Standing in 12th position on general classification, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) is a man to watch in the mountains of the Tour de France after finishing second at the Tour de Suisse last month. At the start of stage 11 in Blaye-les-Mines, the Italian didn't hide that he's feeling good on French roads as well.
"I've looked for a good preparation for the Tour de France. Before making any plan for the mountains, I have to overcome the rain first," Cunego told Cyclingnews.
Cunego has been primarily concerned about being properly positioned in the peloton in the stages thus far so as not be caught behind a split in the field and lose time on other GC favourites.
"So far, we've had only one hard stage, the day before the rest day [stage 9]," Cunego said. "Up to now, it's been a question of maintaining position. Let's wait for the end of the first Pyrenean stage and we'll see the real value of everyone in the mountains. We'll make plans after that.
"I'm not exactly looking for GC, but if a good GC comes to me, then I'll try and go for it. And if not, I'll look for alternatives: breakaways, stage wins."
"There isn't even one per cent of stress about the general classification," said Lampre-ISD team manager Roberto Damiani. "We only expect Damiano to do his best. We'll go day by day to set goals. We ride the Tour with a maximum of tranquility. Since 2003, we know that Damiano can do well in the mountains."
In 2003, Cunego won the world's highest stage race: the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China. But a second win in a Grand Tour is expected from "the little prince" since he won the 2004 Giro d'Italia. With a better approach to this year's Tour de France, not having ridden the Giro and not having any kind of pressure, he's likely to play an interesting role close to the hot favourites in the absence of Alexandre Vinokourov, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Bradley Wiggins after their crashes.