Cunego narrows search, Gianetti's Geox on standby

Amstel Gold Race 2008 Damiano Cunego

Italian Damiano Cunego is narrowing his search for a new team and may decide before the end of the month. The next week will be important, as he will talk with several interested teams, including current team Lampre.

Lampre-Farnese Vini team manager, Giuseppe Saronni, has heard the rumours that Cunego will be leaving, including Friday's news that Cunego signed with Swiss Mauro Gianetti. Regardless of the rumours and the arrival of Michele Scarponi, Saronni will propose to Cunego a contract this week.

Saronni's budget may run out, though. Along with Scarponi, Saronni is rumoured to be interested in 2007 Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca (when his suspension ends, July 21, 2011) and Omega Pharma-Lotto's sports director, Roberto Damiani. Italian Damiani's contract ends at the end of this year, the same time that Cadel Evans' contract was originally slated to end.

Cunego may be more comfortable in Italy's other top team, Liquigas-Doimo. He would join forces with Ivan Basso and emerging star Vincenzo Nibali. A lot may depend on whether Roman Kreuziger leaves at the end of this year.

Liquigas Team Manager Roberto Amadio will return from vacation tomorrow, but he has already met with Cunego's agent last month at the Tour de France.

"It all depends on the contract negations," said Liquigas' sports director, Stefano Zanatta. "With Daniele Bennati on the way out, we have space for a one-day racer like Damiano."

Cunego won the 2004 Giro d'Italia and the young riders' white jersey at the 2006 Tour de France. He has developed more as a one-day rider recently, with wins in shorter stage races and one-day races: Giro del Trentino, Giro di Lombardia, the Amstel Gold, and two stages of last year's Vuelta a España.

Dutch team Vacansoleil also appreciates Cunego's strengths and wants to sign him. If it does, it will have a strong chance of racing the 2011 Giro d'Italia with both him and current rider, Italian Matteo Carrara. Carrara won the Tour of Luxembourg overall this year ahead of Fränk Schleck and Lance Armstrong.

Interest from the three teams allows only a small amount of time for Mauro Gianetti to confirm Italian footwear company Geox as his new title sponsor. The company is currently with Lampre and is interested in a five-year deal with Gianetti.

"They are thinking about it," said Claudio Corti, who would become one of Gianetti's sports directors. "They still need to make an official statement."

Last week, Cunego celebrated the birth of his son Cristian, but also had time to look over Gianetti's proposal. Cunego's arrival is key for Gianetti's deal with Geox as the company is interested in a top star from their Veneto region.

Cunego's chances of riding for an Anglo-Saxon team are near zero. Talks with Sky ended with the Tour de France and Garmin-Transitions' offer is too low.

Related links

Geox takes over Footon ProTour team, welcomes Cunego

Damiano Cunego: Rider Profile

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