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 "A year ago, the race ended badly for me. Obviously, I'd like to go back to change the outcome. I think I arrive in good condition but as always the road will show whether I'm correct," Cunego says

Photo: Sirotti










11.04.2013 @ 23:29 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) will once again be the undisputed leader of Lampre-Merida in the Amstel Gold Race. The 2008 winner of the race will be formidably supported by in-form riders Diego Ulissi and Daniele Pietropolli.


Last year Damiano Cunego returned to the site of his only Ardennes classics win as he attempted to repeat his 2008 win in the Amstel Gold Race but an unfortunate collision with then-Sky rider Lars Petter Nordhaug on the final climb of the Cauberg with less than a kilometer to go to out the Lampre rider of contention.


This year he is back to get his revenge in the Dutch classic. With a stage victory in the Coppi e Bartali race and an encouraging 16th place in last week's Vuelta al Pais Vasco already in his pocket - the latter could have been even better had it not been for an unfortunate mechanical in the final time trial - his preparation has been solid and "the little prince" feels ready to battle race favourites Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC).


 "A year ago, the race ended badly for me," he explained. "Obviously, I'd like to go back to change the outcome. I think I arrive in good condition but as always the road will show whether I'm correct."


New final

The final of the race has been changed somewhat this year with the finish line moved from its usual position at the top of a Cauberg to a location 1800 meters further down the road. While the traditional finish suited punchy climbers, the Italian thinks that the new arrival may be an advantage for people with a faster finish.


"I'm curious to evaluate the new finish," he explained. "After 250 km, the change may not be so influential, but it may provide riders dropped on the Cauberg with a possibility to return to the front."


Last year Cunego chose to leave the Ardennes after the Amstel Gold Race to participate in the Giro del Trentino. Thus he skipped the Fleche Wallonne and returned to Belgium in an attempt to finally realize his dream of winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege. With the new strategy being unsuccessful, he will once again return to his traditional schedule and skip the Trentino race in favour of the Fleche Wallonne.


Ulissi to support Cunego

Cunego's key domestique will be Diego Ulissi. The young talent had a fabulous month of March in which he ended in the top 10 in the Paris-Nice and used a stage win to take the overall victory in the Coppi e Bartali race ahead of Cunego. He had hoped to be in the mix in Pais Vasco but the cold during the final three days of racing affected his performance after an encouraging start.


He is ready to put all of his forces behind Cunego.


"The Ardennes classics facinate me and are races in which I should be able to make a good performance," he said. "Damiano Cunego will be our captain in Amstel as he has won the race in the past and he will be at the foreforont. I will ride alongside Damiano, ready to what is best for the team. The condition is good, despite the decline during the final part of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. The cold had a negative effect on my performance."


A strong line-up

Daniele Pietropolli will be the third key rider in the Lampre line-up. The Italian has been strong all season and has had great performances in the Ardennes. The squad is completed by veterans Matteo Bono and Manuele Mori, sprinters Davide Cimolai and Massimo Graziato and climber Simone Stortoni.


Sports director Maurizio Piovani has plenty of confidence in his team.


"The fall in the final of the 2012 edition left Cunego with a great desire for revenge," he said. "The finish line has been moved and we are going to inspect it to assess how it will affect the race. Riders like Ulissi and Pietropolli have the qualities to be near the front in the final part of the race and so we have a strong trio for the race. Bono and Mori have valuable experience, and Stortoni and Cimolai have both shown their good condition in recent races. Finally, Graziato has the ability to go in an early breakaway which may be useful from a tactical point of view."


The team hopes to make up for a disappointing cobbled classics season in which Filippo Pozzato failed to make an impression in any of the races.


On Sunday you can follow all the action on



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