Pozzato has been perturbed by recent public criticism from manager Andrei Tchmil, and spoke of tensions at the Russian team in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport on the eve of the Tour of Flanders. However, Parsani has outlined why the team was not satisfied with Pozzato’s performances to date this season.
“He wasn’t happy, but the team wasn’t happy with Pozzato either,” Parsani told Cyclingnews. “He’s a rider of a certain level, a leader, one who must get results. But if we take away his fifth place in Milan-San Remo, Pozzato must examine his conscience and say that he hasn’t been getting results.”
Pozzato failed to make an impact in the Tour of Flanders last Sunday and is without a victory since last September, something which Parsani maintains is not commensurate with his status of team leader.
“He’s not Katusha’s 30th rider, he’s the first rider, so it’s normal that the team might expect something from him because his teammates who work for him are working towards an objective, which is winning races,” he said. “But if the leader isn’t in condition to get a result, then all the work of the team goes up in smoke.”
However, Parsani was adamant that the Pozzato-Tchmil polemic should not be blown out of proportion, and that the Katusha leader can put the matter behind him as soon as he starts performing, beginning with Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.
“I am convinced that it’s normal in any team when there aren’t results,” Parsani said. “It’s the same thing as in a business I think: if you make investments that are going badly, you can’t just complain, you need to find out why that is the case. Certainly we can’t be pleased with Pozzato’s performance from the start of the year up to now. We hope that he turns everything around on Sunday and we can draw a line under it then.”
Parsani also believes that Pozzato’s recent tendency to focus solely on a handful of major objectives rather than seeking to pick off wins throughout the season has not been helpful to him or to the team.
“He has a changed a little bit in his approach to races,” Parsani explained. “He waits only for the big races, but there are very few big races, and if those few go badly…
“Instead it would be right to try and pick up wins over the whole course of the season. We’re in April now and, if you take away that fifth place in San Remo, the results aren’t there. He needs to work towards trying to get results in races that are less important too, it would help us as well.”
Looking ahead to Paris-Roubaix
In spite of his low-key start to the campaign, Pozzato will still line up at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday with high aspirations. He has genuine pedigree in the Hell of the North, where he was 2nd in 2009 and a gritty 7th last year after battling illness in the build-up. Nonetheless, Parsani warned that defending champion Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) is the man to beat.
“It’s another hard test where we’re hoping he’ll succeed in being the Pozzato that everybody expects,” Parsani said. “We have a squad of a certain level, and in Hoste, Gusev and Ivanov we have people who have experience and also know how to ride on the pavé, so we’ll see. The important thing is not to bring Cancellara too close to the finish, because then if he goes alone then they’ll never bring him back.”
Pozzato appeared comfortable at the Tour of Flanders until the Muur, where the onset of cramp saw him deposited out the back of the group of favourites, but Parsani is hopeful that his rider’s natural ability on the pavé will be a telling factor on the road to Roubaix.
“Flanders went well up until the Muur and then he had cramps, perhaps because it was a hot day and he hadn’t hydrated well,” Parsani said. “Roubaix is different, it’s flatter and it’s more difficult to get the knock or cramps. There, you either have the ability to ride on the cobbles or else you struggle. He is a rider who knows how to ride well on the cobbles, so let’s hope he succeeds in getting a result.”
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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.