For the first time since his second place in 2012, Filippo Pozzato returned to the top 10 of the Tour of Flanders, finishing eighth and second of the three Italians that made it into the top 10. The Wilier Triestina man said that he had the legs to do more but was caught napping on the Taaienberg when Peter Sagan attacked.
"I felt good but it would have been better if I'd been able to stay with Greg and Peter. When Peter attacked, I stayed in the back. I had the legs to stay in the front but I was sleeping," he told Cyclingnews, brushing off the disappointment with his usual jokey style. "The tactic was to try and be attentive all day because I wanted to stay right behind Peter. When he attacked, I was at the back of the group and it wasn't possible to follow. I tried to attack a lot of times but a lot of guys didn't have the legs to follow and it was impossible to close the gap."
Pozzato was one of those that were caught out when the bunch split on the Muur, but he was able to maintain his position in an ever dwindling peloton, up until the point that Sagan went away on the Taaienberg. He, like many others, had expected the key selection to happen much later in the race.
"I didn't expect the attack on the Muur from Quick-Step but it was a good solution for Quick-Step," he said, adding that he was happy to see the Muur back in the route. "I think it was good for the public and it was a strange race for the show. I think that it was good for the organisation to put the Muur in and then three times up the Kwaremont, the Paterberg, I think for the public it was very nice."
Between 2006 and 2012, Pozzato enjoyed a solid run at the monuments, scoring podium finishes at Milan-San Remo – one of which was his victory in 2006 - the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Since then, however, the visits have not been quite so regular with an eighth place at Milan-San Remo, a race that he has done well at more than any other, the only top 10 result in that time. Much of that time was spent at Lampre-Merida but his move to Southeast, now Wilier Triestina, seems to have revived him somewhat. However, he says that riding for a smaller team has made getting results at the bigger races a bit more of a challenge.
"I'm happy for sure that I was able to stay in the front with the big riders and I think it is position in the front, but it's not simple when you race for a small team," he said. "It's not easy, I don't have the WorldTour racing in the legs and when I have the first three riders open the gas. For me, it was difficult. It was only in San Remo with the top riders that went so well. Now, it wasn't quite like I wanted."
The 2017 Tour of Flanders was a milestone for Pozzato nonetheless, as the 50th Monument he has ridden. The Italian is one of the few riders in the modern era to have ridden all five of the Monuments during his career, and he almost rode all of them in the one season in 2005, skipping only San Remo. Reaching the milestone doesn't give Pozzato a warm, fuzzy feeling though, as he would gladly have given that up to take another Monument victory.
"The special thing would have been to stay in the front and win, but today I think it wasn't possible because Gilbert was very strong today and Quick-Step did the race very well. I think that it was perfect."
Pozzato will not be adding a 51st monument start this coming weekend after his team failed to earn an invitation to Paris-Roubaix. Instead, his focus now turns to the Giro d'Italia next month, and the newly named Tour of the Alps that precedes it.