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"However, I judge this test in a positive way. I am satisfied because I have been with the best riders in this type of racing. I start Tirreno-Adriatico with confidence," Cunego says

Photo: Sirotti

DAMIANO CUNEGO

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NEWS

DIEGO ULISSI

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NEWS

STRADE BIANCHE

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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08.03.2014 @ 20:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lampre-Merida had a mixed day in today's Strade Bianche. Damiano Cunego showed his return to form after a bad 2013 season when he finished 4th but Diego Ulissi paid dearly for a crash that forced him to use a lot of energy to get back in contention.

 

After Diego Ulissi's win in the GP Camaiore, Lampre-Merida were expected to play a key role in today's Strade Bianche. That prediction was a true one as the team came away from the gravel roads with a beautiful 4th place.

 

However, the results was not taken by Ulissi. Instead, it was Damiano Cunego who signalled his return to form after his disastrous 2013 season when he joined the chase quartet that set off in pursuit of Michal Kwiatkowski and Peter Sagan. Unable to respond to Alejandro Valverde's final acceleration, he had to settle for the spot just outside the podium but he was happy to finally have found his best legs again.

 

"Today I felt fine which is another sign of the fact that I have been at a good level since the start of the season," he said. "I tried to ride more carefully. The roads in the Strade Bianche are both fascinating and insidious. Thanks to my teammates, I didn't have any problems in the first part and in the first gravel sectors.

 

"When the race became more intense, there were riders with more power. It was nice to see that Ulissi and I were able to follow them. When Sagan attacked, only a Kwiatkowski in great shape could follow his explosive acceleration.

 

"Behind, we waited until the gravel sector 15km from the finish to react and created a group that tried to get back to the leaders. We did not succeed because they were too strong. It is a pity that I missed the podium but Valverde had more energy.

 

"However, I judge this test in a positive way. I am satisfied because I have been with the best riders in this type of racing. I start Tirreno-Adriatico with confidence."

 

Ulissi was part of the front group that escaped after the longest gravel sector but suddenly disappeared from the front. He paid the price for an incident earlier in the race.

 

"The race was intense and when the speed was increased, only the best remained in the lead group," he said. "In these situations, every mishap affects you and so it happened for me. On the Sante Marie gravel roads with 50km to go, Kessiakoff crashed and it also involved Mori while I was on his wheel. I managed to avoid the crash but had to work had to get back to the leading group.

 

"I paid for the effort and didn't have the required freshness when Sagan attacked. I am sorry not to have been able to stay with the best but I think that today's race can be regarded as an important step in improving my condition."

 

The duo will next line up in the Tirreno-Adriatico.

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