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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 July, 2005, 07:16 GMT 08:16 UK
Damiano Cunego
CUNEGO FACTFILE
Damiano Cunego
DOB: 19/9/1981
Nationality: Italian
Best Tour: Debuting in 2006
The last rider to win the Tour de France on debut was Laurent Fignon in 1983, but Damiano Cunego will be aiming to emulate the Frenchman in 2006.

At 23, there's no real hurry for the Lampre-Caffita rider to push for the Paris podium but that won't stop the determined Italian.

Cunego already has one major tour victory under his belt - last year's Giro d'Italia.

And he will aim to become the first Italian to win the Tour since 1998.

On that occasion it was the since deceased Marco Pantani, who had also won the Giro that year - a feat Cunego had been endeavouring to achieve this season but failed.

In an interesting link, Cunego came to the fore courtesy of Giuseppe Martinelli, Pantani's former boss, who signed him to Saeco.

He is brimming with confidence and has declared that he wants to have a stab at beating Lance Armstrong in the Tour just once before the Texan retires.

Many have tipped him for success in cycling's biggest event, with five-time winner Bernard Hinault even saying he wouldn't be surprised to see him win this year.


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