Damiano Cunego makes his debut in the Monte Paschi Strade Bianche on Saturday and the Lampre-ISD rider explained that he was encouraged to do so by his strong performance on similar terrain at last year’s Giro d’Italia.
“I’ve never done it,” Cunego told Gazzetta dello Sport. “But at the 2010 Giro d’Italia, on the stage to Montalcino on more or less these roads, the only thing missing in the end was the win.”
On a tough day of racing in Tuscany last May, when torrential rain turned the famed white dust roads into a mud bath, Cunego did battle with world champion Cadel Evans and Alexandre Vinokourov in the finale, and delivered one of his best displays in what was a frustrating season overall.
“Second place behind Cadel Evans, in the cold, in the rain and on unmade roads that had turned into mud, into a mire of shifting sands,” he recalled. “It was a really hard and memorable day.”
After a winless 2010, Cunego was relieved to open his account for this year with a stage victory at the Giro di Sardegna. He lines up in Gaiole in Chianti with a burden lifted from his shoulders and he is keen to use the event as an important pre-Classics test.
“At almost 200km, with changes in rhythm and certain climbs, it could prove to be the perfect build-up race to my big objectives, which remain the Ardennes Classics,” he said. “What happens, happens.”
Cunego reconnoitred the final 40km of the race on Friday and he was impressed by what he saw along the way, particularly on the approach to the finish in Siena.
“There’s a dangerous finale that lends itself to ambushes, a final climb that you need to tackle from the front and the little street that comes on to the Piazza del Campo,” he said. “It’s a race open to many, if not to everybody.”