Lampre - NGC
2009 SUMMARY: Last year ended in recriminations when Damiano Cunego criticised his team-mates following a tactical blooper at the Tour of Lombardy and ended up coming under fire for being too egotistical. Certainly, the team depended on Cunego to shine, which he did, but only in patches. His highs were two summit stage wins at the Vuelta but the low was the confirmation that he’s no longer a major tour contender. Meanwhile, Alessandro Ballan was well and truly hit by the curse of the rainbow jersey and then slipped away to BMC.
LOOKING AHEAD: The pressure on Cunego to deliver results has been lifted by the arrival of Alessandro Petacchi. If ‘Alejet’ can serve up his seasonal clutch of big race wins, Cunego might benefit from being able to pick his objectives more selectively. Still, while we’d all love to see him scampering back into contention at the Giro, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever see the same kind of form from the 2004 winner again.
THE LINE-UP: Enrico Gasparotto and Paolo Tiralongo both decamped to Astana complaining that they rarely got the opportunities they deserved. With 2008 world champ Ballan and the very dependable Marzio Bruseghin gone as well, there’s a huge hole to fill and Petacchi looks like he’s got the job of taking up most of it. Some strong lead-out talent has been brought in to support him too.
ONE TO WATCH: Let’s face it, this team is all about Cunego and Petacchi. While the latter shouldn’t have much problem in racking up the sprint wins, Cunego’s path is less easy to predict. Will he turn his back on the temptation of major tour titles and concentrate on stage wins and the hilly Classics? It could be his best way forward but will he want to turn his back on the pink and yellow jerseys at just 28 years old?