Cunego fractures collarbone at the Vuelta a San Juan
Nippo-Vini Fantini rider returns to Italy for surgery
Damiano Cunego returned to Italy from the Vuelta a San Juan after fracturing his left collarbone during stage 4 won by Fernando Gaviria (QuickStep Floors).
The leader of the Nippo-Vini Fantini team was hoping for a strong start to the 2017 season to back up Nippo-Vini Fantini’s claims that it deserved a wild card invitation to the Giro d’Italia. He now faces surgery to limit his time away from competition.
Cunego crashed with four other riders during the flat stage around San Juan. The crash occurred in the opening kilometres, when the pace was high and before the 13-rider break of the day was formed. According to Tuttobiciweb, Cunego already has a metal plate in his left collarbone from a previous crash, complicating his new fracture.
The Verona-based rider is expected to arrive in Italy on Saturday and quickly undergo surgery to fix the fracture so he can be back in training on a stationary bike within a few days. He was due to ride the Tour of Oman and the Abu Dhabi Tour but will now be forced to review his early season race programme.
Now 35, Cunego is remembered for winning the Giro d’Italia in 2004 when he was one of the youngest riders in the Italian peloton. His success, his character and young age earned him the affectionate nickname of the Little Prince, from the well-known book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
No Giro d'Italia wild card
Cunego was hoping to ride the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia but race organisers RCS Sport surprisingly snubbed the Italo-Japanese team, prefering to give the four wild card invitations to Bardiani-CSF, Wilier-Selle Italia, Gazprom-Rusvelo and CCC Sprandi.
Team manager Francesco Pelosi has called on the Italian Cycling Federation to intervene but the head of cycling at RCS Sport Mauro Vegni defended his decision to invite two teams from outside of Italy and snub Nippo-Vini Fantini and Androni Giocattoli.
"The crisis in Italian cycling doesn't stem from the (team) choices by the Giro, but by the fact the movement has for years been based upon the wrong business model: 'I need to ride the Giro or else I'll close the team'," Vegni told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"That's no way to think. We'll always give Italian cycling attention, but the Giro can't be everything and the other races count for nothing. The team who won't ride the Giro will ride Strade Bianche, Tirreno and Milan-San Remo. It is wrong to say everything depends on the Giro. That means the teams don't have plans."
"I'm sorry for Androni but there has to be a project behind the teams," Vegni added. "It's the same for Nippo, who I put faith in for the last two years. I want to see the best young Italian riders turn pro with them. In Nippo's case, Arrendondo doesn't make much difference."
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By Josh Croxton