Sanchez, Ricco and Cunego reached the last kilometer alone, where Ricco tried desperately to convince il piccolo to come around. As if Cunego was going to fall for that. Watch the final kilometer, and feel Ricco’s pain. I don’t count myself among the Ricco tifosi, but he drew the low card in that particular deal. Too bad he couldn’t rid himself of Cunego before the finale. As it was, he was almost certainly racing for second. With only the smallest of gaps, there was no time for funny business, and Cunego easily took the sprint.

Ricco may have held the low cards, but at least he was still at the table. On the Ghisallo, CSC looked to be holding a royal flush, with Sastre, Kolobnev, and a pair of Schlecks in the front group. Sastre, who always looks simply bursting with fruit flavor, turned the screws up the climb, and the front group dwindled. But in a moment of inattention on the road to the Civiglia, Frank Schleck touched wheels and crashed out of the front group. Oopsy. So much for the perfect race. The younger Schlecky still managed fourth, beating out Rebellin, Evans, and T Dekker, among others. Silly talented, that kid (I especially like the bed head.)

Here is a tidbit for the trivia – or is that trivial? – minded. When Cunego won Lombardia in 2004, he achieved a rare feat in cycling by winning both a grand tour and a monument in the same season. Prior to Cunego, who was the most recent to do the same?

And while we’re at it, had Bettini won (best watched without the sound, unless you like sappy techno), he’d have taken three straight. Who is the last rider to win Lombardia three times running?

Ah, but maybe I should have just posted this bit of love, ten minutes of choice footage and saved my little fingers the tappy-typing. Grazie anonymous Belgian youtuber! (Now, if only I’d found that sooner.)