Domenico Pozzovivo has admitted that it was "half crazy" to come back to racing less than two months after fracturing his tibia and fibula in a training crash in August, but the Ag2r-La Mondiale rider is hopeful that his early return will help him hit the ground running in 2015.
Pozzovivo's season appeared to be over when he crashed into a cat while descending the Stelvio in training in August, and he duly missed the Vuelta a España, but remarkably he returned to action at Milan-Turin on October 1 and then completed the Tour of Lombardy the following weekend.
"I came back ahead of time for Milan-Turin and then I rode Lombardy four days later but thinking back on it, it was half crazy," Pozzovivo told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I didn't have enough training in my legs. I was pedalling crooked on the bike, and off the bike I was going around on crutches."
Pozzovivo finished the Tour of Lombardy over 13 minutes down on winner Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) but he crossed the line in Bergamo to rapturous applause. "It was beautiful because the people recognised me. They probably knew about my accident and they cheered me on as though I'd come first."
While the Tour of Lombardy was Pozzovivo's final race of the 2014 campaign, his rehabilitation continued through the month of October. After two weeks off at home in Basilicata in early November, he will attend Ag2's first meeting of the year at Montgenèvre later in the month and then a training camp in Spain in December.
Although Pozzovivo's programme has yet to be defined for next season, he looks certain to return to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he finished a surprising fifth last April. "I thought I could only enjoy it as a spectator and instead I was a protagonist on my debut," he said. "With the benefit of hindsight, I'd have done better to ride it differently, waiting to attack on the Saint-Nicolas. A good lesson and maybe it might be useful to me next year."
Buoyed by his fifth place finish at the Giro d'Italia, Pozzovivo's other overarching objective for 2015 is to finish on the podium of a Grand Tour. While he looks certain to return to the Giro, he also has a Tour de France debut in mind, even though the presence of Jean-Christophe Péraud, Romain Bardet and Carlos Betancur in the Ag2r roster means that there will be stiff competition for places.
Indeed, speaking to Cyclingnews at the route presentation, Ag2r manager Vincent Lavenu hinted that the presence of cobbles in the opening week of next year's race would scupper Pozzovivo's prospects of riding the Tour, but the Italian's appetite has been whetted by a parcours with just one, short individual time trial and a host of summit finishes in the second half of the race.
"The programme should have the Giro d’Italia and one other big stage race," Pozzovivo said. "The Giro seems hard and complicated. There are a lot of tricky stages although that massive time trial is a worry for me. The Tour, on the other hand, with so many climbs and so little time trialling, would seem more suited to me."