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GIRO Stg 16: Popovych Pops, Cunego Rocks!

Daimiano Cunego (Saeco) has floated his way to his third stage victory and back into the Maglia Rosa he loaned out, ever so briefly, to Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago).

The 217 Km stage from San Vendemiano to Falzes, the first of four mountain stages leading us to the final day in Milan this Sunday, promised to be a day for the climbers; and in the end was all Cunego and his Saeco team. A breakaway containing seventeen riders that went at around the 20 Km mark and contained two Saeco riders, Eddy Mazzoleni and Andrea Tonti, proved to be a brilliant tactical situation (and launching pad) for the young climbing star, Cunego.

In what began as an attack to put pressure on Maglia Rosa, Popovych, and set up two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), Cunego attacked with about 60 Km remaining in the race. Soon thereafter both Saeco men, Mazzoleni and Tonti, dropped back from the break to drive Cunego away from the teammate-less Popovych.

On the final climb of the day, the 7 Km Terento, Cunego was left by his two teammates and closed the 2:30 gap to the remaining riders in the breakaway, leaving them behind like they were a group of junior girls. Left to chase alone, Popovych’s pursuit of the tiny Italian ended with his coffin being nailed shut in an attack by Simoni, which split the group but did not have the Hiroshima-like destruction we are used to seeing from his accelerations.

Soloing in, Daimiano Cunego finished 1:16 ahead of a struggling Rinaldo Nocentini (Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo), but more importantly, more than two-and-a-half minutes up on his biggest rivals. After more than six hours in the saddle the twenty-two year old looked fresh faced and was eager to get to the podium for the presentation of his seventh Maglia Rosa and harem of podium girls.

One thing is for sure, Daimiano Cunego is now the man to beat, and with three more days in the mountains, an experienced winner like Gilberto Simoni behind him, and his Pantani-like ability to ascend them, chances are better than not that he will now win this race.

Rider Comments Compiled by Michele Tomasi
Damiano Cunego (Saeco): “It’s incredible what I did and I still cannot believe it. But I’ve been able to do it also beccause of an incredible team! But I shouldn’t forget that the Giro isn’t finished yet, and me and Simoni will be able to run by side, without disturbing each other”.

Gilberto Simoni (Saeco): “Today Cunego didn’t win, but the whole team Saeco. Mazzoleni and Tonti did everything we asked them. That’s great! We asked them to go on an escape, and they did it…we asked them to wait for Cunego, and they waited,…then to work for Cunego and they did it again! The Giro is still long, but I’m surprised by what’s happened today. We couldn’t ask a better stage”.

Giuliano Figueras (Panaria): “I’m glad because I did a great stage today, but unluckily there’s always Cunego who covers performances like mine. And I’m a bit afraid because I didn’t try to follow him at his attack, but I thought that it was too far from the end”.

Giuseppe Martinelli (DS Saeco): “We have a really wonderful team, and we have done everything perfectly!”

Nobody believes that Simoni is really happy for Cunego’s performance, and the problem for him is that the next hilly stages are short (around 120kms) and he cannot attack cause his team mate has the leader jersey. Nobody seems to think they can beat Simoni or Cunego.

San Vendemiano – Falzes

1 Damiano Cunego (Ita)Saeco 6.10.12
2 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo 1.16
3 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 1.38
4 Raffaele Illiano (Ita) Colombia-Selle Italia
5 Giuseppe Di Grande (Ita) Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave’
6 Julio A. Perez Cuapio (Mex) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres
7 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Lotto-Domo
8 Luis Filipe Laverde Jimenez (Col) Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave’ 1.58
9 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo 2.29
10 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres
11 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Saunier Duval-Prodir
12 Serguei Gontchar (Ukr) De Nardi 2.39
13 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Lampre
14 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco
15 Fortunato Baliani (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres
16 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems

General classification after stage 16

1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco 73.01.21
2 Serguei Gontchar (Ukr) De Nardi 1.14
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 2.22
4 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco 2.38
5 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres 3.31
6 Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com 3.52
7 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Lampre
8 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie
9 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 4.39
10 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 5.31

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