HARELBEKE, Belgium – Filippo Pozzato is back and threatening once again to win one of the big cobbled classics. A fractured collarbone had threatened his chances, but he has proven in recent races, including in the E3 Harelbeke yesterday, he’s ready.
“In cycling you need a bit of madness and determination,” team Farnese Vini sports director, Luca Scinto told VeloNews. “He has soul and a strong head.”
Pozzato won the 2006 Milan-San Remo, E3 Prijs in 2009, won Tour de France stages in 2004 and 2005 plus a stage win in the 2010 Giro d’Italia. However, in recent years, many experts said he’s over-rated and watching his best years pass by.
In 2009, he joined team Katusha after years with Mapei, Fassa Bortolo and Liquigas. He won very little in those three Katusha years: a Giro d’Italia stage, the Italian Championships and the E3 Prijs. Signing for Farnese Vini, a second division team, ahead of this year only provided fuel to the critics’ fire.
Then the break: Pozzato fractured his collarbone in the Tour of Qatar on February 9. All looked lost since he’d joined Farnese Vini to help it receive wild card invitations and to captain in the spring classics.
Scinto said, “We had the invitations to the big classics and to go without Pozzato would have been a huge blow.”
They decided to push their luck. After a surgery to set his collarbone with a pin, Pozzato returned to racing. he raced the Trofeo Laigueglia only six days after the operation and nine after his crash. He then went north to race on the cobbles, in Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
“He’d put in a good base over the winter and the best way for him to recover was to race. Sure, we were mad, but you need a little bit of craziness in life,” Scinto said. “He told me, ‘I was criticized for joining Farnese Vini and now a broken collarbone, nothing will stop me from racing.'”
Pozzato raced smartly in Milan-San Remo and Dwars door Vlaanderen, placing sixth in both. Yesterday, he was at the head of the pack with Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen, both rivals for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“I don’t care about the critics,” Pozzato told VeloNews. “My job is to do the best possible work I can, and that meant starting back as soon as possible or I’d have to skip the classics. These two weeks make up for one-third of my season, it was right to be here no matter what.”
He placed fifth and sixth in Flanders and second in Roubaix in 2009. Scinto said that he often suffered from the pressure of being Italy’s only classics contender in recent years. Pozzato explained that he had problems in his private life. Either way, they hope the problematic years have passed.
“It’s all behind now,” Pozzato added. “I’d say I’ve gained experience. It’s important to learn from my mistakes in order to improve in the years that I have left.”