|Pozzato leads Boonen, Oude Kwaremont,|
Ronde van Vlaanderen 2012
Pozzato had already enjoyed considerable success as an amateur, having stood on the podium at the Junior World Championships four times and once at the Youth Olympics. He spent 2000 and 2001 adjusting to the new, higher level of competition with which he was now faced, then in in 2002 he won fourteen races and came second at the Elite National Road Race Championship. A year after that, riding for Fasso Bortolo since Mapei backed out of cycling, he won Tirreno-Adriatico and was again second at the Nationals; then in 2004 he won Stage 7 at the Tour de France. Overall, however, he enjoyed few wins during his time with the team, a fact he blamed on personality clashes with manager Giancarlo Ferretti.
The Mapei team had been co-sponsored by QuickStep, a Belgian manufacturer of laminate flooring materials; Pozzato returned to them when he joined the QuickStep-Innergetic team in 2005. He rode the Giro d'Italia that year and finished two stages in the top ten, then in 2006 he achieved the greatest victory of his career up to that point when he won Milan-San Remo, one of the Monument classics that, after the three Grand Tours and the World Championships, are the most prestigious races in cycling. Having switched to Liquigas for 2007 he won the Omloop het Nieuwsblad - not a Monument, but one of the most important and challenging classics in the eyes of many riders and fans alike. He then switched to Katusha in 2009 and won the E3 Harelbeke, thus proving that his Omloop victory was down to more than mere luck and disproving the old belief that Italian riders couldn't perform well in the Northern Classics. He remained with Katusha until the end of 2011, winning Stage 12 at the Giro in 2010 before having a quiet season the following year.
For 2012, he stepped down to the ProContinental ranks with a contract at the British-registered Farnese Vini-Selle Italia: he was sixth at Milano-San Remo and the Dwars door Vlaanderen, ninth at Gent-Wevelgem and second at the Ronde van Vlaanderen Monument that year, but the latter result was not earned without controversy after he clung on to eventual winner Tom Boonen's wheel at several key points in the race, including on the approach to the finish line. This was not the first time he'd been known to use such a tactic which, while not forbidden by the rules, is seen as bad form and makes a rider disliked by his peers - which is why Pozzato's nickname is "The Shadow." The results brought him a new World Tour-level contract with Lampre-Merida for 2013; two top ten stage finishes at the Giro d'Italia proved that in his fourteenth professional year he remained a formidable rider.
Born in New South Wales on this day in 1984, Chris Sutton is the son of the NSW Institute of Sport's chief cycling coach Gary Sutton and the nephew of British Cycling chief track coach Shane Sutton, both of them retired professional cyclists - it's no surprise, then, that he became a professional cyclist too.
In 2008, he rode the Giro d'Italia and got his first taste of major success when Slipstream won the Stage 1 team time trial, giving a good account of himself later on in the race with two top 20 stage finishes. Later in the year he won a stage race - the Ronde van Zeeland Seaports - for the first time, then in 2009 he won Stage 1 at the Tour of Britain and was second in the overall General Classification. He apparently liked what he saw of Britain, because late in the season he announced that he would be riding for the new British team Sky the following year. With them, he won another Bay Classic and returned to the Giro, though he won no stages and finished 133rd. 2011 was his real breakthrough year - first, he won the tough 193km Classic Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, then Stage 2 at the Vuelta a Espana, his first Grand Tour stage. He remained with Sky through 2012 and 2013.
Paulina Brzeźna, born in Środa Śląska on this day in 1981, came third at the Polish Road Race Championship in 2001 and turned professional with Bonda-Lukowski for the following two seasons - which passed without victory or notable results. In 2004 she switched to MKS Start Peugeot Andrzej Kita Lublin and came second at the Nationals, then in 2005 she won. In 2006 she was second at in the Road Race and third in the time trial at the Nationals, which brought her to the attention of the better-known Dutch-based AA Drink-Leontien.nl, one of the most respected teams in women's cycling; she joined them for 2007 and 2008, winning the National Road Race title for a second time and taking a silver for the Time Trial as well as winning a stage at the Tour de Limousin. She was second again in the Time Trial and third in the Road Race at the Nationals in 2009, by which time she'd signed to RedSun; then went another year without notable results before coming second in the National Road Race Championship in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, her return to the top continued with second place in the National Road Race Championship, third in the National Time Trial Championship, a stage win at the Gracia Orlova and another at the Krasna Lipa.
Other cyclists born on this day: Greg Henderson (New Zealand, 1976); Aaron Kemps (Australia, 1983); Piet van der Lans (Netherlands, 1940); Willi Meurer (Germany, 1915, died 1981); Ovidiu Oprea (Romania, 1976); Giuseppe Palumbo (Italy, 1975); Björn Johansson (Sweden, 1963); Alfred Tourville (Canada, 1908).