May 25, 2004
Cunego in pink jersey after Tuesday stage win
Damiano Cunego of Italy's Saeco team has taken over the lead at the Giro d'Italia. Cunego put more than a minute into all opponents with a solo breakaway with 12 kilometers to ride.
Two-time defending champion Gilberto Simoni, Cunego's teammate, lost 2:30 on the stage, and sits 4th, 2:38 back.
Cunego is one of the great young hopes of Italian cycling; he was the world junior road champion in 1999.
Cunego paid justifiable tribute to his team-mates, especially Simoni as the two-time champion had set out at the start of the race as the team leader but had confessed earlier in the event that if Cunego was stronger than him then he should go for it.
"'Gibo' (Simoni) is a great leader, a true champion" said Cunego.
"He left it to me to race my race. The situation is a little complex but he accepts it at the moment.
"We will carry on racing alongside each other, without annoying one another."
Former race leader Yaroslav Popovych lost more than 4 minutes Tuesday, with more climbing to come.
Cunego isn't counting his chickens just yet:
"The pink jersey in Milan? There is still a long way to go," said Cunego.
Simoni played along with Saeco's team tactics, perhaps at his own expense. The two-time Giro champion could only watch as Cunego rode to victory in the 217km stage from San Vendemiano to Falzes.
"Damiano was the strongest today and the team supported him," said Simoni, who fell to fourth at 2:38 back of his young protégé. "It puts us in good position to win the Giro once again, which is the top goal for the team."
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