Despite being counted out as a contender by Lance Armstrong, Italy's Damiano Cunego is prepared to battle to bring home the Tour de France's maillot jaune. The Lampre rider has been building toward this goal since the end of last season, winning the Amstel Gold Race along the way. The 26 year-old told Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown why the Tour de France could be his to win.
Damiano Cunego was touted as Italy's next Tour de France contender after he won the 2004 Giro d'Italia at 23. But despite winning the young rider classification in his first appearance at the Tour in 2006, the Lampre rider fell short of expectations.
That all changed last fall when Cunego put in a brilliant ride to win the Giro di Lombardia - a performance which seemed to rekindle his desire to race at the very highest level of the sport. Following the off-season, he proved he was on track by winning a stage in País Vasco, Klasika Primavera and, above all, his first Spring Classic, the Amstel Gold Race.
Cunego then made an unusual decision for an Italian - he chose to skip his home Grand Tour to focus solely on the French goal. Until this year, Cunego has competed in every Giro d'Italia since 2003 and knows that the Tour de France will deliver a different set of obstacles.
"The hot weather, strong adversaries, climbs that are hard due to the heat - not for the gradient," he said. "Definitely, to be good at the Tour you need some time to mature and everything else.
"What I have learned in this last year - experience and great conviction - I hope to take something more [at the Tour]," he added. "We will see that there will be something more."
To read the full interview, click here.