Pozzovivo targets top 5 at Vuelta a España

Italian climber back in action at Tour de l'Ain after getting married

Domenico Pozzovivo welcomed the news of top contenders such as Tour de France winner Chris Froome signing up for the Vuelta a España, which begins in Marbella on August 22nd, saying, "I prefer to take part in a race of the highest level with top contenders. Tactically, it changes the racing for the good."

"Every week the start list becomes richer and richer," said the Italian who actually enjoyed learning that Tejay van Garderen, Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Froome will join the field along with Fabio Aru, Mikel Landa, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez.

Speaking in Lyon to Cyclingnews ahead of the Tour de l'Ain, his come-back race after the Italian championship, Pozzovivo didn't hide his ambitions for the Vuelta a España. "My goal is the top five," he explained. "Considering the big names on the start list, it would be a great achievement. I'd also like to win a stage in similar circumstances as Fabio Aru did it last year. Stage 11 to Andorra seems to suit me the most with the difference in altitude and the uphill finale. But two or three other stages please me as well. Technically, the course hasn't changed much from the past few years, except the individual time trial that is more for specialists than two years ago when I got my best result ever against the clock: third [in the 38-km stage 11 in Tarazona] behind the two best time triallists in history [Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin]."

The AG2R-La Mondiale rider finished 6th overall in Madrid in 2013 but he missed out on the 2014 Vuelta a España due to a bad crash in August. He also retired from the Giro d'Italia this year after falling unconscious in a head-first crash. "I can't talk much about this crash because I have no recollection of it. Except from the scar on my face, it hasn't left any consequence compared to last year's crash."

Last August, Pozzovivo broke both bones in his lower leg after a cat ran out into his path while he was out training, and the injury is still causing problems. "I haven't recovered equal power in both legs yet," Pozzovivo said. "This time my physique is intact. I've always liked the Vuelta but after what happened at the Giro, it has become my main objective of the season."

"The Tour de l'Ain is the race I need to conclude my preparation for the Vuelta," he continued. "I feel well. Astana will be the reference with Nibali, Aru and Landa. We'll have a good squad for the team time trial and to protect me from the wind." In the mountains, Pozzovivo might have to ride by himself with Mikaël Chérel as a main helper since Carlos Betancur will probably be a non-starter this time around because of a lack of fitness. The Colombian rode the past two Vueltas overweight and in search of form for the world championship.

"I want to keep the momentum for AG2R-La Mondiale after watching my teammates competing in the Tour de France," added the 32-year-old who is yet to get a start at the Grande Boucle. "The big satisfaction was Alexis Vuillermoz's stage victory. It can be the breakthrough of his career. The team was in a critical situation in the Pyrenees but they've showed a great mental strength to bounce back with attacks from far. Romain Bardet has been exemplary to step up a level after winning a stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné. I like this team, otherwise I wouldn't have extended my contract for two more seasons last year. We've had a good Tour, now we're ready for a good Vuelta too."

Now riding with the extra weight of a brand new shining ring, Pozzovivo is a happy man. Last Saturday he married Valentina in the southern province of Basilicata in the presence of 170 guests.

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