Damiano Cunego hopes that his switch to the Nippo-Vini Fantini in 2015 can bring him out of a slump and back to his winning ways. After his peak in 2005, victories have become few and far between for the 'little prince' and he ended this year without a single win.
"The last two years have been the hardest of my career and I could not prove anything. Now I have a great opportunity. Here I can use my experience and, why not, achieve good wins in important races," Cunego told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Cunego's main targets will be the Ardennes Classics in April, Il Lombardia and a return to the World Championships. He hasn't raced at the Worlds since 2009; his best finish came a year before when he finished second to Alessandro Ballan in Verese. Anything can happen between now and Richmond in September, and Cunego isn't looking too far ahead.
"Those dates are far away. Let's take it step by step because in the last two years I have had many disappointments. Of course, if Cassani has me in mind, I would be very happy."
Cunego decided to leave Lampre-Merida this season after 10 years with the Italian team, where he has been overtaken by the likes of Rui Costa and Sacha Modolo at the forefront of the team's success. He will take up a leadership role at Nippo-Vini Fantini, who step up to Pro Continental level next season. After years of struggling to meet the expectation that his early career imposed on him, Cunego is meeting the new challenge with a renewed passion.
"Everything is new and there is great enthusiasm. I am not used to such a strong stimulus," he said. "I'm flattered by the way they have welcomed me."
At 33, Cunego is reaching the end of his career and he is already preparing for the next step in his life. "I began to attend college, doing sports sciences in Verona. I'd like to coach. The first days of the study were hard, a difficult beast. My classmates, fresh out of high school, were of a different category. But I have improved myself and I like it."