Pippo for Lance's Discovery?

Filippo Pozzato is fighting off offers to leave Fassa Bortolo, but could join Lance Armstrong at Dis

Filippo Pozzato is fighting off offers to leave Fassa Bortolo, but could join Lance Armstrong at Dis
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Tour de France stage winner Filippo Pozzato on Wednesday fuelled speculation that he could leave Fassa Bortolo for Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel team. Asked in Saint Flour about the prospect of riding alongside Armstrong in 2005, Pozzato admitted that it would be "an honour". This followed what sounded like a come-and-get-me plea to potential suitors earlier in the week: "Just because I ride in an Italian team everyone thinks that I necessarily have to stay there," the 22-year-old Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport. Although officially committed to Fassa Bortolo for the 2005, peloton insiders suggest that latent tension between the dashing Pozzato and Fassa Bortolo boss Giancarlo Ferretti could see the two part at the end of the season. The fact that Pozzato is represented by Claudio Pasqualin, the agent who made his name negotiating the muti-million pound pay hikes for Juventus soccer star Alessandro Del Piero, will no doubt intensify the rumours. So, too, will comments made by Pasqualin this week. "There is scope there to have Pippo's contract with Fassa dissolved, but we haven't really studied the possibility in detail," said Pasqualin. The agent then described Pozzato's agreement with Fassa Bortolo patron Paolo Fassa as a "gentleman's agreement to carry on with them." According to Pasqualin, "Del Piero and Filippo have the same natural class. Filippo has a stunning image: mothers would say that he's beautiful like the sun, he's the epitome of the modern cyclist, who carries himself well, speaks well and gives the past a kick up the behind." Lance Armstrong's admiration for Pozzato, too, is well documented. Seconds after Pozzato romped over the line for his maiden Tour de France stage victory at Saint Brieuc, he was stopped and warmly congratulated by Armstrong. "Grazie, Lance!" gushed 'Pippo', indicating that his English may need some work if he is to make the transatlantic switch to Discovery. Rumours are rife that Armstrong and Pozzato have subsequently held mid-race conversations about a possible link-up. Pozzato will probably command earnings of at least triple his current salary of around 250,000 euros per year. The Italian's only reservation about joining Discovery regards his role in the team: "I would have to evaluate what would be my position in the team," Pozzato revealed on Thursday. If Fassa can't keep the Italian, and Armstrong can't lure him either, possible destinations could be Liberty Seguros and a new venture sponsored by Liquigas. Liberty and their manager Manolo Saiz have already approached Pozzato once, at the end of last season. Liquigas, meanwhile, are said to be ready to return to cycling armed with a five million euro budget. Stefano Garzelli has been earmarked as the team's leader, and current Fassa Bortolo directeur sportif and Pozzato's long-term mentor, Roberto Damiani, as the man at the controls.
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