By Gregor Brown in Liège
Italian Damiano Cunego will seek to make his own bit of history this Sunday in the oldest Monument of them all, the 94th Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The winner of the 2004 Giro d'Italia and last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race hopes to be the champion that future cycling enthusiasts are tuning into on old TV re-plays.
"On TV in Italy, I am able to see some of the old races re-played, this race, but also others, like the Tour [de France]," said the 26 year-old from Verona to Cyclingnews, the day before Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Cunego, who overhauled Luxembourg's Fränk Schleck at the top of the Cauberg in Amstel Gold, hopes to add another Monument to his palmarès. In fact, the winner of two editions of the Giro di Lombardia has been doing his research while at home and in front of the television.
"When I have a little bit of time, I watch these," he continued of the old races that are re-played in Italy. "Every year, at Liège there are different winners that come and go, but Liège is always Liège. I am very drawn in by this race. The parcours remains, but every year it has its different protagonists."
As one of those protagonists, Cunego will arrive Sunday morning in Liège's Place Saint-Lambert calm, with money in the bank thanks to last Sunday's win. "I believe that Liège is very important for me, but I am calm," he said. "We have already won at Amstel and we can race with tranquillity. It gives me faith and tranquillity. It is an important race where I will be able to have a result. I have already had a third place, a seventh and a ninth... I would like to do something better."
One thing that has changed with La Doyenne ('the grand old lady') is the penultimate climb, the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons. The climb – 9.9 percent average gradient, 18 percent maximum – was inserted in place of the Côte du Sart-Tilman and should see the race in pieces for the final climb of Côte de Saint-Nicolas.
"The course is harder, but... I like it. It is a Liège that I like. I went and saw the climb yesterday – it is very taxing. It is a lot harder with respect to the normal Liège. Maybe it is better adapted to the climbers, and it is better this way."
Cunego then detailed his battle plans for Sunday. "On the last climb, there will be [Cadel] Evans and [Fränk] Schleck, and they will try some sort of attack. My only way is to give it a go in the sprint, it will be a slim chance, but I have to wait until the sprint."