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14th Japan Cup - 1.1
Japan, October 23, 2005
Cunego finally wins Japan Cup
"Il bel finale per il giovane campione"
By Miwako Sasaki
Italian Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffita) won the 14th Japan Cup, beating Spaniard Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears - Caisse d'epargne) in a two man sprint. Cunego was second last year in this race, and today was a revenge race for him.
56 riders started the 11 lap course on a cloudy and cool morning. It was very small peloton for the international category race, but many spectators crowded beside the course, maybe more than last year.
Just after the starting pistol roared, some Japanese riders jumped clear from the peloton and made a six man breakaway. The members were Yoshimasa Hirose and Masahiro Shinagawa (both Shimano-Memory Corp), Takeaki Ayabe (Miyata-Subaru), Yoshinori Iino (Sumita Ravanello-Pearl Izumi), Ken Hashikawa (Kinan-CCD) and the 'Asian Jacky Durand' Koji Fukushima (Team Bridgestone Anchor). They soon gained two minutes over the peloton in the first two laps.
The bunch was controlled by the four ProTeams: Illes Balears-Caisse d'epargne, Quick Step-Innergetic, Saunier Duval-Prodir and Lampre-Caffita, until the final part of the race. They didn't want to do anything dangerous because there was a bad thunderstorm last night and the course was still wet. Italian Cristian Moreni (Quick Step - Innergetic) was afraid of the conditions of the course before the start. So the Japanese breakaway was a very welcome situation for the favourites.
Six Japanese riders still kept the 2'30 gap to the peloton, but the breakaway was finished at three laps to go, as the peloton accelerated. The front group was still about 30 riders at the start of the second last lap, and the race broke open at the top of the mountain. All the favourites were in the front group: defending champion Patrik Sinkewitz and Moreni (Quick Step - Innergetic), Cunego and Marzano (Lampre-Caffita), Mancebo and Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears-Caisse d'epargne), Manuele Mori and Jose Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval-Prodir). On the top of the mountain on the final lap, Mancebo attacked from the first group and only Cunego followed him. Mancebo passed the top alone, but only 5 seconds ahead of Cunego, who caught the Spaniard on the descent. Both of them attacked over and over again on the small hills before the finish, but Cunego was better than Mancebo at the end. The Italian crossed the finish line solo, celebrating in front of the many Japanese tifosi.
"This year was very difficult for me because of the illness, but I'm very happy that I could win this race at the end of the season, and this one is my fourth victory this year...that's not bad?" said Cunego after the race. And the 24 year-old champion gave some beautiful words to Japanese fans too: "Cycling is a great school of life!"
Cunego struggled to find good condition before the Japan Cup, but Giuseppe Martinelli, who is Cunego's mentor and the directeur sportif of Lampre-Caffita, let Cunego continue his season. And the director brought Cunego to Japan Cup because the race was fit for him. The director's choice was right. Cunego could finish this season with a smile: All's well that ends well.
Cunego will become a solo team leader of Lampre-Caffita next year because Gilberto Simoni decided to leave the team to join Saunier-Duval. "It will be a big responsibility for me. But the team is very good and I have great teammates," said Cunego.
Cunego called soon to his home in Verona after the race, and shared this happiness with his fiancee Margherita and his little princess Ludovica, who is 3 months old now.
The first experience for Spanish Illes Balears
It was the first time for the whole Illes Balears team to come to the Japan Cup, and although at the end of the season, they had a good race today: Mancebo was second and Pablo Lastras was 4th. Alfonso Galilea, the director of Illes Balears said before the race, "We don't have any experience of this race, and also we have many problems. The end of season after the big race like the Vuelta, a different country, a different race, a jet lag of 7 hours...we couldn't sleep well in two days. But we will try to do the best and one of our riders will get top 10."
