Pozzato returns. The Second Coming of Master P.
After his fabulous — Chris Horner’s favorite word — fabulous 6th place performance in Milan San Remo, we ask the question: is Master P back?
After two years of misery, acrimony and no results at Katusha, the Global Russian Cycling Shindig, Filippo Pozzato left Andre Tchmil’s dog house for Italy and Farnese Vini Selle Italia. He was chasing form — the one he had way back in 2009 when he took second in Paris-Roubaix.
It’s been a long chase but maybe the Italian is finally back. He deserves a box of chapeaus for that hard work, determination and risking taking. He broke his collarbone in the Tour of Qatar but one week later he was back on the trainer, refusing to risk his build for the Northern Classics. Despite the possibility of losing all hope of riding Roubaix and Flanders, he raced Omloop with fresh pins and screws in his collarbone.
Pozzato has been the butt of many jokes and Twisted Spoke has certainly gotten a few laughs at his expense. With his kooky curly mop of hair, his ridiculous hot oil Sidi commercial, Only God Can Judge Me back tattoo and his series of unfortunate events, we couldn’t help but be amused.
Things seemed to hit rock bottom quickly at Katusha where Russian tough guy Tchmil used the media to call Pozzato lazy, tactically stupid and out of shape. He had a lousy Flanders and then in Paris-Roubaix, the downfall was pure comedy. Pippo was riding well up front when he had a mechanical — only the Katusha team car had a mechanical too –a flat tire, and never made it to Pozzato. Race over, team relationship shattered, Italian out the door.
Bike racing, we’re told again and again, it a hard, brutal, unforgiving sport and for the last two seasons Pozzato has been through the wringer. Once touted as the big Italian classics star, he dropped off the radar and had to take several steps back at a Pro Continental squad in the home country.
Twisted Spoke has the sense that Pozzato has a thin skin and was genuinely hurt by all the criticism he’s endured — whether it was Katusha or from the Italian media. Everybody from Mario Cipollini to Paolo Bettini has taken swipes at the guy. The charm of Pozzato is that for all his former bravura, there’s a sweet side to him and he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Even when he was a top contender, people like Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert accused him of negative race tactics and sucking wheels. Uhh, sort of like Simon Gerrans did to Fabian Cancellara last week in San Remo. (You win the race and nobody criticizes too much.) It just became popular to dump on Pozzato even when it wasn’t always deserved.
Pozzato may be reaching his previous form but perhaps more important, has developed a thicker skin and hardened commitment. For all the hardships he’s been through, we’re hoping the mop-headed Italian from Sandrigo scores a podium on the cobbles.