It is not Paolo Bettini at the top step of the podium, but another Italian Alessandro Ballan with teammate Damiano Cunego in second at the World Championships in Varese, Italy.
The winning move came from a breakaway of 12 that had a decent enough gap and a selection of enough big names to last. Three Italians were featured in the break including Davide Rebellin, Damiano Cunego and Ballan. Others in the break were Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain who ever present in front and Matt Breschel who placed third. Since Italy had the numbers and the home turf advantage, the rest of the breakaway companions woul dnot help much. Riders took turns attacking and let the Italians chase. Later on the Italians took control launching progressive attacks to keep the rest of the break on their heels. Rebellin and Cunego could not get much daylight when they would attack.
ROBERTO BETTINI/AFP/Getty Images
Finally with about 2km to go Ballan launched a counter attack that the rest of the break could not respond to. Ballan was off and had enough time to cross the line with his hands in the air. Meanwhile in the main peloton Erik Zabel and Paolo Bettini rode in at a tourist pace with Bettini celebrating Ballans win and waving to the fans to finish out his last race.
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(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Damiano Cunego is probably the first of the second tier favorites for the Tour. Cadel Evans and Alejandro Valverde are probably the top favorites. Judging from Cunego’s new hair color, perhaps he has some pretty elaborate intentions? Riders since the late 90s started wearing matching shorts, gloves, helmets and bikes colored yellow when they donned the jersey. Marco Pantani decided to give his goatee a bleaching to match the new piece of wardrobe. Now Cunego gets his hair ready just in case he dons the Yellow somewhere around mid-July. Is this motivation or overconfidence or is he simply getting into the festive Tour mood. We’ll see in about three weeks if his darker roots are showing or if he decides to keep the look at that time.
Damiano Cunego bypassed the Giro to focus his efforts on the Tour de France. With fewer time trials, more climbing and a couple days in Italy it seems like this is a Tour made for Cunego. After some very sharp spring form where he outfoxed rack SAchleck at Amstel Gold Cunego is ready to tone up his Tour de France form by scoping out the major climbs and then riding the Tour de Suisse later this week.
The team Lampre website gives some general info about Cunego’s recent recon trip:
Under a grey, but not rainy, sky, Cunego and Marzano completed the reconnaissance of the final part of the 15th stage of Tour de France, the one scheduled on the 20th of July with arrival in Prato Nevoso. Two Lampre’s riders (foto) began the training in Chiusa di Pesio and after 40 kms reached Prato Nevoso. “This reconnaissance has been useful and I’ll remember the last climb when we’ll be here in Prato Nevoso during Tour de France – Cunego said – The climb has not very tough declination, but it could be hard to cover if the speed would be high”.
Cunego’s next races before Tour de France will be Tour de Suisse and Italian Championship.
Damiano Cunego surprisingly beat Franck Schleck up the final Cauberg climb to win Amstel Gold. The revenge must be sweet after losing to Schleck at L’Alpe D’Huez in 2006. Cunego now looks to be the favorite going into Liege-Bastonge-Liege since it is better suited to his abilities. Lampre has also announced the Tour de France lineup backing up Damiano Cunego which in all likelyhood is a bid to win the race.
Lampre will also line up their sprinter Danilo Napolitano, Marco Marzano, Daniele Righi, Paolo Tiralongo and ‘Patxi’ Vila. “We clearly aim at winning the overall classification of the Tour de France with Cunego this year,” directeur sportif Bruno Vicino said on the start line of the 7th stage of the Presidential Tour of Turkey in Antalya. Two other Lampre riders have yet to be chosen.
Cunego has been slowly getting his ducks lined up to tackle the Tour as a GC contender. Since his foray into France in 2006 where he impressed with a Best Young Rider jersey win and 11th place overall. The key factor in his BYR jersey win was his much improved Time Trialing ability. This is a skill that is key to winning in France. Now that it looks like Damiano and Lampre are putting in a serious bid for the yellow it will be interesting to see how he lines up against other favorites such as Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans.
Damiano Cunego will make a state-side visit in October to work on his aerodynamics. Cunego will be working with aero guru John Cobb in one of the most advanced wind tunnels in the world located in Houston, Texas. The tunnel has tools that will allow testing that is closer to real world scenarios. Harley Davidson uses the same wind tunnel to test their bikes. During the test Cunego will try out different bike components and positions. They will even test the best position for his water bottle.
Cunego surpirsed many by winning the best young rider jersey at the Tour de France. His final time-trial performance was the big surprise since most observers expected Cunego to be overhauled by Markus Fothen. Instead Cunego put in very impressive performance and gained time on Fothen. Time trialing is seen as Cunego weakness so the time put in with John Cobb will pay dividends during the Giro.
Damiano Cunego looks to be wrapping up his long season soon. This means that he will not vie for one of 9 spots on the the Italian team for the World Championships Road Race in Salzburg, Austria. Cunego’s riding style would be an ideal fit for the hilly course, but a long season with results in Liege Bastongne Liege, a decent come back performance at the Giro and the “Best Young Rider” jersey at the Tour are very good results. This is coming after last year’s bout with Epstein-Barr syndrome which left Il Princippe searching for form while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with the small Italian cyclist.
