By Gregor Brown
Damiano Cunego of Lampre-NGC is preparing for April's Ardennes Classics and a second Giro d'Italia title on the Spanish island of Tenerife through March 19. The warm weather and high altitudes suit the winner of last year's Amstel Gold.
"I did Paris-Nice last year, but I was cold," said Cunego to Cyclingnews. "I heard about the stage today [yesterday's hard-fought stage to Vichy - ed.] and I am convinced about the choice I made.
"I can see that it is more productive here, and when I return I will be right back into racing with the Coppi e Bartoli."
Cunego travelled to Tenerife (south of mainland Spain, west of Morocco) on February 26 with Directeur Sportif Brent Copeland and teammates Paolo Tiralongo, Marco Marzano and Mauro Santambrogio. He returns six days before the start of the Coppi e Bartoli stage race.
Yesterday, he took in 3,000 metres of climbing over three climbs with conditions at 25°C. The final climb was a simulation of a mountaintop stage finish of the Giro d'Italia.
"I did five hours with specific work in the mountains. I like it here a lot. There are demanding routes that are very good for training, plus the fact that you can rest and sleep at 2000 metres is very advantageous."
After Coppi e Bartoli, Cunego will race País Vasco (April 6-11), Amstel Gold (April 19), Flèche Wallonne (April 22), Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 26) and the Tour de Romandie (April 28-May 3).
He believes the benefits of training at altitude will carry all the way through to the Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31. The 2004 winner will line up as one of the favourites to repeat in the three-week Grand Tour against the likes of Ivan Basso and Lance Armstrong.
Cunego keeps an eye on Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico while he is in Spain. He hopes one of his teammates wins Tirreno, but noted the form of CSC's Andy Schleck.