Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) finished safely in the bunch on stage one of the Three Days of De Panne as he continues his build-up to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Less than a week from his season’s biggest objectives, the Italian was in relaxed mood after he crossed the line in Zottegem.
“We all arrived in the peloton together, it was a case of being tranquil and seeing how things were,” Pozzato told Cyclingnews, before explaining that he had come to De Panne not to find form, but simply to clock some extra racing miles on the cobbles ahead of the weekend.
“It’s important to do it as it’s good practice on the pave, but my condition is already good, so I’m very calm here,” he said.
Pozzato began his cobbled classics campaign on an unfortunate note at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, when he punctured in the finale and eventually rolled in over three minutes down on the winner Tom Boonen (Quick Step). Nonetheless, the man from Sandrigo was satisfied with his positioning on the two ascensions of the Kemmelberg.
“I did Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday and I was in front, but unfortunately I punctured in the finale,” he said. “If it wasn’t for that, I would have been up there at the end too.”
On the day before Boonen’s Wevelgem win, Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) appeared to have closed the book on Tour of Flanders betting with an ominously strong showing en route to victory at the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen in Harelbeke. Pozzato acknowledged that the Swiss rider’s was the more striking performance ahead of De Ronde.
“Cancellara definitely impressed at the weekend,” he said. “In Tom’s case, it was normal, he won a group sprint. It’s not as though he did something astonishing. So certainly I think Cancellara is the number one favourite.”
Pozzato is happy to let Cancellara line up in Bruges as the overwhelming favourite for victory. “It’s better, that way he’ll have to make the race,” he said.
Nonetheless, Pozzato acknowledged that Cancellara was well used to being given tag of favourite and imagined that he would wear the burden lightly.
“I don’t think this is anything new for Fabian, he’s always a favourite,” Pozzato said. “When he won Flanders last year he was one of the favourites, and he will be again this year. But certainly, based on how he went [at E3 Prijs], a lot of people will be riding against him.”