Filippo Pozzato maintains that he and the rest of the Italian team raced united behind leader Damiano Cunego at the World Championship road race on Sunday in Mendrisio, Switzerland, despite criticism from two-time winner Gianni Bugno.
Bugno led a round of criticism yesterday in Italy's leading sports paper, La Gazzetta dello Sport. He suggested that the team's captain, Damiano Cunego, may have lacked the strength to win the Worlds in spite of the hard work carried out by Italy during the race.
"[Ivan] Basso and Pozzato did not have to work like they did," said Bugno. "To pull like they did doesn't work. They needed to attack and form an escape, though they were racing how they were asked."
Italian director Franco Ballerini guided the nine-man Italian team in defence of its three wins from 2006 to 2008. He appointed Cunego as captain and the team rode for him, with Pozzato and Ivan Basso the squad's key support riders on the 18th of 19 13.8-kilometre circuits. However Cunego, 28, only managed eighth place behind winner Cadel Evans (Australia).
"I think Franco kept us all united," said Pozzato. "We can go home with our heads high. We defended the jersey in the best way [possible]."
Pozzato and Basso worked for Cunego on the climbs of the Acqua Fresca and Novazzano in the penultimate circuit. Cunego made the winning move of nine men that formed on the following and final ascent of the Acqua Fresca.
"We raced well and united for Damiano," continued Pozzato. "Certainly, he has great potential, but you win some and you lose some. Sometimes when you do all the controlling work at the front you can still find a good [rival] rider that can come up and win."
Ballerini said that Cunego was the best rider to use for the win and that the efforts of Pozzato and Basso had served to lessen Cunego's rivals. He said the presence of time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) in the closing stages had made the race difficult, "He hurt everyone, even himself."
Italy was fighting for a record fourth-straight World title. Evans' win is the first Elite men's title for Australia.
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