Who can stop Damiano Cunego? Simply nobody. For the moment at least. Three days after his overall win (that came after he scored two stage victories too) at Giro del Trentino, the 22-year-old Saecoman from Verona added another triumph to his tally by capturing the 65th edition of the Giro dell'Appennino one-day race, held over 195 km. between Genoa and Pontedecimo in the Liguria region of Northwestern Italy.
Cunego sprinted to victory in a time of 5 hours, 12 minutes and 39 secs. ahead of Neapolitan Giuliano Figueras (Ceramiche Panaria-Margres), while Rinaldo Nocentini of Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo completed the all-Italian podium.
The race winner gave a first display of his power on the Bocchetta ascent (renamed Cima Pantani by the race organizers) where he went on a solo attack. He was caught before reaching the town of Voltaggio, but on the next climb, Castagnola, the man was at the front again, this time with Figueras, Nocentini and Colombian Luis Felipe Laverde Jiménez.
The four-strong group made it to the line, and battled for the win at Pontedecimo, with the Saeco rider edging out Figueras, who's not a bad sprinter at all, and the two others, thus proving that Simoni was not wrong when, besides praising Cunego's climbing ability, Gibo also mentioned his sprinting skills and compared them to those of another "great" of Italian cycling, Giuseppe Saronni. Saeco's triumphal day was completed by the fifth place finish of the same Gibo plus Andrea Tonti's excellent result.
Chatting with a Gazzetta dello Sport journalist after his victory, Cunego provided us with a few more tidbits "I knew that the Bocchetta climb was the key point of the race, and that's where I attacked, and made the gap. I was caught in the next descent, and a leading bunch of eight or nine riders formed. But as we hit two or three more uphill sections, the break splintered again, with only four of us remaining at the front: me, Figueras, Nocentini and Laverde, and the race was resolved in sprint among us. I came off better, and I'm happy".
Asked about his sprinting ability, that's what one needs to outride someone like Figueras in similar situations, Cunego downplayed his accomplishment "I knew that my rivals (in the sprint) were fast on paper. But at the end of a race like that, it's the amount of energies you still have that mostly makes the difference. I'm no stranger to that kind of wins anyway, I won races in small bunch sprints in minor classes, and last year too. I think can do well (in sprints like these), and I actually did today".
As for his race strategy, the winner admitted that it was more the result of decisions made on the road rather than of something planned in advance "I kept quiet for most of the race, but when I realized that my legs were still good, I went on the attack, always following orders from the team car behind anyway".
65th Giro dell'Appennino (Km. 195): Full Results
1. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Saeco) - 05h12'39"
2. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Ceramiche Panaria-Margres) - s.t.
3. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) - s.t.
4. Luis Felipe Laverde Jiménez (Col - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavè) - s.t.
5. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco) - at 15"
6. Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa - Quick Step-Davitamon) - at 15"
7. Luca Mazzanti (Ita - Ceramiche Panaria-Margres) - at 15"
8. Pavel Tonkov (Rus - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - at 15"
9. Tomasz Brozyna (Pol - Action Ati) - at 15"
10. Andrea Tonti (Ita - Saeco) - at 15"
11. Jure Golcer (Slo - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé) - at 15"
12. Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr - Team ICET) - at 46"
13. Igor Pugaci (Mol - De Nardi) - at 46"
14. Tiaan Kannemeyer (RSA - Barloworld-Androni Giocattoli) - at 46"
15. Giuseppe Di Grande (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé) - at 46"
16. Gerhard Trampusch (Aut - Acqua & Sapone-Caffé Mokambo) - at 46"
17. Ryan Cox (RSA - Barloworld-Androni Giocattoli) - at 46"
18. Stefano Boggia (Ita - Team ICET) - at 46"
19. Freddy González Martínez (Col - Colombia-Selle Italia) - at 46"
20. Charles Wegelius (GBR - De Nardi) - at 56"
21. Jamie Burrow (GBR - Amore & Vita-Beretta) - at 02'22"
22. Emanuele Sella (Ita - Ceramiche Panaria-Margres) - at 02'22"
23. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita - Team LPR Piacenza Man.t) - at 04'37"
24. Mauro Gerosa (Ita - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - at 04'37"
25. Richard Virenque (Fra - Quick Step-Davitamon) - at 04'37"
26. Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol - Miche) - at 04'37"
27. Marek Galinski (Pol - Hoop CCC-Polsat) - at 04'37"
28. Gianluca Sironi (Ita - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - at 04'37"
29. Roberto Sgambelluri (Ita - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - at 04'37"
30. Alejandro A. Borrajo (Arg - Ceramiche Panaria-Margres) - at 04'37"
31. Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffé Mokambo) - at 04'37"
32. Kristjan Fajt (Slo - Tenax) - at 04'37"
33. Giancarlo Ginestri (Ita - Tenax) - at 04'37"
34. Pasquale Muto (Ita - Miche) - at 04'37"
35. Maurizio Carta (Ita - Miche) - at 04'37"
36. Alessandro Vanotti (Ita - De Nardi) - at 04'37"
37. Radoslav Rogina (Cro - Tenax) - at 04'37"
38. Leonardo Giordani (Ita - De Nardi) - at 04'37"
39. Domenico Passuello (Ita - Amore & Vita-Beretta) - at 08'25"
40. Oleg Zhukov (Rus - Team Nippo) - at 09'45"
41. Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr - Amore & Vita-Beretta) - at 09'45"
42. Piotr Chmielewski (Pol - Action Ati) - at 09'45"
43. Frédéric Amorison (Bel - Quick Step-Davitamon) - at 09'45"
44. Marlon Alirio Perez Arango (Col - Colombia-Selle Italia) - at 09'45"
45. Philippe Schnyder (Swi - Colombia-Selle Italia) - at 09'45"
46. Leonardo Scarselli (Ita - Colombia-Selle Italia) - at 09'45"
47. Darren Lill (RSA - Barloworld-Androni Giocattoli) - at 16'00"
48. Daniele Balestri (Ita - Team ICET) - at 18'05"
49. Rodney Green (RSA - Barloworld-Androni Giocattoli) - at 18'05"
50. Russel Van Hout (Aus - Colombia-Selle Italia) - at 18'05"
51. Lukas Fus (Cze - Team Nippo) - at 18'05"
52. Mikhail Teteriouk (Kaz - Team Nippo) - at 18'05"
53. Krzysztof Krzywy (Pol - Action Ati) - at 18'05"