Lampre-ISD relief after disastrous start to Giro d'Italia

The start of the 2012 Giro d’Italia in Denmark hasn’t satisfied the Lampre-ISD team of the defending champion Michele Scarponi, who was awarded the 2011 title after the suspended Alberto Contador's name was scratched from the record book. In stage one, Scarponi only finished 135th, 1:06 behind individual time trial winner Taylor Phinney, while the team’s co-leader Damiano Cunego came in 124th position at 1:03.

“We were not happy at all with how things went in Denmark”, directeur sportif Roberto Damiani told Cyclingnews in Verona. “But we have divided the Giro into three parts. The team time trial is the last day of our first chapter and we hope to perform in the last week.”

The team time trial put a smile back on the face of the management. Team manager Giuseppe Saronni looked particularly worried before his squad started in Verona in the presence of his long-time sponsors, the Lampre company. The former world champion and Giro d’Italia winner refused to answer questions from Cyclingnews. At the end of the race, Damiani was relieved as Lampre-ISD clocked the twelfth best time, a highly respectable 34 seconds down on winners Garmin-Barracuda.

“Our performance was very good”, Damiani commented. “If only we had ridden twelve seconds faster, we’d have made the top 3. In the first part of the course, we’ve asked Petropolli, Bono, Spezialetti and Righi to give everything they had. On the hill, Scarponi set the pace. Then [Italian time trial champion Adriano] Malori brought the team at a very high speed towards the finish. We can now eye at the second part of our Giro.”

“It feels good to ride the team time trial on a high rhythm”, commented Cunego, who was back at home in Verona for his eighth participation in the Giro d’Italia. The winner of the 2004 race was a late inclusion to the squad as he was initially scheduled for the Tour de France, where he finished eighth last year. “But I have realized that the Tour de France has too much individual time trial for me this year”, Cunego said.

“In March, the hypothetical participation of Cunego to the Giro arose”, Damiani told Cyclingnews. “In April, at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, his shape was so good that his inclusion in the team became a reality.” It’s no secret that Scarponi didn’t enjoy hearing that he might have to share the captaincy with another former winner, but sources close to Scarponi indicated that his disappointment didn’t last long and he is now coping well with Cunego’s presence at his side. “It will be a bonus for me when we’ll hit the mountains”, Scarponi diplomatically said.

Another surprise is the absence of Alessandro Petacchi from the team's Giro squad. “That was set from the start”, Damiani said. “It was clear since our first pre-season training camp. In December, we made the choice to only focus on GC at the Giro d’Italia.” Petacchi, who is yet to win his first race in 2012, is scheduled for the first Tour of Norway from May 16 to 20. He’s expected to take part in the Tour de France, for which Damiani said he doesn’t know who will be the team’s captain for GC. Scarponi or Cunego? “This is still a long way away”, he said.

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