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OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Filippo Pozzato looked most likely to foil Tom Boonen’s charge to a third Tour of Flanders win yesterday. He returned to Monaco empty-handed, “first of the idiots,” as he said, with his thoughts on Paris-Roubaix.
Farnese Vini-Selle Italia sports directors looked understandably upset at the bus in Oudenaarde. Luca Scinto needed a few minutes before he could speak. Serge Parsani shook his head and told VeloNews, “Roubaix is all that remains.”
Flanders, or the Giro delle Fiandre in Italian, was a lost opportunity for Pozzato. It could have been his biggest one-day classics win since Milan-San Remo in 2006. He wrote this morning in Twitter, “So near, but so far.”
Pozzato charged after a solo attack by fellow Italian Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) at the top of the Oude Kwaremont with 18 kilometers to race. He joined Ballan with two-time winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in tow. Boonen was the top favorite, particularly after Fabian Cancellara crashed out, thanks to his recent wins at E3 Prijs Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem.
Pozzato had a short 13 kilometers, nine flat to the finish, to come up with a plan to win the race. With a solid headwind on the run-in to Oudenaarde, he decided to wait and sprint. Ballan, instead, attacked three times: at 3km, at 2km and again at 1km to go.
Italy’s Michele Bartoli, who won the race in 1996, tweeted, “They both had to attack and not wait for the last three kilometers. The race was over by then.”
Parsani agreed. He told VeloNews, “Maybe the only thing was that he risked it for the sprint finish. When Ballan attacked, maybe he could have countered at two-to-three kilometers out. He was overly convinced for the sprint and, unfortunately, it fell apart.”
After Ballan opened the sprint early, at 300 meters in the wind, Boonen started with around 200 meters, and Pozzato shot off his wheel to the left. Ballan faded behind for third and Pozzato came up just short.
“He was strong. We saw him the last time up the Paterberg, where he accelerated and dropped Tom,” Parsani added. “It’s a shame, but races are like that.”
Pozzato should be proud of what he accomplished since fracturing his collarbone in the Tour of Qatar on February 9. He returned to racing nine days later. In San Remo he placed sixth, Dwars door Vlaanderen sixth, Ghent-Wevelgem ninth and yesterday, second.
“I’m happy when we win,” Pozzato told VeloNews ahead of the race. “Given what’s happened, though, I’m happy. I’ve been able to find good condition for San Remo and for these races in Belgium. Now, it’d be great if we take home a good result.”
He points towards France for Paris-Roubaix now, where he finished second in 2009. He and Scinto raced together in team Mapei with Franco Ballerini, a two-time winner. Ballerini took over as the Italian coach, but died in a car crash in 2010.
“Roubaix is his dream, mine too because of the link to Ballerini,” Scinto said. “That day we will be racing in nine, instead of eight.”