Rolling across the line over a minute down and well out of contention in 38th place was not how Filippo Pozzato wanted to finish his Tour of Flanders, but the Italian was determined to put a brave face on his showing after the event when he emerged from the Katusha bus to talk to reporters.
With his rapport with Katusha manager Andrei Tchmil reportedly at a low, Pozzato had endured a less than ideal build-up to the race but he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance. By now showered and dressed in a Katusha team suit, Pozzato admitted that he had simply come up short in the finale.
“Everything went well, we did what we wanted to do,” he said. “We had Gusev’s move beforehand and I was with the others. But then on the Grammont, I should have been with the riders ahead.”
Pozzato’s afternoon had begun on a decidedly promising note. When first Tom Boonen and then Fabian Cancellara showed their hands on the Leberg with 42km remaining, Pozzato was present and correct. He bridged across to Boonen with ease, and even though Cancellara would rip clear by himself, Pozzato appeared to be among the strongest of the chasers and looked set to have an important say in the finale.
He was subsequently part of the sizeable group that formed on the foot of the Muur as Fabian Cancellara’s long-race attack was snuffed out, but on the climb itself, Pozzato conceded ground and never recovered. “Up to that point I was feeling good but then I had cramps,” he revealed.
Even though the pre-race favourite Cancellara failed to collect the win that many thought a formality beforehand, Pozzato was full of admiration for his former Mapei stable mate’s efforts after seeing his fearsome acceleration on the Leberg at close quarters.
“I saw that Hushovd had gone first, and when they went after him I was on Cancellara’s wheel,” Pozzato said. “He did something really spectacular there, because when Tom [Boonen] made a mistake on a corner, he just took twenty metres and he was away.”
Even though it would take the concerted efforts of the BMC squad and a selection of other strong men to peg back Cancellara’s lead, slight chinks in the Swiss rider’s seemingly invulnerable armour were exposed on the road to Meerbeke.
“I saw that he didn’t gain huge gaps straight away like he did other times, and that behind the chase was being organised well,” Pozzato said. “He’s human, not an extra-terrestrial.”
Pozzato will be among a number of Paris-Roubaix contenders who will take solace from the fact that the Swiss rider was shown to be mortal in Flanders, even if he was able to draw on his considerable reserves to spark the winning move.
For his part, Pozzato was pleased with his own showing on the cobbled sections in Flanders, and he is hopeful that he will able to transfer that form to a race where he has a strong pedigree, including an unfortunate second place in 2009.
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.