Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) claimed his first victory outside of Italy for over four years at the Grand Prix Ouest-France on Sunday and the Italian’s thoughts quickly turned to home roads and the world championships in Tuscany at the end of the month.
After a listless spring campaign, Pozzato has enjoyed a solid run of late-summer form, and he followed up his recent Coppa Agostoni win with a well-timed sprint in Plouay to take his third victory of the season and stake his claim for a place on the squadra azzurra at the Worlds.
“It was a period of doubt, I didn’t know what was wrong,” Pozzato told L’Équipe of his disappointing spring. “It was only later that I found the reason – I was hindered by a virus. That reassured me and motivated me for a big finish to the season.”
Like at the Coppa Agostoni ten days ago, Pozzato relied on his sprint to land the win in Plouay ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Leopard), although he admitted that he had expected a more selective race. Instead, a 70-rider peloton contested the finale, where Pozzato’s prior knowledge of the slightly downhill finishing straight proved decisive.
“I came here as a neo-pro in 2000 to help Paolo Bettini, who was preparing for the Worlds,” said Pozzato, although it was their Mapei teammate Michele Bartoli who won on that occasion. “I haven’t forgotten that it’s a race that has gone well for the Italians.”
Bettini is now the Italian national coach and the man Pozzato must impress if he is to earn a Worlds berth for the first time since he finished fourth in Geelong in 2010. Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is widely expected to lead the Italian team, but Pozzato looked to highlight his own credentials by suggesting the Worlds course is better suited to the men who dominated the cobbled classics this past spring.
The Worlds are never far from Nibali’s thoughts in Spain, however, and shortly after crossing the line in Jaen on stage 9 of the Vuelta a España, where he lies third overall, he was asked for his thoughts on Pozzato’s victory.
“Pozzato does this every year – when the Worlds are coming up, he accelerates,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m happy for him because he deserves this win. It’s just a pity he doesn’t always go like that, we’d all be happy.”
On the thorny question of Pozzato’s credentials as a member or even a potential leader of the Italian team at the Worlds, Nibali was typically diplomatic: “He has what I don’t have and I have what he doesn’t have, so we complement one another.”
Bettini complimented Pozzato on his Plouay triumph but noted that he had not climbed well en route to his Coppa Agostoni victory, and said that the upcoming WorldTour races in Canada would provide a better gauge of his ability to compete at the Worlds.
“Filippo is going well and his form is on the up,” Bettini told Gazzetta. “Now I’m waiting to see him finish the course in Canada. They are two high-level races and the second, in particular, could be like the Worlds. He doesn’t necessarily have to win them, but if he goes well…”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features 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, published by Gill Books.