The quiet man of Italian cycling is where he wants to be. Nine days into the Giro d’Italia, Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling) lies fourth overall, 53 seconds down on maglia rosa João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
At Roccaraso on Sunday, like at Mount Etna on stage 3, Pozzovivo was among the strongest of the general classification contenders. When the pink jersey group fragmented in the final 400 metres, the 37-year-old held his own. He conceded six seconds to Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), but picked up eight on his former teammate Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo).
“My goal now will be to continue for a very good general classification,” Pozzovivo said in a video press conference on Monday’s rest day. “At the start, we thought about a top 10, but I think now, with the situation, we can do better and improve on my best position in the Giro, which was fifth.”
Pozzovivo’s fifth-place finishes at the Giro came in 2014 and 2018, seasons when his build-up to the race could hardly have run more smoothly. On each occasion, he finished on the podium of the Giro del Trentino (later Tour of the Alps) and in the top five at Liège-Bastogne-Liège immediately before the corsa rosa.
This time out, Pozzovivo’s preparation for the rescheduled Giro was rather more difficult, given that his last race was the Tour de France. At that Grand Tour he was forced to abandon ahead of stage 10 after injuring his elbow in an opening day crash caused by a fan who leant into the road to take a selfie.
Pozzovivo had injured the same elbow, as well as suffering fractures to his leg and collarbone, in a severe training crash in August 2019. He initially feared the end of his career, but a move from Bahrain-Merida to NTT Pro Cycling was announced on New Year’s Eve. It was, he explained, a long road back.
“What I wanted to do after my accident last year was come back to my true level,” said the Italian, who will undergo further surgery on his elbow after the Giro. “It wasn’t a short route to be able to do this, but with a lot of passion, I’ve finally managed to get back to the level I wanted.
“I feel good, and my shape this week was good. I’m happy to be where I am on GC, with support from the team.”
Pozzovivo and his NTT teammates are riding this Giro amid considerable uncertainty after it was confirmed that the team’s title sponsor will not return in 2021. Pozzovivo is one of only five NTT riders who held a contract for next year, but all riders have been told that they can seek employment elsewhere for next season.
“I’m not thinking of next year already,” Pozzovivo said on Monday. “When I’m on a race as important as the Giro, it’s important to be focused only on that. One year ago, I was in a much worse position than now, and that gives me a lot of positive energy for this year.”
Pozzovivo was flanked in Monday evening’s press conference by team manager Bjarne Riis, who admitted last week that the search for a replacement sponsor was proving difficult. Riis and his long-time business partner Lars Seier Christensen were due to take part ownership of the team this year, penning a 'letter of intent', but as of the beginning of September, Doug Ryder was still full owner of the team, according to the Danish press.
“I think everybody knows that the coronavirus hasn’t been helping at all in any sport to find sponsors. That’s not a secret,” Riis said on Monday. “We are all struggling with that, no doubt about that.”
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