Sitting 23 minutes behind the race leaders heading into the Tour de France’s first mountain stage isn’t normally something a Giro d’Italia winner would be happy about, yet Damiano Cunego says his 166th position is deliberate. Cunego crashed prior to the cobblestone sections on stage three, but the Italian decided against minimising his losses and didn’t chase the peloton.
“I could have finished with Ivan Basso,” he said. “I’ve lost so much time on purpose because what I want here is to win a stage or more, but I’m not concerned by the overall classification. Any stage win is welcome.”
Being so far behind on general classification could be the ticket Cunego needs for the race’s general classification leaders to allow him to slip away. Normally he’d be considered a potential overall threat, and would be marked if he tried anything.
“I see the Alps coming and there will be good occasions to do something,” said the Lampre rider, who remains bitter that he missed the opportunity to win the stage to l’Alpe d’Huez where Fränk Schleck won in 2006.
Today’s Stage 7 isn’t yet in the Alps but the ski resort of Les Rousses in the Jura is the first stage victory opportunity for someone with Cunego’s characteristics. “I’m far out on general classification, so I have my chance to go away,” he said. "I’ll have to understand where the right breakaway will go. We’re entering the central phase of the Tour de France. That’s my time to do something.”
Cunego added that he rides in France with no more pressure than what he usually experiences in Italy. “I’m very relaxed,” he said. “The team is very cool with me. We have won two stages with Alessandro Petacchi, so we are preparing for the coming stages with extreme tranquillity.”