Italian Damiano Cunego has early indicators that his preparation is where it needs to be to win the World Championships September 27 in Mendrisio, Switzerland. He attacked in the finale of last week's Clásica San Sebastián and is continuing to ride well in the Volta a Portugal.
"I had only a small amount of races in my legs prior to San Sebastián, but I was able to do well nonetheless. The force I had after 230 kilometres was an important signal for me," Cunego told Cyclingnews.
Cunego (Lampre) had enough energy to help shape the race's finale despite a problem early in the race. He had to chase back to the favourites after his chain broke on the main Jaizkibel climb.
He attacked with Filippo Pozzato on the Miracruz climb, three kilometres remaining, to join the escape group with eventual winner Carlos Barredo. Barredo made his winning move immediately after on the descent, but Cunego remained with the favourites to finish 22nd.
Cunego's fall season started after the Italian Championships June 28. He had 10 days off the bike and went to the beach in Lido di Camaiore. He re-started his season at the Brixia Tour and then San Sebastián.
Cunego is currently racing the Volta a Portugal stage race, August 5 to 16. His next race will be the Vuelta a España, August 29 to September 20.
"Portugal and the Vuelta will be used as training for Worlds. I will not race for the classification, but if I have a chance for a stage win here in Portugal I will try. I would like to win one of the hard stages and give a strong signal."
Cunego finished fifth in stage one, but he is aiming for tomorrow's stage to Mondim de Basto or Tuesday's stage to Santo Tirso. The climbs in Portugal and the ones in Spain's Vuelta should leave Cunego ready for the World Championships.
He finished second to Italian teammate Alessandro Ballan last year in Varese, Italy. The 262.2-kilometre course, 19 13.8-kilometre circuits, should suit Cunego better than last year's 17.35-kilometre circuit.
"The climbs are closer together and there is no time to relax, a more nervous race. It is harder overall because there were 4200 metres of climbing in Varese and this year there are is 4600 metres [4655m - ed.]."
Cunego previewed the course with Ballan and other Italian riders in June, prior to the Italian Championships.