While the 2012 Giro d'Italia was touted as a more human edition of the race at the official presentation in Milan on Sunday, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) remains to be convinced that post-stage transfers have been significantly reduced on recent years.
"Let's hope so, but I'll believe it when I see it," Cunego told Cyclingnews. "It seems to be a well-designed route and the climbs are still there, I saw plenty of them. As a rider, though, I wish there were fewer transfers, especially after stages. In the last few years, there have really been a lot of them and they've cut into our recovery time."
Cunego, who skipped the 2011 Giro to focus on the Tour de France, was broadly positive about the route, although he was quick to point out that a cursory glance at the map doesn't offer a true idea of what he will face in May.
"In the presentation, the most beautiful parts are always highlighted. For now it seems like a beautiful route, but we'll see if that's still the case when we ride it," he noted.
Two stages in particular stand out for Cunego – stage 16 to Falzes and the penultimate day's stage over the Mortirolo to the top of the Stelvio. It was on the road to Falzes that Cunego retook the pink jersey and definitively wrested leadership of the Saeco squad from Gilberto Simoni during their bitter internal struggle at the 2004 Giro.
"I've got great memories of that stage, because I won it and took the pink jersey," Cunego said. "It marked the beginning of a great career and it's still ongoing. As for the Stelvio, I think that's the hardest stage."
After returning to stage racing prominence last summer with second at the Tour de Suisse and 7th at the Tour de France, Cunego could well be tempted to return to the Giro d'Italia in 2012.
"Right now, it's very early to say what programme I'll have," Cunego said. "Above all, it's not a decision to be rushed into."
Given his potential in the Ardennes classics, however, it seems unlikely that Cunego will attempt both the Giro and the Tour as he did in 2010, when he ended his season drained and without a win to his name.
"I'd prefer to do the Classics, but you could also try the Giro and Tour in one year," Cunego said. "You can do the Giro and the Tour, although once the Tour is over, you're obviously very tired and you have to end your season well before the others."
In any case, should he ride the Giro, Cunego believes that the toughest Dolomite stages are where he will come to the fore, rather than during the rolling second week through the Apennines. After trimming his weight down to a mere 58kg since his collaboration at the Mapei centre began last winter, Cunego was bullish about his chances of making the difference in the highest mountains.
"I definitely prefer the real mountain stages, and not those stages that are neither one thing nor the other. They're not easy, but they're not hard enough either," he said. "I prefer hard courses with a lot of altitude gained."