Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) is out to save Italian pride and begin what he hopes will be a successful build-up to the world championships in Australia, with success in today’s Vattenfall Cyclassic race in Hamburg, Germany.
An Italian rider has not won a major one-day classic race since Damiano Cunego won the Tour of Lombardy in 2008. Pozzato won the Vattenfall Cyclassic in 2005 and is hoping he can do it again.
Victory would help him secure a clear leadership role in the Italian team for the world championships and make up for a meagre list of results so far in 2010.
“I haven’t won a lot but it shouldn’t be forgotten that I was ill before the Tour of Flanders but was still up there in Paris-Roubaix and got seventh, when nobody expected it,” Pozzato argued in an interview with Sunday’s Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I won a nice stage at the Giro d’Italia and almost won another. After that I took a break and I’ve only just started racing again. To be honest I feel the best part of my season is still to come. It feels likes in January.”
Pozzato is now backing in a standard Katusha jersey after a year as Italian champion and has opted to stay with the Russian squad for 2011. He was criticised for not trying to defend his ‘tricolore’ jersey but after finishing the Giro d’Italia, Pozzato has his eyes fixed firmly on pulling on the rainbow jersey.
“I think I honoured the ‘tricolore’ every time I wore it in a race but you can’t do everything in cycling these days,” he said. “And I think that’s a good thing. The course of this year’s championships was too hard for me and so I opted to take a break earlier and so work on a second peak of form for the world championships.”
Pozzato did not ride the Tour de France, returning to racing at the Clasica San Sebastian. He also rode the Tour de Wallonie and the Vuelta a Burgos. He went close to two stage victories but hopes to win in Hamburg, as long as the race does not end in a bunch sprint.
“The ideal situation would be if a group goes way on the final climb, the Waseberg. That’s what happened when I won in 2005 and I beat Luca Paolini in the sprint.”
World championship focus
Pozzato travelled to see the course of the world championships in Melbourne with new Italian coach Paolo Bettini in July, paying his own way and putting up with the long trip and jet-lag, so he can fully understand what to expect on October 3.
He is likely to have a protected leadership role and knows he has a great chance to win the world title. Yet also knows he has to earn his stripes with success in the next few weeks and with a good performance at the Vuelta.
“I’ll leave all the talk about the team and strategy to Bettini. I know that if I want to be captain, then I have to get the results, starting in Hamburg and then at the Vuelta. Even if the worlds are a week later this year, the Vuelta is the best way to get ready for the big day, he said.”
“After seeing the course, I’m sure of one thing: If you can’t handle the climb, you won’t be up there for the sprint. There are two short climbs and the wind could also be a factor.”