He found back the sweet taste of success on Tuesday, and seemingly took a liking to it: twenty-four hours after his first success, young gun Damiano Cunego of Verona, Italy, repeated victory in Wednesday's second leg of Giro del Trentino, from Livo to Roncone Rifugio Miramonti over 171 km.
And while the day before he received stiff opposition from Slovenia's Jure Golcer, whom Cunego could beat on the line only, this time it was a much more comfortable solo win for the 22-year-old Italian, that took the stage by a 35-second margin over his (presumed) team leader and reigning champion Gilberto Simoni, while the top non-Saeco finisher, Panaria-Margres' Giuliano Figueras, snatched third. Needless to say, Damiano Cunego also strengthened his grip on the overall leader's jersey.
One hundred and twenty-two riders took the start at Livo early in the morning (09:20 AM). Then the peloton hit the wonderful Val di Sole ("Valley of the Sun"), which lived up to its name and graced the peloton with bright sunny skies, in deep contrast with the snow both the mountains and the countryside along the road were covered with in the Passo Carlo Magno (km. 34; 1681 m asl) ascent, where the main candidates to the KOM crown repeated the battle they staged yesterday: super-combative Apulian Elio Aggiano (Team LPR-Piacenza Management) took the points from Spanish teammate Aitos Hernández, and Switzerland's Patrick Calcagni of Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie was third.
Nothing worthy of mention took place in the next 20 kilometres, until Formaggi Pinzolo's Domenico Gualdi, riding on "home roads", and eager to be a protagonist in front of his "home crowd", broke away and gained up to 03'34" by km. 66, where he won the Intermediate Sprint in his own birthplace Tione. Gualdi's fifteen minutes (actually some more) of celebrity came to end some 30 km. later, when the 29-year-old Trentino, as well as a seven-strong group (consisting of South African Darren Lill of Team Barloworld, Latinos Julio Alberto Pérez Cuapio and Felipe Laverde plus Italians Leonardo Giordani, Rinaldo Nocentini, Simone Bertoletti, and Team Miche's Massimo Carta) that previously distanced themselves from the field and tried to bridge the gap to the leader, were reeled in.
The second climb of the day, Passo del Daone, split the peloton, with some Saecos and other GC contenders, from Damiano Cunego to Gilberto Simoni from Pavel Tonkov to Jure Golcer, from Giuliano Figueras to Emanuele Sella, at the front. Then Slovenia's Golcer attacked and was KOM Prime winner at km. 151 (and at an altitude of 1300m asl), with Cunego, the only rider that countered his move, second, and Figueras third at 10”, followed by Gibo and promising neo-pro Sella (whose last name means "saddle" in the English Language) of Ceramiche Panaria. Pavel Tonkov (whose excellent form is surely making his team leader, and Giro d'Italia overall contender Stefano Garzelli, happy) came within 30”.
But the leading duo was joined by Simoni, Figueras, Sella, Trampusch and Tonkov in the next descent, while an eleven-strong chasing group that contained, among others, Andrea Tonti and Laurent Dufaux, was trailing by more than a minute. They didn't have any chance to bridge the gap anyway, and by the time the race hit Tione for the second time, the gap went up to 01'25", with the main peloton a further 25 secs. behind.
So stage victory became a matter of seven, whose outcome was determined in the final climb into Ronzone-Rifugio Miramonti. Where we could see some great cycling: attacks, counter-attacks, and excellent team tactics by the two Saecos. First as Giboman Simoni (he was coming from a disappointing Vuelta a Aragón, but what a difference a week makes ...) launched his attack in order to test his legs and those of his (and Cunego's) rivals. Golcer responded positively, countered Gibo's move and even dropped him, while Emanuele Sella embarked on a solo chase of the Slovene. But Golcer was later caught and as riders began to smell the quickly approaching finish line, and Sella and Trampusch were having a hard time following the others, Cunego put part two of Saeco's strategy into action, powering away (and easily climbing in a 39x21 cog, while the rest was using 39x23) and flying towards his second straight victory, the sixth to date in his three-year career in the pro ranks.
