Filippo Pozzato (Wilier Triestina) made a late attack to try surprise the sprinters and win the Giro d'Italia stage in Cassano d'Adda on Wednesday but was unable to stay away in sight of the finish line and only served as stepping stone for Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling), who surged passed to win.
The attack was similar to the way a much younger Pozzato won Milan-San Remo back in 2006. He has rarely lived up the expectations that rose after that win but today showed a glimmer of hope that his career may not be over.
Pozzato quickly headed to the Wilier Triestina team bus after the stage and showered before taking time to talk with media, including Cyclingnews. His disappointment had already turned into satisfaction for going close to victory.
"I had a chance today because were in the third week and some riders are tired. That gives the riders with a bit of talent an extra chance. It's easier to stay up front now because people are taking as many risks for the sprint," he said with his natural insouciance.
"I was trying to help Manuel Belletti for the sprint and so I'd been up front for about 20km. Then I saw a Lotto rider go and that nobody closed him down because the sprinter's teams are pretty low on power after so much hard racing. I went for it and then when I looked around with a kilometre to go and saw I had a gap, I went again. But there was a lot of wind in the final kilometres. I died when I saw that there was still more than 600 metres to go.
"I thought I could do it until he (Kluge) jumped passed me with about 200 metres to go. Then the finish seemed to get further and further away… He was able to take aim at me and use my slipstream a bit. He was smart. I've seen the replay on television and he won it well. I can only congratulate him."
Wilier Triestina show their colours
The Wilier Triestina team have struggled so far in this year’s Giro d'Italia while their rival wild card invitation teams have picked up stage victories, or in the case of Damiano Cunego (Nippo Vini Fantini), worn the blue climber's jersey. The Tuscan-based team lost sprinter Jakub Mareczko due to illness early on and second sprinter Manuel Belletti has been suffering with bronchial spasms after going deep in races. Yesterday he was taken to hospital for checks and was close to hyperventilating at the finish in Cassano d'Adda.
Pozzato got in the early break on the stage to Asolo near his hometown of Sandrigo but the move was chased down by teams looking to set up their own riders for the hilly finale. Today Eugert Zhupa was in the early three-rider break and then Pozzato made his move.
He recently revealed to Cyclingnews that he hopes to have a post-racing career as a team manager and seemed ready to end his career. However, his attack in Cassano d'Adda has boosted his aging moral.
"I've always said I had good legs and had the form to do something," he claimed. "Unfortunately cycling these days is really intense. You start every stage at full gas. I tried yesterday too, I got in a break of 15 riders but they chased us down after we'd down a first hour at 52km/h.
"I think the general level in the peloton has gone up because of the quality of the bike technology has improved and because he sport is far more global. Once the Italians were the top dogs and there were perhaps three British-speaking riders. Now there are 40 Brits in the peloton and at least five are really strong. It's same with the Americans and the Africans. It's good there's a globalisation because its opened new doors but it's made it harder for historic cycling nations like us."
Despite missing out on victory, Pozzato promised to try again on Thursday's 18th stage to Pinerolo.
"I hope to get in the break tomorrow but there will probably be 50 other riders who want to do something too," he predicted.
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