And his team did so. Galilea was also surprised about the many Japanese fans. "A lot of fans were around Mancebo after the race and everyone called his name! I didn't think he is so popular in Japan."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Miwako Sasaki
1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - Caffita 4.05.56 2 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 0.03 3 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Quickstep 0.27 4 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Illes Balears 0.43 5 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval - Prodir 6 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Quickstep 0.44 7 Yasutaka Tashiro (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor 0.51 8 Morris Possoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 1.51 9 Shinri Suzuki (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor 10 Po Wong Kam (HKg) Team Hong Kong 1.52 11 Marco Marzano (Ita) Lampre - Caffita 12 Makoto Iijima (Jpn) Sumitra Ravanello Pearl Izumi 13 Julio Garcia (Spa) Madeinox-A.R. Canelas 14 Kazuyuki Manabe (Jpn) Team Nippo 1.53 15 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Team Nippo 16 San Wu Kin (HKg) Team Hong Kong 17 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre - Caffita 1.54 18 Hidenori Nodera (Jpn) Shimano - Memory Corp 19 Kazuhiro Mori (Jpn) Team Japan 1.55 20 Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) Shimano - Memory Corp 2.01 21 Tomoya Kano (Jpn) Shimano - Memory Corp 2.18 22 Joan Horrach Rippoll (Spa) Illes Balears 2.21 23 Taiji Nishitani (Jpn) Team Japan 2.33 24 Yusuke Shimizu (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor 3.09 25 Angel Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir 3.42 26 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Saunier Duval - Prodir 27 Ken Hashikawa (Jpn) Kinan CCD 6.37 28 Koji Fukushima (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor 6.38 29 Mashahiro Shinagawa (Jpn) Shimano - Memory Corp 30 Yoshimasa Hirose (Jpn) Shimano - Memory Corp 31 Mikel Pradera Rodriguez (Spa) Illes Balears 6.39 32 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre - Caffita 6.41 33 Hing Chan Chun (HKg) Team Hong Kong 9.20 34 Akira Kakinuma (Jpn) Myata Subaru 9.26 35 Kojiro Nakagawa (Jpn) Myata Subaru 36 Davide Bramati (Ita) Quickstep 37 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Qucikstep 9.27 38 Ching Wong Ngai (HKg) Team Hong Kong 39 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quickstep 9.28 40 Takumi Beppu (Jpn) Team Japan 41 Masahiko Mifune (Jpn) Myata Subaru 42 Ruben Lobato Elvira (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir 12.14 Hors délai Ikki Yoneyama (Jpn) Sumitra Ravanello Pearl Izumi Tsun Lam Kai (HKg) Team Hong Kong Miyataka Shimizu (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor Tetsuya Ishida (Jpn) Team Nippo Yoshinori Iino (Jpn) Sumitra Ravanello Pearl Izumi DNF Koki Shinbo (Jpn) Team Japan Arkaitz Duran Aroca (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir Tatsuro Fukushi (Jpn) Sumitra Ravanello Pearl Izumi Kengo Kowatari (Jpn) Kinan CCD Takeaki Ayabe (Jpn) Myata Subaru Takuya Nishimura (Jpn) Myata Subaru Yoshihisa Kimura (Jpn) Sumitra Ravanello Pearl Izumi Akira Sumoto (Jpn) Kinan CCD Takeshi Hashimoto (Jpn) Team Nippo DNS Kyoshi Miura (Jpn) Kinan CCD
2004 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Quick Step-Davitamon 2003 Sergio Barbero (Ita) Lampre 2002 Sergio Barbero (Ita) Lampre-Daikin 2001 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Daikin 2000 Massimo Codol (Ita) Lampre-Daikin 1999 Sergio Barbero (Ita) Mercatone Uno-Bianchi 1998 Fabien De Waele (Bel) Lotto-Mobistar 1997 Yoshiyuki Abe (Jap) Mapei-GB 1996 Mauro Gianetti (Swi) Team Polti 1995 Claudio Chiappucci (Ita) Carrera Jeans 1994 Claudio Chiappucci (Ita) Carrera Jeans 1993 Claudio Chiappucci (Ita) Carrera Jeans 1992 Hendrik Redant (Bel) Lotto Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com