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Italian looking to Bugno for inspiration ahead of Sunday's road race
Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) does not believe that the sprint finishes seen in the under 23 and women's road races at the world championships will necessarily be repeated in the elite men's race on Sunday.
"The pro race will be different," Pozzato told Gazzetta dello Sport. "You'll just need to pick the right moments. What happened in the under 23 race doesn't hold true for the professionals."
After seeing Philippe Gilbert's form at close quarters at the Vuelta a España, it is not surprising that Pozzato views the Belgian as the favourite to take the rainbow jersey but he warns that he must first distance the sprinters in order to win. "If he wants to make the difference, Gilbert will have to try and drop riders like [Oscar] Freire, [Matthew] Goss and [Allan] Davis."
Another rider who could feature in the finale is Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), and Pozzato will be on his guard for the sort of the attack that resulted in him finishing behind the Swiss at the 2008 Milan-San Remo. "On the false flat after the last climb, Cancellara could get a gap and go to the finish."
Pozzato was slightly more reticent in discussing his own tactics, simply stating that he hoped to "ride the perfect race". However, a hint may be provided by his choice of viewing since he arrived in Australia last week.
"I remember the Worlds that [Gianni] Bugno won, especially the one in Benidorm in 1992," Pozzato said. "This week I've watched it again and again on tape. I hope to have learned something." Bugno took a sprint victory ahead of Laurent Jalabert and a select group of riders in 1992 on a slightly uphill finishing straight, and it's clear that Pozzato envisages a similar shake-up at the finish in Geelong.
Pozzato's own relationship with the world championships stretches back 12 years, to when he was beaten by Ireland's Mark Scanlon in the junior road race in Valkenberg. The man from Sandrigo has since paid his dues as a rather deluxe gregario on a number of Italian Worlds teams and feels that his time to lead has come.
"I've been on national teams since I was very young, it's taught me that the blue jersey is something you carry in your heart," Pozzato said. "Because of that I've always served the team's cause: for Petacchi in Madrid, for Bettini in Salzburg and Stuttgart, for Cunego in Mendrisio. I hope it will be the same for me at these Worlds. The responsibility doesn't scare me."
Off the bike, it hasn't been the easiest of seasons for Pozzato, who separated from his partner Chiara earlier in the year but he is hopeful that the experience has ultimately been helped him to mature.
"In these past months I have changed a lot," Pozzato said. "I've hit the bottom and I've started again, by placing importance on the things that matter. This is a new Pippo, less superficial. Before I was the man people expected me to be, now I am the real Pozzato.
"In cycling, as in life, I grew up very quickly, skipping a lot of intermediate stages. I got engaged early, I turned professional early. And these things contributed to me doing stupid stuff that I regret."
Pozzato also paid tribute to the contribution of the late Franco Ballerini to his Worlds campaign, as the Tuscan had already begun to plan for the event with Pozzato ahead of his untimely death in February.
"If Paolo Bettini believes in me now, it's also because he had spoken about me with Ballerini," Pozzato said. "Franco had understood that I wanted to be at the head of a project, and he thought that this would be the right circuit.
"I would have liked to have gone to visit his grave before coming to Melbourne, but now I'd like to go back there with the rainbow jersey."