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Damiano Cunego, Tour rookie and potential protagonist

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital)

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) (Image credit: Sirotti)

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Strasbourg

Although some observers criticized Lampre-Fondital's Damiano Cunego for his mediocre prologue on Saturday, the young Italian rider can hardly be considered suited for a flat 7km race. Cyclingnews caught up with Cunego in Strasbourg on Sunday, where he was surrounded by French fans seeking his autograph. "I'm happy the way things went yesterday; it was a really a prologue for specialists and that's not me!", explained Cunego. "I tried to do my best without forcing it, also because it's a month since I've raced. In the next 10 days, I'm just trying to stay out of trouble and come into top form. But I'm really happy to be here at the Tour, it's such a big race, like everything is three times larger than any other race. It's great to be here."

We asked Cunego about the fact that initially he came to the Tour just for experience this year, but now with Ullrich and Basso out of the picture, that he could be a real protagonist after his excellent 4th place at the Giro d'Italia. "I hope so", he responded. "Above all, I think I can be a factor in the final week with the hardest mountain stages. I hope to be a factor and maybe even win a stage, even if it won't be easy! It might be easier to win a stage if I lose a few minutes on GC." We asked Cunego if he was dreaming of winning on l'Alpe d'Huez and he smiled, saying "that's a climb that is very special... it would be really great to win there."

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