DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — While ample attention here at the UAE Tour has been focused on Chris Froome’s return, another rider is making his return to WorldTour racing after a near career-ending crash.
Eight months ago, Domenico Pozzovivo was struck by a driver who was driving in the wrong lane around a curve near his home in Italy. The collision left Pozzovivo with a punctured lung and fractures in his leg and arm, and the injuries threatened to end his career.
In the days following the crash, the Italian promised to return. Sunday, he stayed true to his word and returned to WorldTour racing.
“I never thought I would come back so early after I had the accident,” Pozzovivo told VeloNews before the stage. “But I worked so hard to get back to this. This is the first WorldTour race since my comeback and this is an important moment for me.”
Pozzovivo rolled out from Dubai Pointe Sunday to start the UAE Tour, leading his new team NTT Pro Cycling GC against the likes of GC stars Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) and Chris Froome (Ineos) – himself coming back from a horrendous crash and injury last summer.
Last week Pozzovivo raced his bike for the first time at le Tour de la Provence in southern France. Pozzovivo rode to 14th overall, placing 15th on the stage finishing atop Chalet Reynard as Nairo Quintana ripped to stage victory. Pozzovivo more than held his own at his season debut in France, and there’s still more to come.
“I will try to improve my performance from last week and that was already encouraging. I think I can do better still,” Pozzovivo said.
“I’m still not completely recovered, but I’m working on this. I think with some more time I will be back to my usual level. I know the climb well to Jebel Hafeet, so am looking forward to seeing how the legs are against the others.”
Pozzovivo worked tirelessly in the mountains for Sicilian GC man Vincenzo Nibali in his past two seasons with Bahrain-Merida, but this year, he will be the main man, with the Giro d’Italia the goal for the season. An early-season test on the 10.5km climb to Jebel Hafeet on stages 3 and 5, Tuesday and Thursday will give Pozzovio a good benchmark to start from. But no matter how he measures up, there’s a sense that Pozzovivo is just grateful to be back on his bike.
“At the start, the surgeon and me thought it would be difficult to come back to racing at all,” he said. “But the way my body was improving in the first months was encouraging to me to work and to trust in my recovery and be again a cyclist.”
2020 will be a season of renewal for the 37-year-old. While many riders of his age are contemplating retirement, Pozzovivo’s career has started all over again, with a new team and a new hope.
“I worked so hard for this and am happy it worked,” he said. “Sometimes I thought about what would happen if I didn’t start again. I’m also studying for the science of sport, so maybe one day I can become a coach.”
Several hours after speaking, Pozzovivo had safely finished the stage in the bunch as Pascal Ackermann (Bora Hansgrohe) stormed to sprint victory at Dubai Silicon Oasis. The veteran’s coaching career can wait a few more years yet.