In "The Start Ramp," veteran cycling cyber-journalist Sarah tracks and reports on the Tour's Young Rider Competition (riders under 25 on Jan. 1) and Tour first-timers.

Damiano Cunego
Damiano Cunego
Friday, July 21, 2006

Damiano Cunego takes lead as top Young Rider

Stage 17 shook up the overall general classification as expected, but
it also shook up the top of the young rider classification.  Italy's Damiano Cunego (Lampre) took advantage of Markus Fothen's (Gerolsteiner) bad day in the mountains. Cunego, still seeking his good form of two years ago, rode himself into the overall lead of the young rider competition. He now leads Fothen by two minutes and forty seven seconds.

Though Cunego doesn't expect to keep the jersey, he's quite pleased
with it but regrets not winning a stage. He told Letour.fr that "It will be difficult to keep the white jersey all the way to Paris because Marcus Fothen is a lot faster than me in the time trial but I'll do my best to end the Tour well." And he went on to say that "Whatever happens, this Tour has been a good race for me. I'll look back on it with plenty of satisfaction but it was a shame that I couldn't win the stage to L'Alpe d'Huez."

According to Cyclingnews, Cunego said that he won't be doing the Tour next year. "But it would be a mistake to be taken by my current emotions and believe that I can do the Giro and Tour every year. Next year, I'll do the Giro and the end of the season, but in 2008, I'll do only the Tour and I'll try and do it for the overall win." So it seems we can expect to see Cunego vying for the yellow jersey in 2008. Good luck, Damiano!

As an update, Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak) who was profiled yesterday, did not finish the stage. The young rider competition has lost three riders of the original 23. There are the two from Milram,
Maxim Iglinsky and Andriy Grivko, as well as José Rujano of Quick Step-Innergetic.