Damiano Cunego announced yesterday at the Team Lampre presentation that he will travel to the Spanish island of Tenerife for 15 days in March to prepare for the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d'Italia.
"We have been thinking about this for a few seasons. The altitude can provide a rider with some important benefits," Cunego, 27, told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Cunego won the Amstel Gold and his third Giro di Lombardia in 2008. The Italian will aim for the Ardennes Classics again this April – specifically Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – before he returns to Italy to attempt a repeat of his 2004 Giro d'Italia victory.
Cunego will race in his second event of the season starting tomorrow: the Volta ao Algarve, February 18 to 22. At the beginning of March, he will travel to Tenerife with teammates Paolo Tiralongo, Marco Marzano and Mauro Santambrogio. They will stay at Hotel Parador de las Canadas, situated at 2300 metres on the island's Teide volcano.
The 2009 Giro d'Italia will be one of the mostly hotly contested in years. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong added his name to the list of starters in October. Other favourites will include Ivan Basso, Gilberto Simoni, Danilo Di Luca and Carlos Sastre.
Cunego said that Armstrong and Basso will both be strong rivals and that he fears Armstrong the most. He is not as worried about long 61.7-kilometre time trial as when the route was first announced. He previewed the stage in Cinque Terre, May 21, and the technical aspects helped make up his desire to race the 100th anniversary of the Giro d'Italia.
"I only hope that there is a balanced playing field, otherwise those who have talked so much about transparency would be better to keep quiet." Last year after the Giro d'Italia, two of its key riders – Riccardo Riccò and Emanuele Sella – tested positive for doping.
Cunego will race the GP Insubria, February 28, and the GP Lugano, March 1, after Algarve. He will preview the Giro d'Italia stages of Monte Petrano and Vesuvio prior to the Tenerife camp, March 5 to 20. His programme after the camp and before the Giro d'Italia includes Milano-Sanremo, a preview of the Giro's Pinerolo and Alpe di Siusi stages, Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro de Romandie.