Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) has warned that the latest scandal to involve Riccardo Riccò will have consequences for the credibility of the sport. Riccò is understood to have suffered from kidney blockage on Sunday and is alleged to have confessed to blood doping to a doctor in Padullo hospital.
"I think it's certainly something that does damage to all of cycling, and it damages all of us who are doing everything possible to ensure that cycling goes well and is credible in the eyes of the public," Pozzato told Cyclingnews in Qatar. "When things like this happen, it's a big blow to everybody. Let's hope that it's the last time that something like this happens, because I think it's very, very serious."
While Riccò's dramatic illness and apparent confession have dominated the headlines in recent days, out on the road, the thorny topic of the UCI's ban on radio earpieces continues to be a bone of contention in the peloton. Like many of his peers, Pozzato is in favour of the use of radios, and he is disappointed that the riders have not been consulted on what they view as a serious security issue.
"They should listen to what all the riders are saying because in the end, we're all in favour of radios," Pozzato said. "Yesterday we were in an echelon and there were cars in the middle of the peloton. With the radios you can talk without a car coming into the middle of the peloton, so we want them for our security."
As the UCI and the teams association the AIGCP continue to be at loggerheads on the matter, Pozzato and the riders have been somewhat sidelined in the debate.
"We'll just have to see how it's going to finish, because certainly we won't be the ones to decide," he said.
Using the track to build for the road
Speaking on day four of the Tour of Qatar, Pozzato told Cyclingnews that he is pleased with his form so far in his first competitive outing of the season. The man from Sandrigo lost time on the opening road stage but finished in the same group as Tom Boonen (Quick Step) on stage three.
"I'm sorry that I got left out of the echelon on the first day but in the end, I've seen that my condition and that of the team is pretty good so I'm quite happy," he said. "It's important for us to work hard now so that we can be good in the races that count, but if we can do something good in the next few days, get into a good echelon, then we'll try to do that too."
Pozzato's 2010 spring campaign was ultimately undone by an untimely illness but he explained that he was pleased with his preparation for last year's classics and he believes he is at the same stage now as he was 12 months ago.
"Every year at this point I'm at more or less the same condition," he said. "Some years a little more, others a little less. This year I'm at the same point where I was last year, my preparation for the classics is good again.
"Last year I got to the classics right where I wanted to be, and then I got sick just before Flanders. So this time around, let's hope I get there with the same condition and manage to stay healthy."
As ever, the first part of Pozzato's season will be built around three races - Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. In a break from his normal programme, this past winter saw Pozzato intersperse road work with a series of sessions on the track in Montichiari, near Brescia.
"I trained on the track to gain a bit of speed and to complement the work I've been doing on the road," he said, before putting a dampener on rumours linking him to a bold bid to put together an Italian squad for the team pursuit in London in 2012.
"Of course there's been talk about the team pursuit, but like I've said before, it's something that would be really very difficult to do," he said. "Above all, I've been working on the track with an eye to the road."
One track race Pozzato would dearly love to take part in this season would be a sprint for a cobblestone trophy on the hallowed Roubaix velodrome, but he reiterated that his track work was aimed squarely at fine-tuning an already enviable pedalling style.
"Of course it wouldn't be any harm in a situation like that, but the work on the track has really been about gaining a bit of speed in my pedalling and improving my rhythm on the road."