Italian Director Sportif Franco Ballerini says that “It is understandable why he is tired since he had a long season of racing.” Ballerini believes that Cunego could still ride a few more races without getting mentally tired of racing. Ballerini nonetheless speaks highly of the young fuoriclasse rider and belives Cundego could return to winning a Grande Giro.
(Damiano showed improved time trialing skills in the Tour de France. This could a a good sign for
(pic from Yahoo!)
Floyd Landis secured the Tour de France win with a very good Time Trial performance that vaulted him over Oscar Periero. Landis looked to smoke the course early onas he beat the first split time set by Serhiy Honchar, but as the TT progressed Landis’ times slowed down a bit to where he placed second behind the T-Mobile duo of Honchar and Kloden. Landis’ time was fast enough to get a one minute advantage over Periero, and reason enough to decompress and celebrate his first Tour win.
What more can be said of Landis now that he cemented his first Tour win and the eight consecutive win by and American cyclist? The stage to Morzine that followed the total collapse at La Toussiere will be talked about for ages. The fist pumping victory salute should be on inspirational posters everywhere.
Carlos Sastre had a mini implosion today as he performed poorly in the final Time Trial and lost a podium spot. Now Andreas Kloden takes third and promptly dedicated his spot to the now unemployed Jan Ullrich. Sastre performed well in the Alps and could have spoiled the day for Landis if CSC helped to chase down Landis earlier. Lucky they didn’t. But CSC at least has someone to make them forget about the Basso situation for a little while.
Conventional wisdom and past performances indicated that Damiano Cundego would not last long in the white jersey for best young rider in the Tour. With a slight five second lead and not a great track record in Time Trials no one expected much from Cunego. But the last TT is much more about form than TT ability and Cunego put in a great performance to stay in white. Cunego has had a great Tour de France and the future looks bright for “Il Prinicippe” as his form is finally coming back after last years bout with Epstein Barr.
(pic from eurosport.com)
The Giro started this weekend and may have ended this weekend too. Ivan Basso put down a Lance Armstrong/Miguel Indurain type of performance on the first real mountin top finish of the Giro. As Carlos Sastre set a tempo reminiscent of Discovery Channel/Postal leadout of the past seven years, Basso simply clicked away as contenders drifted off the back of the group.
The first of the contenders to feel the pain was Danilo DiLuca. “The Killer” did not seem to be on form all this weekend. It was reported that DiLuca was suffering some sort of ailment on Saturday which showed. On Sunday his pace was much better, but he was one of the first top contenders to get launched off the back.
Paolo Savoldelli had a good ride, but probably lost one minute more than he would have liked. He was not going to keep up with the top mountainmen in the Giro this year, which may mean that he does not have much of a chance to repeat his win from last year.
Gilberto Simoni could not get launched by his teamate Leonardo Piepoli. The small Italian climber helped Gibo get to the top of the climb on Sunday as Basso simply rode away with the win. Simoni felt that he set a good pace and was frustrated that he could not muster any more speed. Is he getting old? Not really he placed respectably, he is just not as fast as Basso or Cunego.
Damiano Cungeo can recall the glory days of 2004 when he won the Giro del Trentino and the GP Larciano on his way to a surprise victory in the Giro D’Italia. He became the sixth youngest winner of the Giro at 22 years, 8 months and 11 days.
This year in fact Cunego feels better than 2004 since he is coming into the Giro with six win under his belt compared to 2004 when he had five victories. Compared to 2005 when he only had four wins all season. Plus, he placed third in Liege-Bastonge-Liege.
“Damiano is ready” says Direttore Sportivo Giuseppe Martinelli. At the Giro we have a squad that is built around Damiano that is very strong in the climbs where they can actual help.
The favorite has to be Ivan Basso who can gain many minutes in the Time Trials. But there are many climbs in the Giro this year, so we must attack.
Gazzetta dello sport
Gilberto Simoni is a happier man this year. He is on his own team with former team manager Pietro Algeri who guided his Lampre team when he won the Giro in 2001. Life is better than 2004 when Simoni felt up ended by the young upstart Damiano Cunego. Simoni was one of the few Italians that wasn’t cheering for the young prospect who won the hearts of Italian fans only a few months after the death of Marco Pantani. Gibo was so sore at Cunego’s win that he was seen shouting some less than professional remarks at “The kid” during a maglia rosa presentation.
Last year Gibo was able to reassert himself as leader of Lampre as Cunego was not on form due to a bout with Epstein Barr syndrome. Gibo placed second behind a scrappy performance by Paolo Salvodelli and ahead of a very dangerous Jose Rujano.
This year’s Giro has a tough last week that makes Simoni happy with his chances. With a more relaxed and supportive team atmosphere, Simoni will definately be a protagonist once again. His track record in the Giro is very good as he either wins or is close to the top just about every year. The double Giro champ has some stiff competition as always. But Gibo can relax since the Italian hype machine is not focusig on the Battaliga Italiana like it did last year when all eyes were on seeing part two of the intra-team rivalry between Simoni and Cunego.