Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) arrives at the Critérium du Dauphiné with the twin target of fine-tuning his Tour de France preparations and scoring his first WorldTour success of the season.
Although Cunego claimed stage victory at Piane di Mocogno during the Settimana Coppi & Bartali in March, he fell some way short in his main spring objectives at the Tour of the Basque Country and the Ardennes Classics in April.
After almost a month away from racing, Cunego returned to competitive action at the Bayern Rundfahrt last week, where his teammate Adriano Malori claimed final overall victory.
“In the last few weeks away from racing, I’ve trained hard and at the work I did at Bayern Rundfahrt for Malori has helped to find some sharpness,” Cunego said. “I’ll approach the Dauphiné with a double aim – I want to keep an eye on the GC and try to win a stage, so I can get some WorldTour points, and at the same time, I’ll work to improve my form as much as possible.”
Cunego opted to forgo the Giro d’Italia this season in order to focus his attentions on the Tour de France. The Italian enjoyed arguably his best Grand Tour performance of recent years at La Grande Boucle in 2011, when he finished 6th overall.
That Tour display came on the back of a second place finish at the Tour de Suisse and Cunego acknowledged that he could do with a similar showing at the Dauphiné, which gets underway on Sunday.
“Winning always gives you a greater motivation to hang tough and work hard. A stage at the Dauphiné would give me a lot of conviction heading into the Italian championships and the Tour de France,” Cunego said. “There are some interesting stages at the Dauphiné, so along with the management, I’ll weigh up how best to chase the objectives.”
Lampre-Merida team for Critérium du Dauphiné: Damiano Cunego, Josè Serpa, Kristijan Durasek, Elia Favilli, Massimo Graziato, Andrea Palini, Maximiliano Richeze and Matteo Bono.