At several points during the Tour of Flanders, Filippo Pozzato’s race seemed over only for the Italian to fight his way back up to the front group, but the final ascent of the Paterberg finally put paid to any lingering hopes he had harboured of a victory in Oudenaarde.
The Lampre-Merida man had entered the race without any significant results this season, but speaking during the week, he had been optimistic about his chances of battling it out for the win. Instead, there was disappointment for Pozzato, who rolled across the line in 17th place, 1:25 down on winner Fabian Cancellara (Trek).
“My sensations were good but I didn’t have the change of rhythm I needed,” Pozzato said shortly after crossing the line. “That’s what makes the difference between the champions and normal riders.”
Two years ago, Pozzato led the race over the Paterberg, and his forcing was such that it almost dropped Tom Boonen, who beat him into second place in the sprint in Oudenaarde. This time around, Pozzato was already on the back foot by that point. Distanced by the leaders with 40 kilometres to go, he had bridged back up to the front just ahead of the Kwaremont, only to go backwards once again on the penultimate climb.
“Yet on the Paterberg in the finale, I was still convinced in my head that I was coming back on but I started having cramps and I couldn’t get out of the saddle,” Pozzato said. “I tried to hang on in there after that because you never know how this race will pan out. It finishes on the line, not 20 kilometres before that.”
On the long run-in to Oudenaarde, Pozzato succeeded in catching a group featuring Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), but he admitted that he could barely raise a gallop in the sprint for the minor placings.
“I got back up to the Sagan group, but again I couldn’t sprint because I had cramps up to my ears and I couldn’t stand up. It’s strange because even now [immediately after the race] I feel quite good, but I’m missing a little something to be in front fighting it out for the win,” he said.