By Gregor Brown in Cholet, France
Italy's Damiano Cunego (Lampre) was pleased with the first true dose of force delivered in the 95th Tour de France on yesterday's time trial in Cholet, France. The 26 year-old from Verona limited his loses to overall favourite Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and gained time on Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).
"It is only the fourth day and I can't yet spend all my energy. As the days go on, I will be able to use more of my forces," Cunego said after finishing 37'10", 59 seconds behind Evans, but eight seconds up on Valverde. "It was a decent time today.
"In the first part there was such a strong wind, but I kept going at my pace," he added. "You had to be careful, or you would end off the street. In the second half we were flying; the specialists were going 70km/h."
Cunego has made huge time trial improvements since the 2006 Tour de France where he successfully defended the maillot blanc of best young rider in the final time trial. The lessons paid off for the fourth stage of the Tour de France, as did the specific trained he did at home for this time trial.
"I tried to give all, it was a fundamental test," he said. "I tried to defend myself."
Cunego is now 1'05" behind Evans on general classification and 14 seconds back on Denis Menchov (Rabobank). "Tonight, I will have a good look at the classification and see how the combinations are," he said.