Damiano Cunego's ninth place finish on the final stage of Paris-Nice is a big confidence booster for the Italian, who has worked on improving his time trial over the European winter months. The Lampre-ISD rider finished 59 seconds back on an indomitable Bradley Wiggins (Sky), but was within 26 seconds of a cluster of riders that included Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Andreas Kloden (RadioShack-Nissan) and Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun).
Despite the uphill parcours of the time trial to the Col d'Èze favouring Cunego more than say the flat on which he's historically struggled, the Italian took plenty of positives from the performance which he believes vindicates the work he's put in to polish the discipline.
"The time trial confirmed the improvement in my position, and my fit on the new bike, and I'm really satisfied with the way it turned out," Cunego explained. "I've been testing myself a lot here in France, and now I think I'll be very competitive in my next few races. [Today] gives me a lot of confidence that I can do a strong time trial."
Any chance of a high overall finish was out the window for the Italian on the first road stage when the 21-strong break of riders that included Wiggins and Tejay Van Garderen finished 2:29 ahead of the main field. He managed to test himself on Thursday's queen stage to Mende with a sixth place finish, but has otherwise ridden within himself.
Cunego flagged before the start of Paris-Nice that he was still "a month away from top form" with the Volta a Catalunya, Pais Vasco, and the Ardennes his next big objectives.
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