By Andrew Hood
Damiano Cunego has plenty of reason to celebrate the 2004 season. The 23-year-old sensation barnstormed to victory in Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia to wrap what’s been a successful campaign highlighted by his overall victory at the Giro d’Italia.
Many are already calling the Saeco rider Italy’s next breakout star to replace the fading Gilberto Simoni, Michele Bartoli and Stefano Garzelli. “Let’s avoid such incredible comparisons but here’s no doubt it’s been a great year for me. After winning in the spring I won the Giro in May and that was amazing, winning a World Cup race is incredible,” Cunego said. “It’s a great win, almost as nice as winning the Giro d’Italia.”
Cunego held off fierce attacks from CSC rider Ivan Basso, another rising Italian star who won a stage and finished third overall in the 2004 Tour de France. Cunego said it will be he and Basso who write the future headlines in Italian cycling.
“Winning a World Cup race is worth twice as much as other races. I’ve also beaten great rivals, especially Ivan Basso who I’ll go up against in the future at the Giro and the Tour de France,” Cunego continued. “I think it’s good for cycling and will excite the tifosi and capture the attention of young people. In the next few years it’s going to be an exciting time for cycling.” World cycling rankings released
Damiano Cunego jumped to the top spot in the cycling world rankings on Monday following his victory in the Tour of Lombardy, the 10th and final round of the World Cup, this weekend.Cunego, in third place a week ago, jumped ahead of the two riders in front of him, Italy’s Paolo Bettini and Germany’s Erik Zabel.
1. Damiano Cunego (I), 2245 points
2. Paolo Bettini (I), 2239
3. Erik Zabel (G), 2121
4. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), 1892
5. Oscar Freire (Sp), 1818
6. Davide Rebellin (I), 1813
7. Lance Armstrong (USA), 1726
8. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), 1701
9. Alessandro Petacchi (I), 1464
10. Tom Boonen (B), 1449
11. Ivan Basso (I), 1424
12. Danilo Hondo (G), 1374
13. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Sp), 1351
14. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), 1322
15. Jan Ullrich (G), 1318
16. Robbie McEwen (AUS), 1305
17. Roberto Heras (Sp), 1303
18. Jens Voigt (G), 1276
19. Erik Dekker (Nl), 1163
20. Michael Boogerd (Nl), 1156
21. Thor Hushovd (NOR), 1084
22. Tyler Hamilton (USA), 1070
23. Gilberto Simoni (I), 1034
24. Iban Mayo (Sp), 1033
25. Andreas Klöden (G), 990
T-Mobile takes World Cup teams’ title
T-Mobile scored its own coup in Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia, making a remarkable comeback to snatch the overall team’s title in the World Cup series. The German team started the final World Cup race in second place behind Rabobank, but placed enough riders ahead of the Dutch line-up to snatch the overall title.
“We passed Rabobank almost in the last curve,” said team sport director Mario Kummer. “A decision can’t be any tighter, but we deserve the success due to a constant performance throughout the entire season.”
The team had Cadel Evans and Daniele Nardello in the winning move, while Michael Boogerd was there to represent Rabobank. Matthias Kessler came through 22nd, one place ahead of Michael Rasmussen to make the difference and deliver T-Mobile a one-point victory in the team standings.
“We won the Tour de France team ranking, are on top of the world ranking and have now secured the World Cup. That speaks for a well-balanced team,” said team boss Walter Godefroot. Fassa Bortolo reloads after departures
Italian team Fassa Bortolo has looked to Eastern Europe to bolster its lineup following the departures of such high-profile riders as Aitor González, Filippo Pozzato, Dario Cioni, Guido Trenti and Tom Danielson.
The “silver train” has signed Belorussian Kanstantsin Sioutsou, Slovenian Andrej Hauptman and Estonian Andrus Aug to give star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi more fire-power. The team is left with few options beyond aging star Dario Frigo in the battle for three-week tours, however. Sanchez wins Spanish season closer
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel Euskadi) swept to overall victory in Sunday’s Montjuic hillclimb, taking both the road stage and the time trial sectors of the race that closed out the 2004 Spanish racing calendar.
Sánchez held off Joaquím Rodríguez (Saunier Duval) and Eladio Jiménez (Valenciana-Kelme) in the circuit course and edged teammate Roberto Laiseka by 5 seconds Rodríguez by 13 seconds in the 10km time trial.
Illes Balears confirms three leaving
The Spanish cycling team Illes Balears – Banesto, which has been trying to lure new sensation Alejandro Valeverde, is set to release three riders ahead of next season.
Russian Denis Menchov, German Steffen Radochla and Jose Antonio Lopez Gil of Spain will all leave the team, currently led by reigning Spanish champion Francisco Mancebo.
“We will know more at the end of next week,” said Baleares manager Jose Miguel Echavarri over the weekend concerning Valverde’s fate.
Valverde wants to leave the Comunidad Valencia-Kelme outfit for Echavarri’s team, however a sticking point has been a two million euro severance clause in his contract.
The 24-year-old Valverde, who finished second behind compatriot Igor Astarloa in last year’s world championship road race, has this season confirmed his status by winning the Tour of Valencia, the Tour of Murcia and claiming fourth place overall in the Vuelta a España.
Meanwhile Russian climber Menchov, the winner this season of the Tour of the Basque country and a stage at the Vuelta, has signed a deal with the Dutch Rabobank team.
Dierckxsens keeps on truckin’
Ludo Dierckxsens just celebrated his 40th birthday but he vows to keep racing. The Belgian attacker is looking for a team next season and wants to keep racing in part to win a race for his young children.
Only Mario Scirea – the veteran set-up man for Mario Cipollini – is older.