This weekend's 'Hell of the North' offers Filippo Pozzato once last chance to achieve one of his major season goals. The Italian, who switched to Lampre-Merida this year had outlined three major targets ahead of the 2013 season: Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. So far he has missed two from two and Sunday is his final chance in what has been a lean classics campaign for the 2012 Tour of Flanders runner-up.
"In the beginning of the year I had three major goals: Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix,” he told Sporza. "Sunday is my last chance to score, I have to seize the last chance."
Pozzato's lead-up to the cobbled races appeared to be on track when he won his first race of 2013 at Trofeo Laigueglia and backed up a few weeks later to take second-place at the inaugural Roma Maxima - a race in which the former Italian national champion believed he had won before realising Blel Kadri from Ag2r La Mondiale had remained out front to take a solo victory.
Failing to feature in the winning bunch at Milan-San Remo was perhaps not a fair assessment of his form considering the gruelling conditions the riders had to endure. The peloton was exposed to ice-cold wind and snow with the race disrupted by the stoppage which occurred at the base of the Tacchino Pass. Pozzato would finish in 33rd-place despite initially marking the move that contained Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka), Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellar (RadioShack Leopard) and eventually crossed the finish line with the group that raced for 8th and would pick up his worst result since winning the race in 2006.
The next two races, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem may have been seen as preparation for De Ronde but his 26th and 39th placings did not inspire the punters to back the 31-year-old ahead of the race he finished a close second to Tom Boonen in 2012. He would eventually finish Flanders well down the ranks in 44th, nearly five minutes behind the day's winner and Roubaix's number-one favourite Fabian Cancellara.
Sunday is D-Day for Pozzato and he will no doubt enter the final cobbled race of the season with anticipation and a certain level of nervousness. Last year he crashed out of the race won by Boonen but it's the final race in his trio of targeted events and he will be looking hard to reverse the state of his current classics campaign. Taking home a cobbled trophy may be a little to much to expect given the strength of Cancellara but the proud Italian is not ruling himself out of taking a surprise result.
"Paris-Roubaix is a very demanding course and there's only a select party of contenders even if Cancellara is the favourite. All eyes will be on him for the entire race but I should also be better than last Sunday."