Few riders in the Giro d’Italia peloton have a range of interests quite as eclectic as those of Domenico Pozzovivo. The man from Basilicata in the very south of Italy is an economics graduate, a keen pianist, a linguist and, intriguingly, something of a weather enthusiast.
Idiosyncratic hobbies are nothing new in cycling – former Euskaltel rider Roberto Laiseka once famously listed his favourite pastime as “staring at the sea” – but Pozzovivo’s interest in weather forecasting is put to practical use at Ag2r-La Mondiale. Such is the frequency with which he scans specialist websites that Pozzovivo’s directeurs sportifs apparently confer with him almost as a matter of routine before delivering their team briefing on the eve of a race.
The variable conditions in Ireland have proven a challenge even for Pozzovivo’s forecasting powers – frequent showers were interspersed with surprisingly sunny spells throughout the day in Belfast on Thursday – but he reckons that the rain will hold off for Friday evening’s opening team time trial.
“It’s very hard to predict here, but I think I can stick my neck out and say that tomorrow evening we’ll probably be racing without rain,” Pozzovivo told Cyclingnews at Belfast’s city hall on Thursday. “But then Saturday is going to be the worst day. I think it will probably rain for almost the entire stage.”
Pozzovivo enters this Giro on something of a high after a solid spring campaign that concluded with notable showings at the Giro del Trentino, where he finished 2nd overall, and at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he took 5th. He lines up with the stated aim of landing a place in the top five on the general classification and winning a mountain stage. Before reaching his favoured terrain, however, Pozzovivo must survive the potentially treacherous trio of Irish stages without coughing up too much time to his fellow contenders.
“I think they will be very dangerous stages, all the more so because of the probable wind and rain,” Pozzovivo said. “I think that a lot of riders, the other climbers, are going to have the same problem as me. We’ll have to use the other riders on our teams as best we can to try and get out of here without losing time, especially because there’s the team time trial too, which isn’t exactly our forte.”
Pozzovivo has yet to sample the 21.7km team time trial course for himself, but he admitted that he would be happy at this point to limit his losses to 35 or 40 seconds on Friday evening and maintain that deficit over the following two days.
Although the principal mountain stages are shoehorned into the final week, however, Pozzovivo believes that there are opportunities for the general classification contenders to go on the offensive almost as soon as the race lands on Italian soil. The first major summit finish is at Montecopiolo on stage 8, but he expects activity on the brace of hilltop finals at Viggiano and Montecassino on stages 5 and 6.
“At Viggiano and Montecassino you’ll have to be in front already, and I think you’ll see the guys for the general classification up there even at that point. But then next weekend, we’re already almost into the high mountains, and that’s when we’ll start to see the first significant gaps,” he said.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) are widely tipped as the two principal favourites for overall victory, but Pozzovivo had a firsthand view of Cadel Evans’ recent Giro del Trentino win and was impressed by what he saw.
“Evans showed that he was going at a very, very high level, up there with the best, and I’d have him as one of the favourites. Then there’s Rigoberto Uran, who’ll be dangerous if he’s at the same level as last year, and the team time trial is a good way to start the race for him,” said Pozzovivo, who also pointed to the man who duelled with him at the Brixia Tour in 2010. “There are always surprises too, younger guys who come through. I’m thinking in particular of Daniel Martin and not just because it’s starting from his home country.”