With the Critérium du Dauphiné shining a spotlight, as it always does, on many of the Tour de France contenders, there’s one rider who seems to have been missed in the glare. Damiano Caruso, who’ll be a domestique for Richie Porte next month, is sitting second overall with two stages to go.
The Italian’s excellent performance has happened almost by stealth. As BMC Racing directeur sportif Max Sciandri told Cyclingnews in Valmorel, “We’re tucked in quiet, under the radar”.
Caruso will be used as a support rider in July but he also has proven stage race track record of his own, notably in week-long races. This year he was second at Tirreno-Adriatico and last year he was second at the Tour de Suisse. He has finished in the top 10 at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.
Here at the Dauphiné, after a solid prologue, he put himself into the overall picture thanks to BMC’s second place in the stage 3 team time trial, where they lost 38 seconds to Sky but put 20 or so into most of the other GC teams.
After finishing with the main group of favourites on the first summit finish of the race at Lans-en-Vercors on Thursday, Caruso took seventh place on the more difficult final climb to Valmorel on stage 5.
“It was another good day for me, and for the team,” Caruso said. “The guys did a good job, always putting me in a good position before the climb. I tried to do my best, and in the end I think it’s a good result. I’m happy.”
A good result, an achievable goal
The Dauphiné is a perennial opportunity to assess the chances of the maillot jaune hopefuls, but this year the waters have been muddied by the extra week between the French race and the Tour, owing to the football World Cup. Some are cautious about being too good too early, Vincenzo Nibali – 20th overall – being a case in point.
But even though Caruso won’t be one of the main protagonists in the battle for yellow, he’s still in the same boat.
“Other people are coming here with bigger teams, putting their cards out, wanting to show what they have. We’re just here for preparation. We didn’t want to put pressure on him on day one, so we said let’s just go day-by-day and see where we’re at,” said Sciandri.
“We’ve got a few guys still on the reserve list for the Tour, so we’re here for a lot of guys to prepare for the Tour, and Damiano is on that path, so he’s in the same position as Nibali. We don’t want to be peaking here; just want to come out with good condition and hopefully a good result.”
As for what a good result would look like, Sciandri is keeping it simple, with an achievable goal.
“The other day after the team time trial I said top five, and he had a big smile on his face,” the BMC directeur sportif explained.
“If he doesn’t have any bad moments he could do top five. I don’t want be too optimistic – I prefer to be a bit cautious and then get something more out of it.”
Caruso himself was clearly singing from the same hymn sheet.
“I don’t want to say nothing just yet,” he said. “I just to do my job, and Sunday after the race we’ll see where we are.”