Filippo Pozzato backs Jonathan Milan and Andrea Bagioli as Italy's next Monument winners

The 2006 Milan-San Remo champion tips two youngsters to deliver Italy back to the top step of a Monument

Clock18:00, Friday 20th October 2023
Pozzato expects the two new Lidl-Trek signings to challenge for Monuments in the years to come

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images & Sprint Cycling Agency

Pozzato expects the two new Lidl-Trek signings to challenge for Monuments in the years to come

Tadej Pogačar’s emphatic victory in the final Monument of the 2023 road season at Il Lombardia earlier this month brought a close to a memorable Classics campaign. However, it also marked two years since the last time an Italian rider was on the top step of one of cycling’s five major one-day races.

Sonny Colbrelli’s dramatic, mud-soaked victory at the 2021 Paris-Roubaix was breathtaking and emotional, but just as the former European road champion’s career was brought to an abrupt halt, so too was the Azzurri’s hopes of returning to the days in which they had a stranglehold over the Monuments.

Watch: How cycling broke Sonny Colbrelli's heart

From 1993 to 2008, at least one of the five Monuments was claimed by an Italian every year without fail. One of the riders to add to Italy’s impressive one-day tally was 2006 Milan-San Remo winner Filippo Pozzato.

After retiring at the end of 2018, ‘Pippo’ turned his hand to race organisation, launching a series of races in his home region of Veneto. The ‘Ride The Dreamland’ series encompasses the Giro del Veneto, the Serenissima Gravel and the Veneto Classic, with the third edition held over the course of last week.

Read more:

Pozzato tips Milan and Bagioli for Monument success

Despite the charismatic Italian spending more of his time behind the scenes nowadays, with the hope of returning an Italian team to the WorldTour in the coming years also on his mind, he still keeps one eye on who will lead the next generation of Italian talent.

Speaking to GCN on the topic of where Italy’s next Monument winner will come from, Pozzato named two riders that he thinks have the potential to deliver on the big stage, more than two years on from Colbrelli’s teary triumph in the mud bath of Roubaix.

“Jonathan Milan or [Andrea] Bagioli,” he responded swiftly when posed the question of who can return Italy to the top step of a Monument podium.

Pozzato highlighted Milan as a rider he’s touted for a while, with two Monuments in particular where he could prosper.

“Milan for Milan-San Remo or Paris-Roubaix. Last year, before Milan-San Remo, my favourite was Milan but he got sick one week before.”

Despite a challenging season, with illness thwarting his Spring Classics assault, Milan did manage to claim a stage victory and four second places earning him the maglia ciclamino in the process, at this year’s Giro d’Italia. Next season will see the Italian sprinter leave behind Bahrain Victorious for Lidl-Trek, a move Pozzato believes will only benefit the Team Pursuit Olympic champion.

Read more: Giro d’Italia 2024 route revealed

“I think Milan’s move to Lidl-Trek is good for him. I like Milan a lot, he’s a good guy, a grounded one, he’s not stupid, he’s smart. I’ve seen him doing some sprints that are not normal, and he’s also really young.”

Bagioli is another Italian heading to Lidl-Trek for 2024 after also signing a three-year deal with the WorldTour team. In his last three outings for Soudal Quick-Step, the 24-year-old claimed third spot at Coppa Bernocchi, first-place at Gran Piemonte and, turning heads across the sport, runner-up at Il Lombardia.

One of those to turn their head and take notice was Pozzato, adding: “I was surprised to see Bagioli on the podium at Il Lombardia. I thought he’d be in the first five. I know he’s very strong because I spoke to his coach in the week before.”

Italy lacks strength in depth

Both riders have shown promising signs during the premier years of their careers but will likely require further development to reach their full potential. With Colbrelli and Vincenzo Nibali having retired, two out of three of the Italian riders to have claimed a Monument in the last decade, it leaves just Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) with Monument-winning experience in the pro peloton.

Asked where the issue lies, for a nation that once dominated the Classics results tables, Pozzato pointed to the organisations coordinating the sport within Italy.

“The level is not good, because we don’t have the members of the federation. For example, in Vicenza, we had a 120-rider union but now we have just 20 riders. With that quantity, it's not possible to get the quality.”

Comparing Italy’s cycling fortunes to those elsewhere, Pozzato highlighted a number of nations, with less impressive cycling heritages, that have now leapfrogged them. 

“Great Britain in the past had only two riders and now has one of the best teams in the world. Australia had one rider and now has a WorldTour team. Americans were few and now they have a team too. Everything is globalising and so there are more possibilities for the others but less for Italy,” concluded the 42-year-old.

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