Michele Scarponi is confident that he and Damiano Cunego are gelling well as co-leaders of the Lampre-ISD squad. Scarponi will lead the team at the Giro d’Italia, while Cunego will target the Ardennes Classics.
Before that, however, both men are aiming for top honours at Tirreno-Adriatico, but Scarponi points to the recent Giro di Sardegna as proof of their ability to work together.
“The beginning has been without doubt positive,” Scarponi told cicloweb.it. “I helped him to win a stage in Sardinia and I saw that he really appreciated it and that couldn’t but make me happy.
“I know well why [Giuseppe] Saronni wanted me in the team and I think that he [Cunego] knows it too, so I’m sure there won’t be misunderstandings between us.”
In 2010, Cunego led Lampre’s challenge at both the Giro and the Ardennes, and ultimately ended the season without a single victory to his name. The team thus opted to bring in Scarponi to share the burden of leadership with Cunego, who revealed to Cyclingnews as long ago as last September that he would not ride the 2011 Giro and instead focus on the Classics.
“The team wanted me to look to win the Giro d’Italia or at least get on the podium and I’m working principally for that,” said Scarponi, who just missed out on the final step on the rostrum in Verona last May. “The management decided that Cunego will not be in the Giro squad because he will have other important objectives to chase during the season, so I doubt we’ll be treading on one another’s toes too often.”
While Scarponi’s ambition is high ahead of the Giro, he acknowledges that he will face a stiff challenge from Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), who recently returned to competitive action when the Spanish Federation decided that his positive test for Clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France did not warrant sanction.
The Italian rode with Contador on the notorious Liberty Seguros team, which was unable to take part in the 2006 Tour de France after its manager Manolo Saiz and a number of its riders were implicated in Operacion Puerto. Scarponi went on to serve a suspension when he admitted his links to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.
“At the first training camp with Liberty Seguros, I came to the hotel and I checked who happened to be in my room, and guess what? I read his name, Alberto Contador, up to then little more than an illustrious young unknown,” Scarponi recalled. “From there, I developed a good rapport with him. I saw that the boy had big numbers and later everybody learned who he was.
“If, as it seems, he’s at the Giro, he and all of Saxo Bank will be the real leading lights of the race."