Golcer tried to follow him, but he prolly had spent too much in his previous attack, and the fact the only rider with him was Simoni (today playing the loyal domestique part) was not of help to the Slovene. Indeed Cunego increased the gap, while in very ultimate part of the stage the Giro d'Italia champion even tried to break away from Golcer. Gibo gained a few metres, but the 26-year-old (two-time victor so far in his career, and runner-up in last year's Tour of Austria and Tour of Slovenia) managed to regain Simoni's wheels right before the final sprint for second place, that became a three-man sprint as the duo was joined by the oncoming and in-form Giuliano Figueras.
Giboman edged out both Golcer and the Neapolitan, but only 34 seconds after the real superstar of this race, Damiano Cunego, completed his showdown by raising his arms in triumph for the second time in a row, thus taking another fundamental step towards a final victory that he could hardly miss, especially with such a domestique as Simoni, who at his tun may go for second place. The bad news is that, in the remainder of the race, neither of them will get a help from another great Saeco domestique, as Trentino's very own Leonardo Bertagnolli, currently unfit, finished the stage (in 95th place, more than 25 minutes behind the winner), but will not be at the startline tomorrow.
From Saeco's Press Release:
Cunego puts on a show and wins again in Trentino
Simoni just behind.
His form for the Giro is coming
Damiano Cunego is incredibly happy. He is only 22 but knows he has a great future ahead of him. A future that started at the Giro del Trentino ¬a race that he now comfortably commands after winning the second stage to Roncone just 24 hours after taking the opening stage to Rumo.
It was a great day for Team Saeco with Gilberto Simoni second on the stage after another impressive ride as he builds up for the Giro d¹Italia. He is rapidly improving in form and is clearly close to his best. Cunego win alone near the Miramonti mountain refuge was not a surprise. The golden boy of Italian cycling is in great shape and his superiority on the uphill finish was clear. As the gradient kicked in he split the front group of riders with five riders going clear. At two kilometres from the finish Cunego attacked again and put on an impressive show. Nobody was able to go with him and then with 1.5km to go, Simoni showed he was riding well by going clear to seal second place, 35 seconds behind his young team mate.
"Congratulations to Cunego, he¹s going to win the Giro del Trentino and he deserves it. I¹m happy because I rode well and I feel good," Simoni said after the race.
Directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli was all smiles: "Our team for the Giro is starting to show what they can do. I¹m very satisfied," he said. On the podium Cunego¹s baby face was filled with a huge smile. "It¹s early to say I¹ve already won the overall classification because there are two more days of hard racing. Of course I¹m incredibly pleased. I have to thank everybody at Saeco and especially my team mates. If I won and can enjoy this fantastic moment it¹s thanks to them".
Stage 2 (Livo-Roncone Rif.Miramonti, 171 km): Top 20 Places
Click for larger image.
1. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Saeco) - 04h50'23"
2. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco) - at 34"
3. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - at 34"
4. Jure Golcer (Slo - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé) - at 34"
5. Pavel Tonkov (Rus - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - at 41"
6. Gerard Trampusch (Aut - Acqua & Sapone-C.Mokambo) - at 01'00"
7. Emanuele Sella (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - at 01'22"
8. Luca Mazzanti (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - at 02'30"
9. Giuseppe Di Grande (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé) - at 02'43"
10. Kyrylo Pospeyev (Ukr - Acqua & Sapone-Caffé Mokambo) - at 02'45"
11. Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol - Miche) - at 02'47"
12. Laurent Dufaux (Swi - Quick Step-Davitamon) - at 02'53"
13. Igor Pugaci (Mol - De Nardi) - at 03'01"
14. Tiaan Kannemeyer (RSA - Barloworld-Androni Giocattoli) - at 03'03"
15. Radoslaw Romanik (Pol - Hoop CCC-Polsat TV) - at 03'08"
16. Tomasz Brozyna (Pol - Action Nati) - at 03'08"
17. Serhyi Honchar (Ukr - De Nardi) - at 03'45"
18. Juan Manuel Garate (Spa - Lampre) - at 03'51"
19. Jamie Burrow (GBR - Amore & Vita Beretta) - at 03'54"
20. Andrea Tonti (Ita - Saeco) - at 03'59"
Click here for complete Stage Results.
