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Cunego successfully steps ahead in Ardennes

The podium with Schleck, Cunego and Valverde

The podium with Schleck, Cunego and Valverde (Image credit: Elmar Krings)

Italian conquers Amstel Gold's Cauberg and confident with season objectives

By Gregor Brown in Valkenburg, The Netherlands

Damiano Cunego noted his affection for the Ardennes Classics exactly six months ago, on October 21, 2007. The Lampre rider had just taken his second win in the fall Classic Giro di Lombardia, with two wins in one of cycling's Monuments in the bag, Cunego looked ahead to the Spring Classics to round out his palmarès.

The 26 year-old Italian from Verona took an impressive win in the Dutch Classic Amstel Gold Race. He now heads into the remaining Classics as a new favourite, in particular the one other Monument which suits this diminutive rider: Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Cyclingnews listened in as he explained how he won the race that ended in Maastricht and what it means for his future, which includes riding the Tour de France this summer.

"It was my first experience in this race, but today I won," Cunego stated after arriving to the top of Valkenburg's Cauberg first after out-sprinting Luxembourg's Fränk Schleck and leaving Spain's Alejandro Valverde lagging behind.

Last fall he confirmed to Cyclingnews his springtime intentions, "I would say the Spring Classics are very important to me. I will try at Amstel [Gold], Flèche [Wallonne] and Liège [-Bastogne-Liège]. ... I think that it is possible to have a good run and get a great result, and it is an opportunity to improve my fitness. I know that I can do well in these one day races."

Cunego has little experience in the Ardennes Classics, in fact, this morning in Maastricht was his first time to line-up for Amstel Gold – a 257.4-kilometre race taking in 31 climbs.

"My team-mates did a lot of work," he confessed. Cunego won the Giro d'Italia in 2004 and Italy's one-day Classic Giro di Lombardia two times, but lacked knowledge of the Dutch race. Fortunately his team guided him through the day. "Daniele Righi has done this race five times and [Alessandro] Ballan two or three times, so I was able to rely on them. They would tell me where there were dangerous curves. Also, the director [Fabrizio Bontempi] back in the car knows the race like the back of his hand, and he gave me good directions."

Continue to the full feature.

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