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"The condition is really good. It was my first Liege and I tried to go on the attack with Arredondo, because the big favorites looked at each other and no one tried to do anything," Pozzovivo says

Photo: Sirotti

AG2R LA MONDIALE

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DOMENICO POZZOVIVO

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LIÈGE - BASTOGNE - LIÈGE

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ROMAIN BARDET

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29.04.2014 @ 11:28 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Heading into Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Domenico Pozzovivo had flown under the radar but the tiny Italian climber animated the race and turned out to be one of the strongest riders in the big classic. Having been caught by the race favourites less than 500m from the line, he held onto 5th in his first participation in the big Belgian race.

 

Ag2r-La Mondiale had done the first two Ardennes classics with a two-pronged attack made up of Romain Bardet and Carlos Betancur but with the latter suffering from a lack of condition due to knee troubles, the team had failed to come away with any results. For Liege-Bastogne-Liege, they brought in climber Domenico Pozzovivo who arrived in Belgium straight from a second place finish in the Giro del Trentino.

 

That decision proved to be a wise decision as the tiny Italian rider proved that he is not just a pure climber. He animated the race by going on the attack twice in the finale and ended up taking a fine fifth in one of the hardest one-day races on the calendar.

 

Pozzovivo launched his first attack on the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons 20km from the finish where he joined Julian Arredondo to form a strong duo. When that move was brought back 10km later, he recovered before again going on the attack on the final climb of the Cote de Saint-Nicolas just 5km from the line.

 

He was joined by Giampaolo Caruso and the duo passed the flamme rouge with a small lead over the group of favourites. On the final rise, however, Pozzovivo was unable to keep up with his companion and when he was passed by Simon Gerrans, Alejandro Valverde and Michal Kwiatkowski, he had to settle for fifth.

 

"I felt very good," he told Spaziociclismo. "The condition is really good. It was my first Liege and I tried to go on the attack with Arredondo, because the big favorites looked at each other and no one tried to do anything. Ten kilometers later we were caught but I still had something left on the Saint-Nicolas and I followed Caruso. Unfortunately, on the ascent to the finish in Ans, the favourites came fast and when we reached the final 300 meters, I had already given everything.


"At the beginning he [Caruso[ worked a little less. He seemed to hold something back and I did not know whether I should try until the end as I am not fast in a sprint. But then we started to really push and I can say that I tried. I am happy to be starring in a race so important and I now know that I can be a protagonist in this race even though it needs to be more selective for me to win. 


"Now I am looking forward to the Giro where I target the podium."

 

The race had started off on a bad note as Betancur didn't take the start due to illness but Pozzovivo's performance made up for the disappointment. Furthermore, Romain Bardet finished 10th to make it two Ag2r riders among the 10 best riders.

 

"It was a big waiting race which ended in a beautiful way for our team," sports director Julien Jurdie said. "We were in a good posiiton and did a lot of work in the last forty kilometers. The team was strong. The finale was stressful because we knew that the situation could be reversed at any time. We saw a great Pozzovivo who took a fantastic 5th place although he would deserved better. And then there is the beautiful 10th for Romain Bardet. The team can be satisfied with the team performance."

 

Sebastien Minard went down in a dramatic crash but luckily he escaped any serious injuries.

 

“A big crash happened just before the Côte de Wanne," he said. "I didn’t fall but I was bothered and I had a problem with the derailleurs. Then, there were many splits because of the crash and it was difficult for sports directors' cars to go back to assist riders.

 

"I had to climb the three following ascents without being able to use all gears and I have finally got the chance to be assisted by my team's car on the Côte de la Haute Levée. This mechanical problem was not easy to repair and the tension was palpable. There, I was hampered by traffic islands and I fell, unfortunately that’s the risk of a race.
 

"I suffered many burns and bruises on my body but I’m doing well. Above all, I’m frustrated to finish the Classics campaign in this way. Once again, the team showed an excellent collective spirit and I wanted to add my contribution to this good result. However, this crash will not disrupt my race calendar and I will be back at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque.”

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