Bennati and Cunego fighting to return to their best
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Monday, January 03, 2011

Bennati and Cunego fighting to return to their best

by Conal Andrews at 5:03 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Italian stars want a more successful 2011

Daniele BennatiFormer Giro d’Italia race winner Damiano Cunego and multiple stage victor Daniele Bennati are on different teams this season, but have identical goals: namely, returning to the winner’s podium in the biggest races.

Cunego rode solidly rather than spectacularly in 2010, placing second on stage seven of the Giro d’Italia, third on stage nine of the Tour de France, fifth in La Flèche Wallonne, sixth in the Amstel Gold Race and tenth in the ProTour GP de Québec. For the first time in his nine-year pro career, he failed to win a race, and finished the season early and determined to turn things around in 2011.

Remaining with the Lampre team, he has been working hard and will commence racing in the Tour de Reggio Calabria, then contest the Trophée Laigueglia, Tour de Sardinia, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Settimana Coppi et Bartali. Aside for looking for morale-boosting results in those events, he will use them as preparations for his first big targets of 2011.

“The Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège are my races,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “This year, I have clear aims. The first part of my preparation went very well…I’m happy, and pretty tranquil.”

Compatriot Bennati is another who did less than he was expected to last season. Unlike Cuengo, he did top the podium on three occasions, but netting wins on stages of the Tour of Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico plus the Giro di Toscana did not match the ambitions he had set himself beforehand. Ninth was as close as he could get to a Tour de France stage win, while the Vuelta a España was frustrating for a different reason; he placed second and thrice third on stages of the Spanish tour, and couldn’t convert a high finish into victory.

After three years as part of the Liquigas setup, he’s hoping that his move to the new Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project will see him get fully back on track. He’s feeling motivated. “I cannot wait to race again, to forget this last season where I wasn’t at the top level. For the moment, I have very good sensations, and my status as the number one sprinter on the team motivates me greatly.”

Bennati will follow a different path to Cunego as he seeks to build strong racing form. The Tours of Qatar and Oman will get things underway, then he’ll head back to Europe to ride the Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo.

Being 29 and 30 years of old respectively, both riders have several more seasons left in their careers. However they want to ensure that those years reap plenty of reward, and so getting back on track early on will be vital for their morale and motivation.

It’d also reassure their teams, and ensure that they have full backing heading into the Grand Tours. Because of that, a win or two before the Giro would greatly boost their chances of success in the race.

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