I was delighted to see Damiano Cunego power away from the rest of a very strong leading group on the final climb of the Cauberg to win his first Amstel Gold title on Sunday.
My pleasure was partly down to the fact that it confirmed the Italian’s return to the top level after it had started to look like his 2004 Giro d’Italia victory was a one-off and underlined that he’s a genuine contender for the Tour de France title.
But, more than that, I was happy because we chose Damiano as the cover star of our next issue, which is an Italian special covering the Giro and much else besides in one of the few the world’s great cycling nations. While I’d like to say I’m chuffed because we knew exactly what Cunego was going to do during the Classics and had wagered everything we had on him, sadly that was not the case.
However, his Amstel win highlighted a change in the luck of Procycling cover stars, who have often been stricken by bad luck in the shape of injuries or a loss of form, or total career meltdown in the shape of doping-enforced retirement.
The worst case of this I can remember was going out to Switzerland in August 2003 to interview Cadel Evans at home as he built up to leading Team Telekom’s challenge at the Vuelta. All went well until Evans broke his collarbone a week before the issue went on sale, ensuring sales probably weren’t as stellar as they could have been. Others to suffer what seemed to be the “curse of the Procycling cover” were Floyd Landis, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich – all for doping offences on consecutive months in 2006 – and George Hincapie who missed a whole Classics season through injury after we bigged him up.
Another reason I was pleased to see Cunego storming clear on the Cauberg was because of the radical changes to his training regime that he explains in the May issue of Procycling, which goes on sale in the UK this Thursday.
Of course, I’m not going to give anything away here, but it was interesting to see how much the rider felt his form over the past three seasons had been affected his methods that didn’t suit him, and how quickly he seems to have rectified his problems. He looks a rider reborn, and must now start as favourite for Flèche this Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the weekend.