The Lampre-Merida man received four stitches and then posted an image of his swollen and patched up knee on his Twitter account with the laconic description, "Brutta Ferita" Italian for bad wound.
Cunego's picture quickly gained traction on social media and met with the approval of Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday morning, who published the image and lauded his "courage and ability to suffer."
"For years he has been battling to find himself again, that Little Prince who lit up world cycling in 2004 with Giro d'Italia victory at the age of 22," runs Gazzetta's introduction. "Four stitches to his left knee, but Damiano has stayed in the race, suffering. In silence. Because cycling is for real, hard men. Thank you Damiano, for your example."
In spite of the swelling and the ungainly stitches, Cunego finished safely in the main peloton on stages 2 and 3 of the Tour of Poland, his first race since the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.
"I want to give a mention to Damiano, who once again gritted his teeth in spite of the wound and the stitches," Lampre-Merida directeur sportif Orlando Maini said after stage 3 to Rzeszow.
The Tour of Poland arrives at an important juncture in Cunego's career. Not only does it mark the beginning of his bid to earn a spot in the Italian team for the world championships in Ponferrada, the 32-year-old’s contract expires at the end of this season and he is yet to confirm his team for 2015.
Cunego has not won a race since he landed a stage of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali in March 2013. After a solid outing at the Tour of the Basque Country this season, he fell short in the Ardennes classics before riding to a low-key 19th place at the Giro d’Italia.