Filippo Pozzato hoping to animate Het Nieuwsblad
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Friday, February 22, 2013

Filippo Pozzato hoping to animate Het Nieuwsblad

by Kyle Moore at 1:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
MTN-Qhubeka desiring good luck, good finish for Ciolek

Filippo PozzatoThough the Italian squad Lampre-Merida is not often a factor in the Belgian cobbled classics, that all could change in 2013 with the acquisition of Filippo Pozzato. Back late last year from a short ban after admitting to past dealings with Michele Ferrari, Pozzato caught on with Lampre-Merida in the offseason and already has a victory to his name, in the Trofeo Laigueglia.

Riding for Farnese Vini a year ago, Pozzato was runner-up in the Tour of Flanders behind Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), but the Italian made few other waves during the season when his ban started in June.

Now on his third team in three years, in the recognizable blue, fuchsia, and Merida-tinged green, Pozzato will lead a relatively green squad toward the Classics, beginning with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.

For the Italian, the early season victory is the most comforting signal that his upcoming spring campaign could be a good one.

“My condition makes me happy,” he proclaimed. “In Trofeo Laigueglia, I had very good feelings, so I’m going to Belgium with firm intentions. I’ll try to compete for a top result in Het Nieuwsblad, a race I really like and one that could be a very important approach to the Classics. Of course, I know it’s not so simple to turn the good fitness into top results, especially because my opponents are on top level as well. I’ll also try to collect as good a result as possible in view of the next Belgian races.”

The Lampre-Merida roster is the same on Saturday as it is on Sunday, for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, though team director Fabrizio Bontempi stated that Pozzato’s primary objective would be Saturday. Sunday’s main rider could come from one of several, perhaps Pozzato’s fellow Farnese Vini transfer Elia Favilli.

“Filippo is going to focus his attention mostly on Saturday’s race, and he can aim to be a protagonist,” Bontempi said. “There will be many young riders on the team, some of them, such as [Mattia] Cattaneo, [Andrea] Palini and [Luca] Wackermann, are getting ready for their first tests in the Belgian races, while the others have already raced on these roads. They could give support to Pozzato on Saturday and maybe they [themselves] could try to get to a good result on Sunday.”

MTN-Qhubeka is basking in the satisfaction of one of its biggest starts of the season so far, after earning an invitation to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The squad has been warming up signature signee Gerald Ciolek, and the German sprinter was fifth behind Pozzato in the Trofeo Laigueglia. After reconnoitering parts of the Het Nieuwsblad course this week, MTN-Qhubeka is excited to get underway.

“This will be the first Hors Categorie race for Team MTN-Qhubeka and we want to earn respect from the crowd. Our colors are new in the peloton and we want to show that we are going for good results,” team director Jens Zemke stated. “We’ve had a good recon of the circuit; the sky was blue and we had cold winter temperatures but we could already feel the big interest in our team as we were followed by Belgium TV and some journalists.

“I would be happy if people say, ‘have you seen the African team? They are doing well.’ If nobody crashes and we can bring Gerald Ciolek into a good spot this would be great for us.”

Though it’s new in the peloton, MTN-Qhubeka brings a variety of experience levels to the Belgian semi-classic. Ignatas Konovalovas, formerly of Cervelo Test Team and Movistar, will take the start, and the Lithuanian described his team’s goals.

“With a guy like Gerald I think our focus is clear for the race. It will be to help him the best we can. We’ve already ridden the race route and seen the different details of the race, and we’re motivated.”

Lampre-Merida for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne:
Filippo Pozzato, Mattia Cattaneo, Davide Cimolai, Elia Favilli, Massimo Graziato, Manuele Mori, Andrea Palini, Luca Wackermann

MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad:
Gerald Ciolek, Ferekalsi Debesay Abrha, Ignatas Konovalovas, Youcef Reguigui, Martin Reimer, Kristian Sbaragli, Andreas Stauff, Johann Van Zyl


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