Filippo Pozzato (Wilier Trestina-Southeast) has insisted that this year's Giro d'Italia will not be the last of his career but has revealed to Cyclingnews that he is already thinking about a post-racing career as a team manager. And he is thinking big, convinced he will follow in the footsteps of Etixx-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere and one day manage a successful WorldTour team.
The 34-year-old Italian is the team leader at Wilier Trestina-Southeast for the Giro d'Italia, especially after the loss of promising young sprinter Jakub Mareczko during stage 5. Pozzato has not won a race since 2013 but is hoping to target a stage late in the Giro. "So far I've had a good season, my form's been good but not good enough to win and obviously winning is the important thing in cycling," he conceded to Cyclingnews.
"I haven't won for a while and so I think I'm just missing that edge, to take a few risks and win. I just need to 'osare', as we say in Italian. I need to fight more, push it to the limit and go for it. I'm perhaps a little blocked psychologically. Of course the reality is that it's now harder than ever to win. The level is really high in professional cycling these days.
"I had a complicated week before the race, attending two funerals for family and friends but I hope to ease myself into form in the first week and then come good later on. There are several stages where a break could stay away in the second week and I hope to get into one of them."
A future as a team manager
Pozzato has a contract with the Wilier-Southeast team for 2017 and insisted at the recent presentation of the team's new red jersey that he intends to carry on racing. However, he also dropped several hints that he could decide to quit as a rider this season.
"I've got a contract for 2017 but it's true you can always rip up a contract," Pozzato said. "I'm not old, I'm not close to being 40, I'm 34 but I've been racing for 17 seasons now. I'm perhaps a little bit mentally worn out. But I'd love to stay in the sport and do something special and I'm already thinking about my future."
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He is convinced he can become a successful team manager by brining a new approach into professional cycling.
"I'd like to have my own team but do something new, something different. I'd like to build a team around the riders and also ensure that the sponsors all work together with the team. That doesn't really happen very much or very well at the moment," Pozzato claimed.
"I've got a few ideas and other people in the business world seem to agree with me. I think one of the problems during my career is that I was never part of a team that was organised as best as possible. I was part of Mapei but then things only got worse. That's why I really want to create something special, so the riders can give their best.
"I've had quite a lot of interest from potential sponsors for both Italian companies and international companies. People in our sport often complain that there's no money around and that brands aren't interested in our sport but it's not true. There's interest out there but it depends on how you present yourself. You've got to convince sponsors to back your team by offering them some real opportunities. It's not only about putting a logo on a jersey."
True to character, Pozzato has no plans to start at a lower Continental level and then grow organically. He wants to start big and create an international team.
"I'd like to do things properly. My goal is to create a WorldTour team with a structure that also has a junior team and a development squad," he explained.
"Of course I know it might have to start off as a Professional Continental team but I'd want to be the best out there, the Team Sky of the Professional Continental ranks.
"We used to dismiss British riders until a few years ago and now look at them. Britain used to be way down the nations rankings but is now up to fifth. They're one of the new countries out there and are leading the way. Eastern Europe will be next thanks to the success of Peter Sagan, then there's the whole Colombian movement. They're changing the sport and it's not just about Europe, about Italy, Spain, France and Belgium anymore. The sport is becoming more and more global and we've got to think differently if we want our sport to grow and improve.
"Team Sky's set-up is very good but I think it can be improved. They look at things their way but if you bring several smart minds together, you can improve everything. Patrick Lefevere is a good example of how to go global. He had a Belgian team but in recent years has become far more international by signing great German riders, and others. He was the best at understanding the future of pro cycling. Others teams have lost their sponsors and disappeared but he is still in the sport and at the highest level. Now he's got Lidl as an important sponsor and German sponsor. Lefevere is perhaps a role model for what I'd like to do."
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