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Cunego: "I'm one of the favourites"

(Image credit: Gregor Brown)

Damiano Cunego will attempt to rediscover his Grand Tour pedigree at the Giro d'Italia this month. The Italian has performed well in the one-day Classics in recent years, but wants to be on the top of the Giro d'Italia podium when the race ends in Rome, May 31.

"Can I win? I don't know, I will start off as one of the favourites and then we will have to see what I am capable of," the 2004 race winner told Cyclingnews.

A win is within reach based on Cunego's season so far: two stages and the overall classification at Coppi e Bartali after spending the better part of March at altitude on the Spanish island of Tenerife. However despite failing to collect a Classic win in the Ardennes, he showed his form is on target before the three-week Italian stage race.

Cunego's rival, Ivan Basso (Liquigas), is also showing signs of improvement as the Giro d'Italia approaches. He won the Giro del Trentino, before racing against Cunego at the third of three Ardennes Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"In 2006 he was very strong. He can [win]. We have to see how Lance Armstrong is going and whether he has recovered well or if he is still suffering [from the fractured collarbone]. I followed [the Tour of the Gila] a little bit and saw that if Armstrong doesn't go well then there's Levi Leipheimer."

Despite coming in fourth in 2006 and fifth in 2007, Cunego took a break from the Giro last year in order to focus on the Tour de France.

"I rode the Giro every year from 2003 until 2007, and this year will be my sixth. I feel good and relaxed ahead of this Giro, but then every year is different," added Cunego.

In the days prior to race Cunego fine-tuned his fitness. On Friday he trained for 5 hours and 45 minutes, 220 kilometres (80km motor pacing and four climbs). Cunego went out for a short ride on Sunday, two hours, and he planned on five hours on Monday (three climbs).

"I am putting in some good training now with some long distances and long climbs. It is only a week away from the Giro and we'll see how I am going."

The Giro d'Italia starts with a 20.5-kilometre team time trial in Venice. The riders face the Dolomites immediately with stages four (San Martino di Castrozza) and five (Alpe di Siusi). Big time differences will come in stage 12's 60.6-kilometre time trial and the final week's mountain stages in Italy's south. The race ends in Rome on May 31.

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