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Giro d'Italia

Domenico Pozzovivo riding through the pain at the Giro d’Italia

The Italian still suffers from pain in his back after a driver hit him head-on during a training ride in 2019, but he's riding with the best at the Giro.

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Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) has been riding through the pain at the Giro d’Italia.

The 39-year-old still suffers from pain in his back sustained in a horrific crash during a training ride in 2019. Pozzovivo was left with a broken arm, leg, hand, and ribs after he was hit head-on by a driver and had to undergo a six-hour operation to insert some 20 screws and four plates to fix the injuries.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, Pozzovivo has changed the way he rides to compensate for the lasting impact of the crash. However, he is unable to get rid of the pain completely and he’s had to learn to cope with it if he wants to race.

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“I had to do a lot of trying of different positions on different bikes and also mentally I had to be ready to support a lot of pain sometimes,” Pozzovivo told VeloNews. “On Sunday [at Blockhaus], my lower back on the right was very painful but I was not too stressed about that, but I know that I can do a good result with a lot of pain in the lower back. I use different muscles and I change the position sometimes and, on the downhills, I stretch a lot.”

After the shock and sudden departure of Biniam Girmay, who had to abandon the race after he was hit in the eye by the cork from the prosecco bottle on the podium following his win on stage 10, Pozzovivo is now the sole leader of the Intermarché team.

At the halfway point of the Giro d’Italia, Pozzovivo is the best-placed Italian rider in eighth place overall. He put in an impressive performance in the second major mountain stage to Blockhaus at the end of last week, finishing just off the leading group of favorites in the sprint for the line.

Pozzovivo went into the Giro d’Italia with the aim of finishing within the top 10 and he has set himself up nicely to achieve that or even better.

“For sure, I feel better than after Etna, because that day was definitely not my biggest performance. After Sunday, I have more confidence that my goal of the top 10 will be available,” he said, adding that the slow burn build-up in Hungary meant he was out of sorts on Mount Etna.

“I think it was a strange approach with the three easy days in Hungary and normally I train a lot with many climbs, and it was more than eight days that I didn’t do a real climb so I was lacking the long climbs.”

Pozzovivo’s turnaround on the Blockhaus at the end of last week showed the outside world, and himself, that he could still ride with the best in the high mountains.

“For me, it was like winning a stage on Sunday because my goal was really to work with the strong guys on the climbs and on Sunday I did it. It’s already like a win but for sure I will not stop there. I will try to demonstrate I can stay with them also in the next mountains,” he said.

The top 10 is nicely poised at the moment with Juan Pedro López still leading the way in the pink jersey, though that is not expected to last through to the final week. Behind him, there is barely more than a minute separating the next 11 riders.

There are plenty of big mountains to come for the GC riders and anything can — and invariably will — happen on the road into Verona. Pozzovivo believes that the favorites are evenly matched for now but says that fatigue will become a decisive factor as the altitude meters add up.

“Actually, there are many riders that are very close, so it is very difficult to say if the top 5 is possible, or only top 10. We will see after the weekend then I can think about which will be available,” Pozzovivo said.

“I think that the first six riders on the Blockhaus are very close and we were very close as climbers on that kind of mountain stage, but for sure with the passage of days we will get tired and someone will be better than the others.”

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