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98th Giro di Lombardia: Post-Race Comments
By Fabio
Date: 10/16/2004
98th Giro di Lombardia: Post-Race Comments

Damiano Cunego sounded extremely satisfied with his victory, and confessed that it was quite unexpected: "Sure I was aware of having a good condition, but didn't think I could win at first. Then, as the race progressed, I became more confident of my chances. If you want to win a race, you gotta take some risks anyway, and so I did, such that I also made some dangerous moves (he was likely referring to his solo attempt to close down the one-minute gap to leading sextet, a bizarre move he gave up quite soon anyhow). But in the end I was there, with the best ones, and I was fine, so I had a shot at winning, and succeeded. I want to dedicate this victory to my teammates, who did a great job, as usual".

Cunego added that this was a great way to seal this fantastic season, but couldn't save himself from being asked about the next one, and the upcoming Giro d'Italia duel with Ivan Basso in particular. He replied by singing the praise of his rival who, in Damiano's own words, "Gave me a hard time on the climbs, as he was going very fast". "I think it will be a great duel between us," he added.

Last but certainly not least, the race winner didn't fail to praise and thank his team manager Giuseppe "Martino" Martinelli, the man whom he owes a lot to. The man that, as Cunego has never enough of saying, "taught me to ride, and suffer".

"Martino" himself was interviewed by RAI's Alessandra De Stefano, and besides expressing his obvious satisfaction with the great results his pupil achieved, expressed the hope that Cunego may go on like that in the next season too. But when it comes to the 2005 Tour of Italy (a topic some journalists really couldn't help but asking of ...), Martinelli thinks that Damiano (and Simoni?) are going to meet stiff competition, from Ivan Basso but also several other rivals. As for Cunego doing the Tour de France, the Saeco DS said that Damiano will certainly take part in the Grande Boucle, but didn't elaborate on when. And probably it's not 2005 ...

As for Ivan Basso himself, the man from Varese said a possible clash between himself and Cunego at the next Giro would be a good thing for Italian cycling and fans. "Although I hope that I'll be the winner the next time," he added with a smile. His overall battle with Cunego should take place at the Giro only, in 2005 at least, 'cause as Ivan said, when it comes to Le Tour ... "I think there's someone else (we should watch out for) ...". The CSC rider admitted that his goal was victory today, but as he's not a fast sprinter (something he's well aware of, and something that cost him more than one success throughout his career ...) he couldn't get it. Nonetheless he said he was satisfied with his season tally, his excellent Tour de France, the Giro dell`Emilia victory, and today's showdown on the roads of his home region.

While Basso and Cunego were busy commenting upon their respective results, Paolo Bettini was celebrating his third straight win. The Cricket made history twice, by becoming the first triple winner of the World Cup, and the last one too, as from 2005 it will make room for the UCI Pro Tour. To stay on Rebellin's wheels was enough for the "Californian" to get the win, although it was kind of a bittersweet one, as he earned it through an excellent series of good results, but without any "stage victory". He managed a couple of top three results, but never made it to the top of the podium. And Bettini honestly said he regrets it, although his Olympic title and the World Cup overall (a success the aformentioned placings proved fundamental for ...) made the "no wins" pill much less bitter to swallow. Bettni also congratulated today's "loser," Davide Rebellin, who certainly made it harder for Il Grillo to chirp one more time.

One of Lombardy's greatest riders of all time, and past winner of this event, Felice Gimondi, had words of praise for close to all Italian protagonists of today's race. To start with Paolo Bettini: "He showed his strength, and truly deserved the win. Rebellin was the favourite, but Bettini staged an excellent defense and succeeded in taking his third World Cup". To continue with the Gerolsteiner rider: "He deserves a praise for everything he has been able to do throughout the season. He has won three great Classics, and has always been a serious contender. I say it, again: he deserved (to be at) both the Olympics and the World Champs."

And on to the Giro di Lombardia winner: "Cunego has 'graduated' today, as after the Tour of Italy he clinched another big race. And winning the Giro di Lombardia is no easy task. He was good at not giving up when it looked like everything was lost, and in the end he won". Needless to say, the next one is Ivan Basso: "He had a go. He's not yet able to make the kind of gap that could secure him the win, but he's getting better. Italy can count on excellent bunch of riders future-wise," in Gimondi's own words.

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