Italian national Coach Davide Cassani has justified the exclusion of Filippo Pozzato from the 11-rider squad named for the UCI Road World Championships by revealing he plans to follow an aggressive race strategy aimed at eliminating the sprinters before the finish of 254km race.
Cassani opted to select young climbers Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) and Davide Formolo (Cannondale) alongside team leaders Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), with the on-form Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) the only sprinter in the squad. Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) also missed out on a place.
"The way I see the Worlds going, there can't be a place for Pozzato, who rides defensively and has to be used in the finale," Cassani told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I haven't got a powerful sprinter who in theory can take on Degenkolb and the others, so I've got to race differently. Harder. That's why Zardini is in."
Cassani may also have considered the wet weather forecast for Spain and selected Colbrelli as the sprint option.
"He's young, he's got the endurance - he was sixth at Milan-San Remo, and if it rains, he's a guarantee," Cassani said of the Bardiani-CSF rider. "I haven't got a rider who can let us dream about winning a medal. I've got a great team and that's our strength."
Nibali is the natural team leader but Cassani is worried about the Tour de France winner's form after he missed so much racing in the summer.
"Vincenzo has done three consecutive days of racing after 50 days out of action and so that's perhaps why he wasn't sharp in the Tre Valli Varesine race," Cassani said.
"I'm sure he'll recover before the weekend (Nibali is riding the Memorial Pantani and the GP Prato) and I hope he's okay after his crash. Even though he won't be as strong as he was at the Tour, he'll still be useful. Visconti said he was affected by a sore throat and I can only hope both of them improve in form."
Pozzato stays loyal
Despite not being selected for the Italian team for Ponferrada, Pozzato surprisingly stayed loyal to the national team and refused to criticise Cassani. He posted a photo of himself enjoying a post-race glass of wine on Twitter but made it clear he will be cheering for Italy next Sunday.
"It's Cassani's decision," Pozzato told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I really care about the Italian national team. I'll be cheering for my teammates from home."
"I think I did what I needed to do and it's right that Cassani makes his own decisions and does what he thinks is right. I don't think I risked my place by losing the Tre Valli Varesine, Cassani probably had a different team structure in place."