The Tre Cime di Lavaredo will make its return to the Giro d'Italia on May 27, 18 years after it last appeared. Damiano Cunego, winner of the 2004 Giro, hopes to add his name to the role of Lavaredo honour that includes Eddy Merckx, Luis Herrera and Juan Manuel Fuente.
Yesterday, Il Piccolo Principe ('The little prince') tested his legs on the stage 15 parcours, which includes the climbs of Passo di San Pellegrino, Passo di Giau and Passo Tre Croci before arriving at the 21.9-kilometre ascent of Tre Cime di Lavaredo. However, the Lampre-Fondital rider was not able to reach the top of the finishing climb due to snow.
"It would have been better to arrive at the top, but there were two metres of snow and you would not even have been able to climb it by foot," he explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I have got a good idea by covering the first switchbacks; they told me that the final is as hard as the start. In some sections the gradient was like that of the Mortirolo."
The penultimate mountain stage has the ability to create a Giro legend but Cunego warns it will also be able to wreck any pretenders.
"Whoever goes into crisis here will lose the Giro, however, it can be an ideal trampoline for whoever is going well. All of the stage is hard; The Giau never seems to finish; you lose count of the switchbacks. There will certainly be an escape... It wil be a stage of elimination."
Today, Cunego will cover the 2007 Giro's final mountain stage, stage 17 to Monte Zoncolan. He had already covered part of the climb in the pre-season but, like Tre Cime di Lavaredo, was stopped short due to snow. Cunego believes Zoncolan is hands down the toughest climb for this year's race.
"It is absolutely the hardest climb in the Giro. And, after the Tre Cime, it is also the most beautiful," he stated.
He will return to test himself on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo after racing the Giro del Trentino and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "I am convinced that I am taking the right route [towards a Giro win.] The man to beat will again be Basso, together with Simoni." Yesterday, Ivan Basso also trained on the same roads. "It is too bad I did not cross paths with him, it would have been good to exchanges thoughts on the climbs."