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Italy’s worlds team: Pozzato and Nibali to star

Team director Cassani has a variety of options, but he'll likely tap familiar riders to lead Italy in Ponferrada

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MILAN (VN) — Italy’s world championships team is taking shape this week at a trio of one-day races, including Wednesday’s Coppa Agostoni. Head director Davide Cassani is guiding a national team and following the races daily to have a close inspection of his possible riders, 11 of whom he will name Thursday.

“Vincenzo Nibali was very good and showed good condition after a long stop. He showed that he is ready and convinced [of] his chances,” Cassani told Tutto Bici website. “Filippo Pozzato gave an important signal and took a strong second place behind Elia Viviani.”

Viviani won yesterday’s Coppa Bernocchi with the help of Cannondale teammate and worlds favorite Peter Sagan. The Italian is rumored to be joining team Sky in 2015, but he will not join the national team for the worlds in Ponferrada, Spain, September 28, because he failed to show strongly earlier in the year with no wins in the Giro d’Italia or Tour de France.

Cassani will also be unable to rely on Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who has faded since winning a Tour de France stage in Nancy this July. Instead, Pozzato and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) could lead Italy in the case of a possible, and likely, sprint into Ponferrada.

This year’s 254.8 kilometer course features 14 18.2-kilometer circuits, each with two small climbs and a five-kilometer descent to the finish line.

Pozzato has had a difficult season and after missing the Tour de France, said that he considered retiring. With second place yesterday, and a good Eneco Tour earlier this August, he appears to be on track for the Italian team. He looks skinnier than ever and hungrier than ever.

“Cassani was clear with what he wanted, a signal,” Pozzato said. “I’m good and I’ll give my best if I race the worlds.”

If the worlds turns into one of attacks and counter-attacks, which Italy wants, then Cassani said that he would support Nibali and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar). Nibali placed second in 2012 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and third in Milano-Sanremo. He showed yesterday that he is capable, despite a 50-day stop since winning the Tour de France.

“I wanted to try something,” Nibali said, who attacked with four kilometers remaining Tuesday. “I’ll try again in Tre Valli, which suits me better.”

“Nibali impressed me,” Cassani added. “I’ll wait for more from both him and Pozzato in Tre Valli, the most important race of these three and the one that’s nearest to the worlds on September 28.”

Nibali, Visconti, Pozzato, Nizzolo … Cassani must still come up with five other cyclists to wear the blue national jersey. Out of the 16 he named already, he will decide Thursday which 11 will receive airplane tickets to Spain. The final nine will be decided in Ponferrada in the days before the race.

Davide Formolo (Cannondale) is racing only in his first year, but in Canada he was the first to respond to Gerrans’ attacks. Cassani could take the 21-year-old to support Nibali and Visconti’s attacking plan — and to learn. Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), and Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing) could race as the Squadra Azzurra’s workhorses, and Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) could captain the team in Spain, where, unlike WorldTour races, the UCI does not allow two-way radios.

Cassani, however, will confirm his roster Thursday.

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