The sharp-eyed and Cunego-supporting bike fans out there have been quick to point out our omission of the grand tour-afflicted Damiano from our Top 50 riders of the year in the current issue of Procycling (December, on sale now, don't miss it, if only for the evasive tactics employed by Michael Ball as our features ed Daniel Friebe tries to pin him down on his policy towards rider signings).
My first impulse was to brazen out the absence of the power-packed Italian by pointing out that he mode the Tour de France his main focus of the season and was conspicuous there only by his repeated and rapid disappearance from the lead group when the going got tough. However, the truth is, erm ... I messed up…
The Top 50 was pulled together during early October and by that stage Cunego had just about done enough to get into the lower rankings thanks to his Amstel victory and silver at the World's, which just about balanced out his miserable July. Of course, Cunego then went to Lombardy and finished so far ahead of the rest that second-placed Janez Brajkovic celebrated what he seemed to think was a first success in the end-of-season “monument”, only to find out Cunego was already on his way to the podium to receive the plaudits for a third Lombardy title.
Janez wasn't the only one befuddled by Damiano’s late-season surge. Back in the Procycling office, I was intending to insert his name some way up our list – not top 10 perhaps, but not far off – and only realised I hadn't done so when the Cunego fans started to write in. So, apologies to them and to him.
The questions remains, though, about where Cunego’s future in the sport lies. Victories in the Giro and the best young rider competition at the Tour suggest he’s right to believe he’s got a future in the major tours, but all of his other major tour appearances state otherwise.
“The Little Prince” is adamant he can have an impact at the Tour, and says he just needs to get his training right. He didn't do enough this year, he has said, whereas his manager, Alex Carrera, says that Cunego simply didn't do his altitude training at sufficient altitude to benefit. The feeling among Italian pros is that Cunego is a phenomenal one-day rider who should focus on adding the likes of Flèche, Liège and the Worlds to his palmarès.
As for me, I'd love to see an in-form Cunego at the Giro or Tour. At his best, he’s thrilling to watch; a fizzing bundle of power you can't take your eyes off. Which only makes me wonder even more how I managed to do so. I'll blame the credit crunch...