Damiano Cunego of Lampre-Fondital is progressing in form for his season goal of winning the Giro d'Italia. Sunday, the 25 year-old rider from Verona finished the Critérium International in seventh overall.
The three-stage, two-day race was largely based on Sunday morning's 98.5 kilometre run from Les Vieilles Forges to Monthermé, where the riders had to start at an early 8:10. "It is a little unusual," Cunego said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Il Piccolo Principe (the Little Prince) had to wake up at 5:45 to prepare the day, beginning with stage two.
CSC's Jens Voigt ruled and took out his third win in the French classic. "I tried to attack but the climbs were too short and to make the selection was not easy," he commented on the stage that consisted of nine côtes. Cunego went on to finish the stage in fifth, 48 seconds back.
The afternoon's 8.3 kilometre time trial confirmed that Cunego is progressing towards the Giro, and also April's Ardennes Classics. "Last year we would have lost about five seconds per kilometre," said DS Giuseppe Martinelli after Cunego's run. Il Piccolo Principe lost three seconds per kilometre and arrived 16th at 28 seconds down to winner Thomas Lövkvist.
"I ended in seventh in the general classification," the rider confirmed. "Last year I probably wouldn't have arrived in 15th."
The little prince will re-appear in the País Vasco, April 9 - 14, where he will put the finishing touches on his Ardennes preparations.
Ardennes Classics are the Amstel Gold (Holland, April 22), La Flèche Wallonne (Belgium, 25) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Belgium, 29).