Filippo Pozzato has announced his retirement from professional cycling, bringing the curtain down on a 19-season professional career that yielded victory at the 2006 Milan-San Remo and stage wins at the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.
The 37-year-old revealed the decision in an interview published in La Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday. Pozzato’s career began in 2000 with Mapei, and he also rode for Fassa Bortolo, Quick-Step, Liquigas, Katusha, Farnese Vini and Lampre, before spending the past three seasons at Pro Continental level with Wilier-Selle Italia.
Pozzato’s impending retirement had been rumoured since late summer. His Wilier team failed to secure invitations to the cobbled Classics in 2018, and the Vicenza native acknowledged that frustration at the quality of his racing programme had contributed to the decision to call time on his career.
“I had already decided on the evening of the GP Plouay in August,” Pozzato told La Gazzetta. “I would have liked to have contested a 20th year as a professional, but only in a high-level context. To perform at your best, you need big motivation. Racing in 2018 in China, Korea and Morocco was a nice experience, but it couldn’t be my desire as a rider.”
A native of Sandrigo near Vicenza, Pozzato was a highly-touted underage prospect. As a first-year junior, he took silver behind Ireland’s Mark Scanlon in the road race at the Valkenburg Worlds in 1998 and bronze behind Fabian Cancellara in the time trial.
His talent was such that he skipped the under-23 category altogether, graduating directly from the junior ranks to the professional peloton in 2000 at the behest of Mapei owner Giorgio Squinzi and to the annoyance of the powerful Italian amateur teams of the era.
The fast-track to professionalism, Pozzato said, was a decision that was “criticised but also correct.” He spent three seasons at Mapei, then the biggest squad in cycling, as part of a nucleus of young riders that included Cancellara, Michael Rogers, Charly Wegelius and Patrik Sinkewitz. The team disbanded following Stefano Garzelli’s positive test at the 2002 Giro, and Pozzato consistently said that he never again raced for a squad with the same high standards.
“Paradoxically, my problem was starting in the strongest and best team in the world. I got used to it. When Mapei closed, I never found the same environment again, even though I raced for good teams,” Pozzato said. “If Squinzi’s team had gone ahead, my career would have been different.”
Pozzato’s progress hardly seemed stunted during his two years at Fassa Bortolo, where he won Tirreno-Adriatico as a 21-year-old in 2003 and added a stage win in Saint-Brieuc on his Grand Tour debut at the 2004 Tour de France.
He moved to Quick-Step in 2005, winning the Hew Cyclassics Cup that season before claiming the biggest victory of his career the following year, holding off the sprinters to win Milan-San Remo. After being pressed into the service of Tom Boonen at the Tour of Flanders two weeks later, however, Pozzato resolved to change teams again at season’s end.
“I won San Remo riding really strongly, my when we got to the Tour of Flanders, they told me: ‘The team is Belgian, Boonen must win,” Pozzato said. “I respected the hierarchy by pulling for Tom. It was the race where I felt the strongest in my career. The same thing happened at Roubaix. I went to Liquigas in 2007 to have more space, giving up on a lot of money.”
Another Tour stage win in 2007 was followed by Omloop Het Volk victory in 2008 and a triumph at E3 Harelbeke in 2009, but Pozzato was by this point earning a reputation as a nearly-man. In a generation dominated by Boonen and Cancellara, he took second place at the 2008 Milan-San Remo, 2009 Paris-Roubaix and 2012 Tour of Flanders.
“Every race has its story and I’m happy to have raced against Boonen and Cancellara, two giants of the cobbles,” Pozzato said. “My regret is that I didn’t succeed in expressing my talent to the full.”
Pozzato served a three-month ban in 2012 after admitting that he had been coached by Michele Ferrari between 2006 and 2009. The last victories of his career came during his debut season at Lampre in 2013, when he won the Trofeo Laigueglia, Coppa Agostoni and GP Ouest-France. His pedigree and popularity helped Luca Scinto’s Wilier squad to secure wildcard invitations to the Giro in recent seasons, with his last appearance at the corsa rosa coming in 2017.
In retirement, Pozzato will split his time between three diverse projects. He will help young riders at the Continental Beltrami-Tsa team, run a high-end car dealership in Monte Carlo and play roller hockey – a sport he left as a teenager – for second division side Bassano. “For now, we’ve created a Continental team but my dream is a bigger project that would involve sponsors with innovative ideas,” Pozzato said.