Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) is confident that he can buffer his lead over the time triallists on stage 7 of the Tour de Suisse to Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis. He currently leads the race overall, 1:23 ahead of Bauke Mollema (Rabobank).
Cunego ceded ground to Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) in the final push to the line on Thursday, but he is bullish about his chances of putting the American in difficulty ahead of the decisive time trial. Leipheimer has the strongest time trialling pedigree of the riders in the top 5, and lies 1:59 behind Cunego.
“If Leipheimer is stronger than me in the time trial, I should be better on Friday’s stage, which is the hardest,” Cunego told Gazzetta dello Sport.
He admitted that his objective before the race was simply to win a stage but his ambitions have now been adjusted accordingly.
“I began the Tour de Suisse with the aim of winning a stage and I find myself with the objective of conquering the overall classification,” Cunego explained. “And I won’t hold back.”
The 2004 Giro d’Italia winner has rarely been competitive in the general classification of the Grand Tours in recent years, but Cunego is optimistic that he can make an impact at the Tour de France. After a muted Ardennes campaign, he skipped the Giro in order to build up to July. The Tour de Suisse is an important intermediate step along the way.
“I believe and I’m trying,” he said. “I’m suffering but I’m enjoying myself. I’m back looking at the race from the top. There are people here who are going to the Tour as protagonists and that’s what I want to do.”
Juan Mauricio Soler (Movistar) was lying second overall ahead of Thursday’s stage, but suffered head injuries after colliding with a spectator, and was forced to abandon the race. The Colombian was in Cunego’s mind after the finish. “He’s really unlucky, I hope that he recovers quickly.”