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Damiano Cunego (Italy)
Best Italian finisher happy for new champion Evans
Damiano Cunego and his Italian team failed to make history by winning a fourth consecutive World Championships on Sunday in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Although Cunego made the leading break on the final lap, he was outnumbered by the Spanish and lacked a response to the race-winning move by Aussie Cadel Evans.
"My condition is good, but this race was not the Vuelta a España nor even a Liège-Bastogne-Liège," said Cunego, who finished eighth as the top Italian finisher. "It was a very confusing course and not adapted to me."
The race featured an early break of 10 riders with no Italians. That wasn't the team plan according to Cunego. The race took a turn for the better, however, on the 12th of 19 laps with a 29-man group that contained four Italians, including defending champion Alessandro Ballan. Unfortunately, for Cunego and his teammates, the group disintegrated, and the race came back together on the penultimate lap.
"We can't hide that we were not calm, but everyone looked to us [Italy], and it got hard," said Cunego. "There were attacks and counterattacks, and you spend energy: 10,000 attacks with the others sitting on the wheels behind (adds up)."
Alexander Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) got away solo for the start of the final lap and last two climbs, Acqua Fresca and Novazzano. His attack drew out the eventual winning move with Joaquím Rodríguez, Samuel Sánchez and Alejandro Valverde (all Spain), Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Matti Breschel (Denmark), Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia), Evans and Cunego on the Acqua Fresca.
"I tried to defend myself because it was hard, and my legs were feeling it," said Cunego. "If (Fabian) Cancellara (Switzerland) was there, it meant that the race was suited to him instead of attackers like me."
Evans, Rodriguez and Kolobnev went clear after the descent of Acqua Fresca, which gave Evans space to launch his winning move ahead of the Novazzano. Cunego and Gilbert tried to respond to Kolobnev and Rodríguez, but it was too late.
"I think he [Evans] gave a response to those who say he only ever places. I am happy for him, he's nice. But if Italy would have won, it would have been better."