Filippo Pozzato's low-key classics campaign last year released the usual welter of criticism in the Italian press though there was a degree of surprise, perhaps, that some of the most bracing public censure came from within his own Lampre-Merida team.
Immediately after the cobbled campaign, where 17th at the Tour of Flanders was Pozzato's best result, team manager Brent Copeland made no secret of his reservations about how the man from Sandrigo had prepared for the season.
After leaving him out of the Lampre teams for both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, Copeland then went on to describe Pozzato as a "prima donna" in an interview with Tuttobici and he decried such habits as his tendency to wear different coloured shoes to his teammates and his decision to travel separately to the Vuelta a España.
At that point, there were rumours circulating that Pozzato might be released from his contract with the team a year ahead of schedule – or that he might even retire altogether – but while the bomb was diffused by talks with commercial director Beppe Saronni, the tension seems to linger.
Pozzato was coy when asked to expand on the precise nature of his difficulties with Lampre management. "No, no. It's something that we're sorting out and hopefully we can resolve it as soon as possible," he said.
"I've got a good relationship with everybody. The important thing in life is to be clear and to talk with people. I've always been very honest with the team and I was very honest when I said that I was going badly last year so let's hope that we can do well this year seeing as I'm here riding for Lampre."
One consequence of the impasse between Pozzato and Lampre last year has been an alteration to his off-season training programme. After wintering primarily in California in recent seasons, Pozzato stuck largely to the roads around his home in Monaco in December and early January.
"I'd gone to California for each of the last three years, but this time I decided to stay at home to make sure there wouldn't be any problems with the team if I wasn't around," Pozzato said.
Pozzato began last season confident that he could make an impact on the spring classics for the first time since 2012 but by the weekend of E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, he was already wondering aloud as to whether he had made errors in his preparation. In hindsight, he felt that he had focused too heavily on the quantity of his work to the detriment of its quality.
"This time I've changed the work I'm doing at home a bit, and I think I'm already going a little bit better," he said. "I'm already dealing well with accelerations and changes in pace whereas normally in the first races of the year I'm still trying to get up to speed, so I'm confident."
In a bid to remedy the lack of a race rhythm that blighted his spring campaign last year, Pozzato will take on board a volume of racing miles that perhaps only Luca Paolini (Katusha) will match between now and Milan-San Remo. After beginning his campaign at the Tour de San Luis last month, Pozzato lines up at this week's Dubai Tour, followed in quick succession by the Tours of Qatar and Oman. On returning to Europe, he lines up at Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico.
"It's what I wanted to do. I've done a lot of base work at home but I realised that I need to race more," he explained. "In that period last year, I did a lot of work and I did fifteen days of altitude training, but this time around I'd rather do a lot of races all in a row."
The first major rendezvous, of course, is on March 22, when Milan-San Remo returns to its traditional Via Roma finish for the first time since Pozzato himself claimed his sole monument victory there in 2006. "It's more beautiful," he said. "It's the finale that I won on and it’s the most beautiful of them all, I think."
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