• Pippo Pozzato (Steve Thomas)Source: Steve Thomas
At the recent Tour of Antalya, in Turkey, we caught up with Italian legend Filippo 'Pippo' Pozzato, who is now in his 19th year as a pro, and talked about his experiences past and present.
Steve Thomas

16 Mar 2018 - 8:37 AM  UPDATED 16 Mar 2018 - 8:46 AM

Steve Thomas: You started with the Mapei team, one of the strongest ever pro teams. Back then everybody in a pro team had a specific job; but with UCI points being so important these days every rider has to also score for themselves. How has this changed the racing?
Filippo Pozzato: It’s changed a lot; before the helper riders were more important in the teams than they are now. Now every rider has to have the points and the points have become more important.

When one team has 25 riders it’s not possible for every rider to take points. There are only five riders who can realistically take points, and these five riders also take too much money – and the other 20 who don’t get the points, their values go down a lot.

Before it was not like this, because the helpers were very important for the team captain (so were much more valued in every way), and there was one price for them in the team. Now, because every rider wants to win point the system has changed the racing too far too much.

For example, before when I was with Quickstep they were one of the best teams ever for me, because I liked their system – there were only two riders who could win in the classics, Bettini and Boonen, and we worked for that.

Last year, in the first six classics of the year they had five, six riders who could make the podium or win. This is very complicated, and before you would not think it was possible (to have this many potential winners in one team). The plate is too big, and every guy there wants to stay at the front, not just to win but also to take the points, and I think this is not good for cycling – the exasperation (for the riders) is too much.

ST: What was your personal career race-winning highlight?
FP: Ahh, the Milan-San-Remo. When I was a kid it was my dream, and it’s the same for all of the Italian guys. I grew up watching it on TV, and remember watching Gianni Bugno and Fondriest winning. For me, just starting Milan-Sanremo every year is important, special - it’s hard to explain, it’s like starting the World Championships.

When you love and live every day with cycling, it’s a special sensation inside. When people ask how it felt to win, it’s impossible to explain. It’s just that split second in time; it’s better than any orgasm, a unique sensation.

ST: Are there things you wish you’d done differently?
FP: There are only three podium finishes I would change; when I was second in Flanders, second in Paris-Roubaix and second in Milan-Sanremo. I really wanted to win them; they would have changed my career hugely.

Although, really speaking, the only one I would (should) really have changed was the World Road Race Championships in Australia in 2010 when I finished fourth. I was really stronger than Hushovd and the other guys, but I did not have the concentration. In the last 10 kilometres, I was thinking that the others were stronger than me, but when the sprint started I was too far back, and I realised I was stronger. Then I saw that if I’d been a few positions ahead that I would have would have won the race. It’s the only race I really wanted to change in my career.

ST: Which race do you really wish you could still win?
FP: Flanders, for sure. I think it’s the most beautiful race in cycling. Flanders is the university of cycling.

ST: With Wilier, do you have entry to Flanders?
FP: No, only to Sanremo, which is a problem for me. It’s easier for me to stay in front in Flanders than Sanremo, as there are many riders who could win there. In the Belgian classics there are only maybe eight riders who can win. I’m riding Tirreno Adriatico, which is ideal preparation for Belgium, but no, it’s not to be.

ST: How was it riding with the mighty Mapei team?
FP: I think if the Mapei team had continued I would have won a lot more races, but I was too young at that time to really make the most of it.

Mapei was like my family. I started very young with the development team, and it was the best team. Sure I went on to other big teams, but it’s like if you start with Real Madrid and then go to another big team – sure they are good, but not quite the best.

When you love and live every day with cycling, it’s a special sensation inside. When people ask how it felt to win, it’s impossible to explain. It’s just that split second in time; it’s better than any orgasm, a unique sensation.

ST: It always seems that the Italian world championship team has too many potential winners?
FP: I think when you have three leaders it’s very good for the race. But I understand that it’s very complicated, though not so much now.

Before you had Bugno, Fondriest and Argentin, all big names; it was not easy to have them all in the same team. For me, the World Championship is the race for the best riders in the world, and I think they should take the start.

ST: How many race days do you have now?
FP: Now, this is a smaller team, so I do less racing. Last year not so many – I think 70 days or so. In 2010, I think I was the third most raced rider with around 112 race days.

I prefer to race over training, so more race days is good for me.

ST: Which great riders that you rode with stand out the most to you?
FP: So many; for sure Lance (Armstrong) was the strongest rider in the last 10 years. Ullrich was also very strong. For the classics, Valverde has so much class. Sagan is the current best in the world – absolutely.

Cancellara also very strong. Cipollini and Zabel for the sprints. I’ve raced with so many great riders, and I have so much respect for the stronger riders, I look up to them like gods.

ST: What’s your plan from here on?
FP: Normally this would be my last year of racing, but I spoke with Wilier and they asked me to race next year, so it’s possible that I will do that and finish with 20 years as a pro.