In the Two Days of Marchigiana, the last warm-up race before the Olympics for most riders (especially Italians), the home nation wasted no time in showing their form and condition in yesterday's first race - the GP Fred Mengoni, commemorating a former pro cyclist who has a great eye for talent. He founded GS Mengoni, an American team, which has been a breeding ground for many US talents, such as Olympic champion Alexi Grewal and Milk Race leader Matt Eaton. On the final climb of Castelfiardo, already climbed about nine times in the course of the race, the final selection of eight was blown apart, as two Vini Caldirola riders dropped off the pace. This formed a group of six, containing three forthcoming Olympians (Moreni, Cunego and Nardello) as well as Massimo Giunti (Domina Vacanze), Michele Gobbi (De Nardi) and Panaria's Luca Mazzanti.
On the final steep stretch of the climb, Luca Mazzanti charged away, but was brought back and had to really toil to stay with the leaders. Then T-Mobile's Daniele Nardello and Cunego broke away together, and despite the older man's efforts, he had to be content for second place as Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego of Saeco accelerated sharply at impressive speed, as we've seen him do several times before this year, to take the sprint with ease for his eleventh win of the season. Cristian Moreni (Alessio-Bianchi), meanwhile, took the sprint for third six seconds back, making it a 1-2-3 for the Italian Olympic team, ahead of Gobbi and Giunti.
This result begs small questions about Team Italy's loyalty to Paolo Bettini, though, in the forthcoming Olympic road race. While the team has been picked especially to help him, it seems that they are honing their form carefully to peak for the road race - with the goal of a medal or the goal of performing till the finish as domestique? Nonetheless, seemingly nobody in the team is as dangerous as Bettini, even though their form may be as good. Franco Ballerini has seemingly truly bound together in allegiance, it should be, therefore, a supremely-strong Italian team that starts (and finishes) in Athens on Saturday, with the single aim of getting gold for Paolo 'Il Grillo' Bettini.
Saeco Press Release
“Even I didn’t think I’d get back to form and win so quickly, even if I rode well at Camaiore and San Sebastian,” Cunego said after his win.
Saeco were always in charge of the selective race (only 15 riders finished), with both Bertagnolli and Spezialetti in the decisive break with Cunego. This group was then reduced before the Cunego won the sprint thanks to his fast finish, beating Nardello and Moreni. For the young Italian star it was his 11th win of the season and excluding criteriums it was his first success since the Giro.
At the end of the race Cunego kept his word and visited ill children in the Salesi oncology department of Ancona hospital.
2 Giorni Marchigiana: GP Fred Mengoni - 204km
1. Damiano Cunego (Saeco, ITA) 5h 25m 30s
2. Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile, ITA) at 0'02"
3. Cristian Moreni (Alessio-Bianchi, ITA) at 0'06"
4. Michele Gobbi (De Nardi, ITA) s.t
5. Massimo Giunti (Domina Vacanze, ITA) s.t
6. Luca Mazzanti (Panaria, ITA) s.t
7. Andrea Masciarelli (Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubineterrie, ITA) at 0'15"
8. Marco Cavallari (Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubineterrie, ITA) s.t
9. Marlon Perez Arango (Colombia-Selle Italia, COL) at 0'48"
10. Leonardo Bertognolli (Saeco, ITA) at 1'01"