Filippo Pozzato went to the chalkboard and wrote one hundred times: “I promise I will not suck wheels. I promise I will not suck wheels. I promise …”
It’s not easy being Master P, when certain journalists — also know as friends of Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen — accuse him of sucking wheels and failing to take the initiative in races. Well, for tomorrow’s Tour of Flanders, Pozzato’s plan is clear: “I need to win. I’ll risk to the end.” No following wheels.
“A Belgian journalist wrote that the public here hates me because I chased Gilbert at San Remo, and that he will buy a beer for anybody who supports me,” Pozzato told Gazzetta dello Sport. “So maybe on Sunday I should go on the signing-on platform in Brugge with a crate of beer for whoever supports me, namely my friends.” He might not need a crate, just a six-pack.
The man genuinely feels hurt by the constant negative remarks about his race tactics, manhood, even his tattoo. He can’t catch a break here in cobblestone land. He’s an easy target for cheap shots and even Twisted Spoke thinks Pozzato deserves better. The only rider not hanging on Cancellara’s wheel is Cancellara himself.
According to the Italian, even his Katusha manager Andre Tchmil has turned against him like a Russian gangster. After San-Remo, Tchmil spoke to 7sur7.be, saying, “I’d have defended him many times but not on this one: it wasn’t up to him to go and chase Gilbert, but to the sprinters or to Cancellara… Riding behind someone and staying in his wheel, that has no sense.”
That critique didn’t go over too well as far as Pozzato was concerned. Enough to fire up the Gazzetta rumor mill with reports of tensions within the Katusha camp and Pozzato leaving at the end of the season for Lampre-ISD.
“In difficult situations I need trust,” Pozzato said. “It seems clear to me that I haven’t had it. Pressure is positive if it is linked to the expectation of a result, but if it brings only criticism, it doesn’t do anyone good. Reading certain things in the newspapers hurt me because Tchmil knows how dedicated I am to cycling. I’m the opposite to how he described me.”
Maybe that’s the fire Pozzato needs to do well in Flanders. He’s mad at journalists and ticked off at his own team. It may just be the extra motivation he needs to ride with fury and aggression. We doubt we’ll see Pozzato hanging on anybody’s wheel on Sunday.
We’re thinking that Pozzato is in the same situation as Cadel Evans, pre-rainbow jersey. Once the Australian won the world championship, he transformed into a more confident and aggressive rider. Perhaps all the insults and mean-spirited criticism will push Pozzato to that big win that redefines his career.
It’s on the chalkboard: no wheel sucking in Flanders.