As the 2010 season is getting underway under the sunny skies of Australia and Africa, the riders targeting the northern Classics are preparing for their possible hours of glory in the cold of Belgium and France in early April. Filippo Pozzato, who won the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke last year, will again be one of the major protagonists on the cobbles of Flanders and Roubaix as he is out to finally win one of these prestigious one-day races.
"If I have to choose, I'd like to win Flanders, as this race comes first and would make me more confident for the Hell of the North," he told Belgian newpaper La Dernière Heure this week.
Taking into account that the progress of the Katusha rider during the last few years has been steady - from top 20 placings in 2006, the year he won Milano-Sanremo, to fifth in the Ronde and second in Paris-Roubaix last year - Pozzato is a major contender and could see his dreams come true. The Italian's rivals, however, include the likes of Stijn Devolder and Tom Boonen (Quick Step), as well as Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam), who are also building up form right now.
Pozzato has a lot of respect for his former teammate Boonen, two-time winner of the Ronde and three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix. "Tom will always be a major adversary, because he is the greatest specialist right now for these kind of races. Last year, he was stronger than me," he continued, speaking of Roubaix. "Tom on the cobbles, that's really something! But you have to keep in mind that he is not unbeatable."
In 2009, before the Hell of the North, Pozzato and Boonen clung together in Flanders and neutralized each other's chances, which the Belgian had strongly bemoaned after the race, calling Pozzato his 'shadow'. "I know what he said, but I also know that this was said just after the race, at a time when there's still a lot of nervousness and disappointment. I have very good contact with him. We respect each other," commented the Italian, who did not reveal his tactics for this year's edition of the Ronde.
"Everything is decided during the race, but if Tom has a good day, then yes, I could again follow him on the cobbles of the Tour of Flanders."