Saronni talks Cunego, Petacchi and 2010
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Saronni talks Cunego, Petacchi and 2010

by Ben Atkins at 1:19 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Lampre manager Guiseppe Saronni spoke to Italian website Tuttosport about the performance of his team in 2009 and, with major new signings, the prospects for 2010.

Damiano Cunego has been the team’s biggest star for a number of years, but has failed to live up to his 2004 Giro d’Italia win, when he was just 22. Saronni insisted that this is merely because Cunego has changed as a rider.

"The rider that was Cunego in 2004, the one that triumphed in the Tour of Italy, is no more,” he said. “ The staff and I at Lampre-Farnese consider him to be predominantly a classics rider and we had a new approach that works for him.

“Unfortunately Cunego missed out on the Italian Championship in 2009. At Imola the tricolore jersey was lost by Damiano, not won by Pozzato. But Cunego was able to win elsewhere including the 2 toughest stages of the Vuelta a España.”

There was disappointment at the Giro di Lombardia last month, where Cunego was widely tipped to take his third successive “race of the falling leaves”. "It’s also true that Damiano was unable to win in the Giro di Lombardia for the fourth time,” said Saronni. “But how can people be too critical of someone who has already won 3 Lombardia?"

After taking the rainbow jersey and the silver medal – both Lampre riders – at the World Championships last year, things did not go to plan for Italy this time. Saronni refused to blame his team captain from missing the decisive move. "At the World Championships this year Damiano was very strong,” he insisted, “but Italy was disappointing in the finale. In the decisive phase in Varese in 2008 there were 3 big Italian riders: Ballan, Cunego and Rebellin. Ballan won, Cunego could have done.

“Instead, in Mendrisio, Damiano was left alone: I do not say that the actions of Basso and Pozzato in the finale were bad for Cunego. There was no comparison between Varese and Mendrisio for Italy.“

Looking forward to next season one of Lampre’s star riders, 200X World champion Alessandro Ballan, has been coaxed away to the BMC Racing Team where he will ride alongside new champion Cadel Evans. Saronni was resigned to losing him though: "The BMC team made an impressive offer to Alessandro, which was difficult to say no to. I'm happy for Ballan, I wish him great happiness and prosperity. We and the other "historic" teams are not able to compete with teams that, in the new professional era, throw themselves into the fray by spending a lot.

“Lampre knows how to invest and does not go chasing riders.”

Even with Ballan gone, Saronni was optimistic about the 2010 season, both with his existing riders and new acquisitions. "Besides being the best Lampre rider, Francesco [Gavazzi] was the strongest Italian rider in many races. “Bravissimo” Francesco has raced a lot, always helping out, and often among the leaders and finished the year strongly. The explosive emergence of Gavazzi, and the arrival of Alex Petacchi gives us hope for 2010 and years to come. The new Lampre-Farnese is different from previous years, but always very competitive. I have wanted Petacchi since 2004.”

Saronni denied that Petacchi’s age – 36 in January – will be an issue as he takes on the best sprinters in the world. "No matter,” he said, “because he is a sprinter who has managed well over the years, without wearing himself out. He has beaten Cavendish; he can beat him again.

“Petacchi can win the next 2 editions of the World Championships – one of the reasons why I hired. We will create a young and powerful train.”

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