On Sunday, Damiano Cunego will bring the curtain down on his WorldTour racing career with a 34-kilometre time trial at the Tour de Suisse. It might not be the fairy tale ending he and his fans had hoped for, and there’s still the matter of the Adriatica Ionica Race and the Italian nationals to come on his race programme, but Cunego has found peace at the end of his 17-year career approaches.
“This is my last WorldTour race. After this, I will be present at Adriatica and then my last race will be the national championships at the end of June. Then I will finish my career. These are now the final days of my racing career,” Cunego told Cyclingnews at the Tour de Suisse.
Cunego and his Nippo-Vini Fantini team had hoped that he would close out his career at the Giro d’Italia in May. However, a wildcard slot did not materialize and the 2004 Giro winner was forced to alter his race schedule. The ‘Little Prince’s’ career has spanned two decades and overlapped with the Lance Armstrong years, several doping scandals within cycling and the recent years of anglophone domination.
“It’s been 17 years. It’s been a long career and my first year was in 2002. At the moment it feels okay but asking ‘how I feel’, I think that’s something you need to ask me in August or September. That’s when I can tell if you if I have regrets or if I’m happy,” Cunego said.
“Of course, I’ve got good memories of the Giro. I won there in 2004, and I’ve been fourth and fifth there. I’ve good memories. This year it could have been important to end my career with that race but unfortunately, someone didn’t give us an invitation. I don’t know why. I think it was just a business choice. I’m sad but after the news, I found a new solution. So, I did the Japan Tour and now I’m here at Suisse. I continue to say thank you to the Tour de Suisse for the invitation.”
The 2004 Giro will always standout as Cunego finest hour. Then, as a second-year pro, and supposedly at the Giro to support defending champion Gilberto Simoni, Cunego won four stages and the overall. He highlighted two particular stage wins as his favourite memories during his career, along with one edition of Il Lombardia, which he won three times. He also won two stages at the Vuelta a Espana, made the top ten at the Tour, finished second behind Alessandro Ballan at the Worlds and claimed Amstel in 2008. The 1999 junior road world champion was, for a number of years, one of Italy’s leading one-day specialists.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com