Domenico Pozzovivo plans to target the Giro d'Italia's podium this May as he leads his new Bahrain-Merida team. Pozzovivo finished sixth overall in last year's Giro at 3:11 down on the winner Tom Dumoulin, and cracked the top five in 2014. He might be 35, but he believes that he can still improve on that at this year's edition.
"Why not try for the podium," said Pozzovivo. "It will be difficult but I think that it is achievable. It will depend on who will be at the start. Until now, we don't know a lot about who will take part in the Giro, maybe Fabio Aru will, we don't know. We won't know until all the other leaders will announce their programmes."
The Giro d'Italia is in the forefront of Pozzovivo's mind but he is also down to head to the Tour de France to help out his new Bahrain-Merida teammate Vincenzo Nibali. Pozzovivo joined Bahrain-Merida over the winter to bolster their support network around Nibali, but will also get the chance to take on his own goals throughout the season. The Italian also has his hopes set on donning the maglia azzurra in Innsbruck at the UCI Road World Championships in September.
"My principal objective will be the general classification at the Giro d'Italia and afterwards I will be a teammate for Vincenzo at the Tour de France," Pozzovivo told Cyclingnews at Bahrain-Merida's training camp in Hvar, Croatia last month. “I hope that I will be important for him in the mountain stages. After, I hope to be an Italian representative in the World Championships, because the route is very hard this year and I think that I can help Vincenzo this year to try and win the World Championships."
"It's usual in the Giro to have a lot of climbing. I think it is a very good route for me. I think that this year I will have to continue to work on my time trialling because I have changed materials and there is an opportunity to train more on the bike."
One rider that Pozzovivo will have to get the better of in both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, as a leader and a helper, is Chris Froome. His participation depends on the results of an investigation by the UCI for his too-high level of the asthma drug salbutamol. If Froome is cleared to race in time, the Team Sky rider is planning the Giro-Tour double, races not won back-to-back since Marco Pantani in 1998. Pozzovivo believes that, should he race, Froome will be the clear favourite for the Giro but says that matching his Tour-Vuelta double will be a massive task.
"With Chris Froome at the start of a Grand Tour, he will be the principal favourite," he said. "I think it is a different challenge to do the Tour and the Vuelta to doing the Giro and the Tour. It's more difficult to do the Giro and the Tour. The routes are different. In the Giro, there is a lot of climbing. There is also a lot in the Vuelta, but it is mostly in the final."
Pozzovivo is set to make his debut in Bahrain-Merida colours later this month at the Tour Down Under, a race he has done for each of the last three seasons. The first chance he had to put the new colours on was last month when the squad did their team photo in Hvar. Pozzovivo says that is was a slightly strange sensation after half a decade in almost exactly the same kit. Pozzovivo's move came about when his contract with AG2R La Mondiale came to an end and Nibali reached out to him.
"It wasn't because I didn't want to stay. I was at the end of my contract," Pozzovivo told Cyclingnews. "I think that I did a good season and I had an opportunity to change and to motivate in a different way. Afterwards, I had some contact with Vincenzo Nibali and he asked me if I wanted to be in his team to help him in the mountain stages of the Grand Tours and also have the possibility to be a leader in some other races."
While his team colours might be changing, one thing has stayed the same for Pozzovivo as he combines his racing with studying. He is known as 'the Doctor' by some for his education and after securing a degree in business economics he has moved onto another in sports science.
"I love studies and I already had a degree but now I don't want to stop. I want to continue to learn. I enjoy learning," explained Pozzovivo. "Now, I am 35 years old so I know what I am doing. When I was younger, it was more difficult [to combine studies and racing]. Having the responsibility to be a leader on some races and then at the same time doing my studies was hard. It is different now. I know when I need to only race and when I can do my study."
Pozzovivo suggests that, with his second degree, he could become a trainer or a coach when he finally hangs his wheels up, but that won't be for a little while longer. "I think maybe three years a good period when I can race at a good level."