28th Giro del Trentino: GC after Stage 2 - Top 20 Places
1. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Saeco) - 09h39'25"
2. Jure Golcer (Slo - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé) - at 49"
3. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco) - at 53"
4. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - at 55"
5. Pavel Tonkov (Rus - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - at 01'06"
6. Gerard Trampusch (Aut - Acqua & Sapone-C.Mokambo) - at 01'25"
7. Luca Mazzanti (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - at 02'55"
8. Giuseppe Di Grande (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé) - at 03'08"
9. Kyrylo Pospeyev (Ukr - Acqua & Sapone-Caffé Mokambo) - at 03'10"
10. Laurent Dufaux (Swi - Quick Step-Davitamon) - at 03'18"
11. Emanuele Sella (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - at 03'19"
12. Igor Pugaci (Mol - De Nardi) - at 03'26"
13. Tiaan Kannemeyer (RSA - Barloworld-Androni Giocattoli) - at 03'28"
14. Radoslaw Romanik (Pol - Hoop CCC-Polsat TV) - at 03'33"
15. Tomasz Brozyna (Pol - Action Nati) - at 03'33"
16. Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol - Miche) - at 03'34"
17. Serhyi Honchar (Ukr - De Nardi) - at 04'10"
18. Juan Manuel Garate (Spa - Lampre) - at 04'16"
19. Jamie Burrow (GBR - Amore & Vita Beretta) - at 04'19"
20. Patxi Vila Errandonea (Spa - Lampre) - at 04'24"
Click here for the full GC after Stage 2.
Hot Spot Sprint #1 - Tione (km. 66.5)
1. Domenico Gualdi (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé)
2. Graziano Gasparre (Ita - De Nardi)
3. Aitor Gutiérrez Hernández (Spa - Team LPR-Piacenza)
Hot Spot Sprints - GC after Stage 2
1. Graziano Gasparre (Ita - De Nardi) - 10 points
2. Domenico Gualdi (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé) - 6 points
3. Renzo Mazzoleni (Ita - Tenax) - 4 points
4. Aitor Gutiérrez Hernández (Spa - Team LPR-Piacenza) - 4 points
KOM Prime #1 - GPM Passo Campo Magno (km. 33.8)
1. Elio Aggiano (Ita - Team LPR-Piacenza)
2. Aitor Gutiérrez Hernández (Spa - Team LPR-Piacenza Management)
3. Patrick Calcagni (Swi - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie)
KOM Prime #2 - Passo Daone (km. 151)
1. Jure Golcer (Slo - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé)
2. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Saeco)
3. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Panaria-Margres)
KOM Prime #3 - Ronzone Rifugio Miramonti (Finish, km. 171.7)
1. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Saeco)
2. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco)
3. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Panaria-Margres)
4. Jure Golcer (Slo - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé)
Mountains - GC after Stage 2
1. Elio Aggiano (Ita - Team LPR-Piacenza) - 12 points
2. Damiano Cunego (Slo - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé) - 10 points
3. Aitor Gutiérrez Hernández (Spa - Team LPR-Piacenza) - 8 points
4. Jure Golcer (Slo - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé) - 6 points
5. Patrick Calcagni (Swi - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - 6 points
6. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco) - 4 points
7. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - 4 points
8. Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffé Mokambo) - 2 points
9. Graziano Gasparre (Ita - De Nardi) - 2 points
10. Renzo Mazzoleni (Ita - Tenax) - 1 point
Thursday's stage 3 covers 165 km. between Roncone Breguzzo and Fiavè (home to the Formaggi Pinzolo-Fiavé team sponsor), with two second category climbs (Passo Uldarico and Cavrasto) and the Hot Spot Sprint at Pietramurata (km. 127.8).