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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Friday, October 3, 2014

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Damiano Cunego Leaves Lampre, Joins Nippo-Fantini

It's not a surprise that 2004 Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego is leaving Lampre-Merida. It was well known that Cunego didn't have a good offer on the table from the team. He has signed with Nippo-Vini Fantini, which is going to upgrade from Continental status to being a Pro Continental team. Cunego's contract has him with his new team for two years. Nippo is a Japanese construction company and Vini Fantini is an Italian wine brand.

When you consider that his current Lampre team was the product of a merger with the old Saeco squad, Cunego has been with the same pro team since 2002, 14 years.

The wins have not come to Cunego with the same ease of his earlier years. A natural, he was Junior World Road Champion in 1999. He won the 2004 Giro d'Italia and 2004 Giro di Lombardia with stunning ease. He has 31 career pro victories, including the Giro di Lombardia three times, 2004, 2007, 2008.

His last win came in the third stage of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi-Bartali in 2013.

Here's the gracious press release Lampre-Merida issued regarding Cunego's departure:

After reaching the goal of the decade, the cycling roads of Lampre-Merida and Cunego will divide: the 2014 as the last season in our team of a cyclist that became a symbol of the team thanks to his skills and the results he got.

The team and Cunego celebrated together 27 times, this is the number of the victories that Damiano obtained wearing blu-fuchsia colors (and in the past two seasons also in Merida green).

The numbers talk for themselves, but the memories are worth a lot more than the figures. In this relationship, both parties gave a lot to the other: the team thanks Damiano for these ten years, being aware that this gratitude is largely repaid.

Damiano Cunego will take part in Giro dell'Emilia (October the 11th) and in Japan Cup (October the 2oth); after a shared choice, Il Lombardia is not in his program of races.

It's obvious that, even if the professional relationship will end, the personal relation with a protagonist of the team's history will never end.

Damiano Cunego

Damiano Cunego just wins the third stage of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi-Bartali in 2013. Photo ©Sirotti

Belkin Inks Several Riders

This release came this morning from Team Belkin:

Team Belkin strengthened by two riders, four renewals

The Belkin Pro Cycling team contracted two new cyclists, Timo Roosen and Tom Van Asbroeck, for 2015 and 2016. Roosen joins from the Rabobank Development Team and Van Asbroeck leaves Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise. The  team also extended its contracts with Rick Flens, Maarten Tjallingii  (both through 2015), Robert Wagner and Maarten Wynants (through 2016).

Timo Roosen
Roosen, 21-years old, won a stage and placed second overall in the prestigious Kreiz Breizh Elites stage race this season. In the Ster ZLM Toer, he took home the sprint classification.

“This is a great step for me,” said Roosen. “I didn’t expect this so quickly because it was only my first year at the Rabobank Development Team. I have dreamed about this. “I look forward to riding beautiful races with this professional team. The current season is not over yet, but I can’t wait to take on this new challenge. Next year, I primarily want to help others and learn a lot doing that. I hope to improve my time trialling.”

“Timo is a very young rider, but he quickly developed himself during the second half of the season,” said Sports Director Nico Verhoeven. “He is versatile and can race a good prologue. We are happy that we’ve been able to attract a big Dutch talent like him. Like with all young riders, the first season will be about development while helping, but you cannot stop top riders from having their chance.”

Tom Van Asbroeck
24-year-old Belgian Van Asbroeck impressed from the beginning until the end this year. He finished second in Nokere Koerse, second in the GP Jef Scherens in September and triumphed twice this year, in the Tour de Wallonie stage four and the Cholet-Pays De Loire. “I want to keep improving myself as a rider and this is the perfect team to do so,” said Van Asbroeck. “I’m still learning what kind of rider I truly am. Primarily, I’m a sprinter, but I would also like to show that I’m a classics rider.”

“As a team you’re always looking for winners,” Verhoeven said. “Tom has won several times this season, but his consistent level is appealing, as well. For that reason he’s leading UCI Europe Tour ranking. He can improve with us. He will be supported by us during races. Tom is of the same age as Moreno Hofland, and both are similar types of riders: quick in a sprint, but good in the classics, as well. They can help each other become stronger.”

Reliable and loyal men
Verhoeven is content that with Rick Flens, Maarten Tjallingii, Robert Wagner and Maarten Wynants -- four strong domestiques -- will remain with the Belkin Pro Cycling team. “They are reliable and loyal riders who every leader would like having around,” said Verhoeven. “They can ride grand tours and classics, and have done well in both areas this year.”

Rick Flens
“I’m glad that I can keep doing what a love on the highest level,” Flens added. “This contract shows that my work is appreciated. We’re truly one group, which certainly contributes to the results. With the new sponsor, we start a new adventure. Hopefully the stability will help bring in results. I’m looking forward to contribute to that.”

Maarten Tjallingii
“I’ve always said that I wanted to stay with the team,” Tjallingii said. “We have a squad with many talented riders with whom we can win races, and I want to help with that thanks to my experience. I’ll be 37 years old next year, and that makes me the oldest rider in the team. I want to get most out of myself and encourage others to do the same. A good example tends to be followed.”

Robert Wagner
“My heart is with this team. I have a good connection with the management and the riders. I know what they expect from me and they know what I expect from them. My first task is to help others. and I feel good about it. I look forward to supporting Sep Vanmarcke in the classics and the fast men in the sprints.”

Maarten Wynants
“I’ve been here for four years and know the ins and outs of the team. I want to take on an important role in the classics. Until late in the final, I want to support Sep Vanmarcke. Sep is improving in the classics, and that played a part in my decision. Our team is able to fight for the win in every race. That is worth a lot to me.

Maarten Tjallingii

Maarten Tjallingii finishes stage three of this year's Giro d'Italia. Photo ©Sirotti

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