"I have never seen anything like this," said Damiano Cunego after climbing the Monte Zoncolan, one of the most feared climbs of the 2007 Giro d'Italia. Yesterday in northeast Italy (near Austria), two weeks after Gilberto Simoni, Damiano Cunego reconnoitred the climb. The 25 year-old, accompanied by Morris Possoni, 22, tackled the final climb of stage 17, which will start in Lienz, Austria.
"We were not able to arrive at the top because of ice on the road and it would have been risky," said the rider from Verona, winner of the 2004 Giro, to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We stopped with four [kilometres] to go. But the most difficult part will come in the middle, which we were able to cover. I have to say that I have never seen a climb so hard. The Mortirolo, for example, in some parts has level sections, while the Zoncolan does not give you any respite."
The Zoncolan (1,730m) was last climbed in 2003 when Simoni won, but then it was approached from a different direction; in 2007 the climb will start from Ovaro, on the western side. "The other side; there is not a comparison. It was shorter and overall easier."
Cunego said that he will return before May to complete the climb. "I think I will use a 36x29," confirmed Cunego regarding his gearing for the stage. "I think that will adapt well, even if during the Giro the conditions will be better, because you will be permitted to save the legs. At the top, they can count on many riders being dropped. This will be very important."
Director Sportif Beppe Martinelli followed the progress of his rider and he confirmed that the Zoncolan will be critical. "If you slow you will have to put your foot down and you won't be able to continue. Then you will lose your chance at winning the Giro," concluded Martinelli.
The climb, in stage 17, will be the last major summit of the 2007 Giro and will come with only four days left to race.