"The years of improvisation are left behind. Now I attentively interpret the many particulars of riding and not only that, also this is part of maturing," said Damiano Cunego, 25 years-old, of his continued growth to La Gazzetta dello Sport. At 22 years of age he had already won the Giro d'Italia's maglia rosa but that seemed more by chance whereas now he is studious, with a head for the tactical game.
The little climbing sensation of three years ago, dubbed Il Piccolo Principe, has become more and more serious about his aim of being an overall contender in the grand tours. From his experiences this last summer in the Tour de France, where he won the maillot blanc with a superb final time trial, he has realized that climbing is not the only aspect of a rider; to be a overall tour contender you need to be able to go fast against the clock, like Lance Armstrong.
"It is something that I try, reflecting on what he [Armstrong] did and looking over everything about him," continued the rider from Verona. "I was not able to encounter him often in races but I observed how he applied himself in various situations and I imagine that this is able to be of use for me. I understand that the mental aspect of racing counts for a lot."
To that end, after the 2006 season Cunego made a trip to Texas to work specifically on his time trialing. "This winter I threw myself into the important fundamentals of a season. Now I will work in a manner more specific, attending to, most of all, the power output. And, then I am also working very hard on bettering myself in the time trial, after the test made in the Houston wind tunnel. The first true opportunity for discovering this work will be the Critérium International [March 31 - April 1 - ed.]."
Even before the 2007 racing season begins, Cunego can be happy with his training results. He and his close confidant, Director Sportif Giuseppe Martinelli, have recently covered one of their off-season climbing tests, the Querce (from Lenola, in Lazio); an eight kilometre climb with an average gradient of 8% and a maximum of 11. At the end of a six-hour, 210-kilometre day, Cunego recorded an average of 400 watts; 10% better than last year according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. This is considered thanks to the work done over the off-season and a further 2500 kilometres in his legs at the start of January.
Cunego's season will begin with the Ruta del Sol, February 18 - 22. Then, leading up the Giro d'Italia, May 12, he will race the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, March 7 - 11, Critérium International, March 31 - April 1, Pais Vasco, April 9 - 14, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, April 29 and Tour de Romandie, May 1 - 6.