CIVITAVECCHIA, Italy (VN) – Filippo Pozzato strode into the sign-in area of Tuesday’s 10th stage like a Roman gladiator, resplendent in his fashion sunglasses and a signature “Pippo” baseball cap.
Dressed in civilian clothes and his right wrist wrapped in a brace – evidence of the battle wounds of the Vini Farnese captain’s finish-line crash Monday – it was obvious the Italian star’s Giro d’Italia was over.
“I tried to ride this morning and it was impossible to brake or change gears,” Pozzato told a gaggle of journalists. “It was too dangerous to continue, both for me and the other riders.”
Doctors diagnosed fractures in his hand and so end’s Pozzato’s Giro, a race where he entered with huge pressure to do something.
“I was hoping to win a stage,” Pozzato continued. “Of course it’s disappointing. I have had some bad luck with crashes this year. I have had good form, but not the results to reflect that.”
His hopes of delivering during the Giro came crashing down Monday in the finish line pileup that took out world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge).
Pozzato graciously took blame for the crash on Monday, but back-pedaled Tuesday when queried about the fall.
“Initially, I thought it was me who caused the crash, but after reviewing the video last night, I am not so sure,” he said. “It seemed like someone hit me from behind and knocked me off my line. Either way, it’s never nice to crash in a sprint.”
Pozzato was keen to win a stage this year’s Giro, something he hasn’t done since 2010.
Long hyped as a major star – and part of the “class of ’81 that also included Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-BMC) and Alexander Kolobnev (Katusha) – Pozzato’s been facing growing pressure to win something big. His three-year run at Katusha was largely disappointing.
His move to second-division Farnese this season was seen by many as a step down, but Pozzato said he simply wanted to return to an Italian outfit.
A crash at Tour of Qatar in February looked to derail his spring classics campaign, but Pozzato returned sooner than expected and rode into the northern classics as an outsider.
He surged into the winning move at Tour of Flanders, but chose to bet it all on the final sprint instead of trying to isolate eventual winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) by joining attacks initiated by compatriot Alessandro Ballan (BMC).
Second place at Flanders bolstered his confidence for Paris-Roubaix, but he chose not to follow Boonen when attacked from nearly 60km to go. He later crashed out and received more bad press for his timidity in the decisive moments on the cobbles.
The 30-year-old promises to return to racing as soon as possible. His team was not racing the Tour de France, so he’s hoping to return in time for the Tour of Serbia in late June, followed by the tours of Austria and Poland.
But Pozzato hasn’t given up on his big dream for the season: London.
“I will take a short break and get on the home trainer. This should not set me back too much physically,” Pozzato said. “I am still hoping (Italian coach Paolo) Bettini will call me up for the Olympics.”
A gold-medal ride in London would erase all the angst through which Pozzato has lived in the past few seasons and more.
No matter what happens, Pozzato doesn’t seem to lose too much sleep at night about the media grumblings during his hot-and-cold career. The tattoo emblazoned across his back – and on his wheels – pretty much sums up his attitude: “Only God can judge me.”