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MILAN (VN) — Filippo Pozzato, Italy’s most charismatic cyclist, will likely sign a one- or two-year deal with Southeast after the squad and all other Pro Continental teams received the OK for their licenses overnight Thursday.
Those close to the deal say Pozzato is nearly a sure bet to sign with the Italian second-division team after riding the last three years in Lampre-Merida’s blue and pink colors. The 34-year-old has won Milano-Sanremo, E3 Harelbeke, and the GP Ouest France-Plouay. Though without a victory since Plouay in 2013, he still draws attention at home and abroad.
“I don’t think we’d be talking now if it was not for Pozzato. Another rider, like Mauro Finetto, would not draw the same attention,” Southeast general manager Angelo Citracca told VeloNews.
“After Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru, he is Italy’s top cycling personality even if the results haven’t come in. Anyway, we are sure that we can help him bring in results. Others older than him are still winning in the classics.”
Pozzato ideally would lead Southeast in the classics like Sanremo, Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix if they receive an invitation to race. Besides his Sanremo win, Pozzato counts runner-up spots in both Flanders and Roubaix.
Money remains an issue, however. Citracca said he is short and Pozzato is high, and that they need to find a middle ground.
“We will push our current sponsors for more money, but Filippo has to be willing to accept a little less,” Citracca added. “We are dealing with him and we hope that in the next week we will have a deal worked out.”
Pozzato told VeloNews he is still negotiating with the team and will not sign until the money is available. However, those close to the deal say that Southeast, for whom Pozzato raced in 2012, will likely be his 2016 team.
One idea was that Pozzato would help Peter Sagan at Tinkoff, but that team and other WorldTeams have not expressed interest.
Pozzato has raced for several top-level teams since 2001: Mapei, Fassa Bortolo, Quick-Step, Liquigas, Katusha, and Lampre. Some people in the sport, including Lampre manager Brent Copeland, say he is difficult to work with because he always wants to follow his own schedule instead of the team’s.
“We were happy with him in 2012, he placed sixth in Sanremo and second in Flanders,” Citracca said. “Of course, with Filippo also comes welcomed publicity, but we are sure that he can win as well.”
Along with Southeast, the UCI confirmed the licenses for Bardiani-CSF, CCC Sprandi Polkowice, Cult Energy-Stölting, Direct Energie (formerly Europcar), and Roth-Skoda. There will be 23 Pro Continental teams sitting one level below its 18 WorldTeams next season.