Questions for the Classics – The Italians?

Fotoreporter Sirotti

As we get set to begin the Spring Classics with Saturday’s running of the 102nd Milan-San Remo, it’s the perfect time examine some of the important questions facing the major riders and teams during this year’s spring campaign. As each question is posted, feel free to share your opinions, insights, and predictions as comments—your commentary and spirited dialogue is always appreciated. In case you missed them, be sure to check out Questions 1, 2, and 3.

4. Will Italy’s former champions regain their classic swagger?

Between them, Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan, and Damiano Cunego have won Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, and the Amstel Gold Race. But the last of those came thanks to Cunego’s Amstel victory in 2008—so it’s been several years without an Italian on the cover of May’s Bicisport.

Luckily, Ballan and Cunego’s results at this point in the season indicate they are on track to contend in April. They finished second and third in l’Eroica and were both quite active during Tirreno-Adriatico—they were also two of the principal animators in Sardegna, with Cunego winning a stage and Ballan finishing highly.

As for Pozzato, no news is good news. He’s enjoyed a relatively anonymous, but trouble-free early season, eerily similar to what we were saying about Fabian Cancellara this time last year. Hopefully all of the criticism he received for his tactics last year has knocked some sense into him, and he’s focusing more on his racing than his image.

Of the three, Ballan has the toughest row to hoe in that his BMC team boasts several men (Hincapie, Van Avermaet, Burghardt, and even Karsten Kroon) capable of winning his targeted races. As for Pozzato and Cunego, they will likely be the undisputed captains of their squads (Katusha and Lampre), meaning they’ll have the unquestioned support of their teams—but also the undivided attention of their opponents.

In all three cases, consistency and form maintenance will be the keys to success—Pozzato and Cunego are notorious for peaking too soon and Ballan’s been racing at a high level for over three weeks now. Should they prove able to maintain—and hopefully improve—their fitness between now and April, it could be a very good month for the tifosi. If not, there’s always Di Luca. (More on him later.)

Share your comments below.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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2 Responses to Questions for the Classics – The Italians?

  1. MattyVT says:

    it's tough to say, but I don't think this is the spring for Italy. Perhaps Ballan would best be used as a decoy for some other lesser-known but on form BMC rider like Van Avermaet, Burghardt or Kroon.

    Pozzato has taken on the mantle of Italian bravado since Cipollini retired, and it would be nice to see him back up some of his swagger with some real results. I will admit that I'm a Pozzato fan, but he really needs to win more to justify his salary.

    Cunego is a question mark, but he'll probably show well in the Ardennes, possibly taking a "W".

    Let's hope the shining star of Italy's spring isn't the Killer. I'm not sure I could handle that disappointment again.

  2. Mike says:

    I'm also a huge Pozzato fan. And he breaks my heart almost every time I watch him. He can build amazing form but never likes to burn his matches at all. 1st and 2nd at San Remo, 2nd at Roubaix, and 4 th at Flanders are not to be sneezed at but I think he just needs to back himself more because he has the ability.

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