Damiano Cunego: “Being the symbol of the team makes me very happy”
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Damiano Cunego: “Being the symbol of the team makes me very happy”

by Ben Atkins at 12:28 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Piccolo Principe preparing for his ninth season in the blue-fuchsia colours of Lampre

damiano cunego2013 will be Damiano Cunego’s ninth in the blue-fuchsia colours of Lampre, as it becomes Lampre-Merida with its new bike sponsor. He joined the team in 2005, as his then Saeco team merged with Lampre, however, which means that the Piccolo Principe has effectively been with the same team since he turned professional in 2002.

“I’m really happy and, at the same time, it makes me think about the time passing,” said the 31-year-old. “I’m proud I spent eight years in blue-fuchsia and I’m an important part of the team’s history, but I’m also aware I’m not a young gun anymore: I’m an experienced man who must face up to some commitments. Being the symbol of the makes me very happy, it’s a pleasing thing that my name is strongly linked to the team’s image.”

Although Cunego’s palmares would be the envy of many a pro rider, including three editions of il Lombardia, he has never quite managed to live up to the promise of 2004, when - as a 23-year-old - he stormed to victory in the Giro d’Italia. Despite the ups and downs of his eleven-year career so far, however, the man from Cerro Veronese, to the north of the city of Verona, has had few causes to regret remaining with the Lampre team.

“A long relationship can last only if both parties are deeply engaged and exchange mutual consideration,” Cunego explained. “During all these years, the Galbusera family and general manager [Giuseppe] Saronni always gave me consideration, affection and support, in the bad and good moments. At Team Lampre I’ve never missed out on what I need to be at top level. These elements were important to decide to continue to be a team member.

“In addition, I saw some very good outlooks for the future, since the team management have made some choices that will take us down some very good paths,” he continued. “During the training camp in Darfo Boario Terme, I felt good vibrations with my new team mates and the new sponsors. Of course, I did not forget all the good things that were made by the ones that were with us in the past.”

Following the retirement of Daniele Righi and Marco Marzano, Cunego will be the team’s longest serving rider; although he will still be far from the eldest. The team’s new riders, many of the Lampre-Merida’s newer riders - many of whom are turning pro for the first time - will be looking up to him as an example.

“I look at this chance as a good thing,” said Cunego. “I still remember when I was a neo-pro and I was trying to learn as much as possible from the older cyclists. I’ll try to give them good advice. In Darfo Boario Terme I met some very motivated young athletes and I know they’ve good cycling skills.”

Since finishing his 2012 season at the Giro dell’Emilia in early October, Cunego has been enjoying some time off. With the new year approaching however - as well as having moved north and west to Switzerland - the 2004 Giro winner has begun his preparation for the 2013 season in earnest.

“I spent some time with the tranquility of my family,” he said. “Then, in the early November, I started riding the bike as an explorer; in fact, since I’ve just move to Lugano, I needed to discover some new training routes. In the last ten days I’ve been training more deeply; performing the training programmes that were set for me.”

Some of those training programmes were put together for Cunego by the team’s new technical consultant Michele Bartoli. While their careers barely overlapped, and they were never teammates, Cunego and Bartoli are already getting along well.

“The relationship with Michele started in the best way and I think it could go on with great satisfaction,” Cunego said. “I very much appreciated the way Bartoli obtained so many victories when he was a rider, then recently I had the chance to know him also in his new role: it’s a very difficult dimension, but Michele is very able in the field and he has something exclusive: he used to be a pro cyclist, which means that he knows the athlete’s feelings.”

While a number of Cunego’s teammates will be travelling to the Santos Tour Down Under in mid-January, the Piccolo Principe will have a European start to his own season as usual. His 2013 debut won’t be at one of the early Italian races however, but will see his first appearance in Mallorca.

“My debut will be in the Challenge Mallorca [February 3rd to 6th], then I’ll choose which could be the best races to approach Tirreno-Adriatico and Vuelta al Pais Vasco.”

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