Cunego up, Scarponi down, in a mixed day in Trentino for Lampre-ISD
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cunego up, Scarponi down, in a mixed day in Trentino for Lampre-ISD

by Ben Atkins at 1:51 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Spring Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Liège assault looks promising but Giro defence now uncertain after steep climb to Punta Velena

damiano cunegoStage three of the Giro del Trentino, between Piccoli Frutti Pergine and the climb to Punta Veleno, was a mixed one for the captains of Lampre-ISD. The steep slopes, averaging 12% for nine kilometres but featuring long sections of up to 17%, saw Damiano Cunego forge ahead with Colnago-CSF Inox’s eventual stage winner Domenico Pozzovivo; Michele Scaponi, on the other hand, was in trouble early on and lost a lot of time.

Cunego - who had won yesterday’s stage two - crossed the line in third place, 1’12” behind Pozzovivo, and now sits behind him in second place overall; Scarponi had lost 12’15” by the time he crossed the finish line, his race in tatters.

While the Giro del Trentino would be a prestigious race to win, today’s result has ramifications for both riders’ immediate future plans. Both will travel north to Belgium this weekend, for Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège; Cunego intends to try to win the oldest of the Classics, while Scarponi’s ambitions lie with a defence of his title in the Giro d’Italia, which starts less than two weeks later.

“I added another very good performance to yesterday’s victory,” said Cunego. “Punta Veleno was very, very demanding and not so suitable for my characteristics, but an outstanding form is supporting me and it makes me happy in view of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”

Cunego’s best performance in La Doyenne so far has been his third place in the 2006 race, as he was outsprinted on the line by Alejandro Valverde and Paolo Bettini on the uphill finishing straight. He was denied the chance to sprint for a result in last weekend’s Amstel Gold Race, after a bizarre incident at the foot of the Cauberg when he came together with Team Sky’s Lars Petter Nordhaug.

The Piccolo Principe’s form on the gradients of Punta Veleno indicate that, if he’d stayed in northern Europe for la Flèche Wallonne, he may have offered a challenge to Katusha’s Joaquim Rodríguez on the Mur de Huy.

Assuming tomorrow’s final Trentino stage to the Passo Pordoi goes well, the 30-year-old will line up in Liège as one of the hot favourites.

michele scarponiScarponi’s performance conversely, puts his goal of a repeat Giro d’Italia victory in serious doubt. While the Eagle of Filottrano would not want to be right on top of his form with three weeks to go, his total collapse on the climb is a serious worry ahead of what promises to be another mountainous Giro.

“I expected a better performance, indeed my day was bad,” he admitted. “I know it can happen sometimes, but I also know that my form can increase.

“So, I need to go on in improving the condition with the aim of being ready for the top competitions.”

Scarponi’s season had been progressing steadily, with seventh place in Tirreno-Adriatico, followed by eighth in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. A strong performance in Sunday’s Giro dell’Appennino - where he was part of a mid-race move, and finished sixth - augured well for Trentino, but today’s collapse could be a wake up call for his Giro plans.

Lampre-ISD general manager Giuseppe Saronni is looking at the big picture however, and, while he is optimistic over the form of Cunego, he is refusing to panic over Scarponi.

“On an incredible climb, Cunego realised a very good performance, even better than what we could expect,” said the 1982 World champion. “This is an indication of Damiano’s good moment. Punta Veleno is a Grand Tour climb, where you can only achieve important results if you have strong legs.

“So, Damiano is ready to be competitive in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and in the next engagements,” he said. “Scarponi showed that he still has to improve his form, but this bad day didn’t change anything in Michele’s programme; he must keep on focusing his attention on his targets.”


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