Having spent his career being told what and when to ride, on retiring, Filippo Pozzato came to Passoni to create his perfect bicycle. After hundreds of thousands of kilometres of racing as a professional, the Monument winner and former Italian National Champion had strong ideas about the bike he wanted to ride once he was free to cycle for his own enjoyment.
“As I was coming to the end of my career, I had in mind that I wanted to ride a titanium bicycle and that I wanted it to be a Passoni,” explains Pozzato. “Having finished racing, I wanted something that wasn’t just about performance, but something comfortable and with class”.
Comfort is one thing, but there’s only so relaxed a bike from someone who’s won Milan–San Remo and stood on the podium at Roubaix and Liège can be. In fact, the geometry Pozzato wanted for his Vinci was so aggressive that had any other client requested it, Passoni’s fitters might have had second thoughts.
“In terms of geometry, it’s the same as when I was racing,” says Pozzato. “Throughout my career, I always had a problem when I had to ride a standard frame. Over time, I started talking to the team and got the engineers to create custom frames for my size. When I was finished racing, I took the last frame I had to Passoni and said I want exactly this but in titanium”.
Having met with Passoni’s fitter and finalised the design, Pozzato was keen to meet the artisans involved in creating his bike and get to grips with some of the processes involved in its production. Donning a protective mask, he tried his hand at tack welding the frame before wielding a pneumatically powered finishing wheel to help create its flawless exterior.
Once more for the enjoyment
Having since enjoyed several years with his custom Vinci, when we caught up with him, Pozzato had just returned from riding it at the Flanders sportive alongside thousands of cycling enthusiasts. “For me, Flanders was the race,” he explains of the Classic he came within inches of winning.
Having raced the notoriously demanding Northern Classics on unforgiving bikes with narrow tyres and conventional calliper brakes, Pozzato now finds revisiting the cobbles and hills on his Passoni a more relaxed experience.
“Compared to the bikes we raced on, the Passoni is perfect for enjoying the atmosphere and riding with friends,” he says. “I was talking to Fabian Cancellara (a three-time winner at Flanders) before the cyclosportive about how the enjoyment of being here is different now,” says Pozzato. “You don’t have the stress, you don’t have to worry about being skinny, you can eat what you like, and you can just ride for enjoyment”.
Home in Veneto
While Pozzato still loves to revisit the historic courses where he raced, including Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, and Milan-San Remo, most riding takes place closer to his home in Veneto.
“For cycling with the best stops for eating and drinking, I love riding from my house in Bassano to La Rosina,” he says. Conveniently, this climb that’s featured in several editions of the Giro d’Italia passes the famous restaurant that bears the same name. In fact, the Veneto Classic, which Pozzato now organises, also passes by. Sadly, the elite racers don’t have the luxury of stopping for lunch though.
After a twenty-year career that finished in 2018, unlike many ex-pros, Pozzato has never found himself longing to relive his days as an elite racer. “In the last year of my career, I finished with the mentality needed for racing. Now I’m happy to ride for enjoyment”.
Yet, while some riders will put aside the bicycle at the end of their career, Pozzato never wanted to break from riding. “I love to ride the bicycle. If I go away for even a day or two without the bike, it’s a problem. I feel so much better when I’m able to ride. For sure, I love it. At the same time, the life of a professional rider is so full of stress. I can see why some struggle for a year or two after retiring. And so perhaps they don’t want to ride. But I think most will always come back to the bike”.
Far from being the end, retirement has offered Pozzato chances to explore new cycling challenges that wouldn’t have been open to a professional racer.
Gravel riding has been one of these new outlets. In 2021 he and his friend Jonny Moletta launched the Serenissima Gravel, an invite-only pro gravel race that he intends to soon expand to amateurs. Seeking to showcase the most beautiful parts of the Vento region, Pozzato has spent much of his time scouting the course aboard his new Passoni Cicloprato gravel bike.
“Every time I use the Cicloprato, people always ask me about it,” says Pozzato. “I had Passoni take the same ride position as on my road bike and combine it with the standard gravel geometry. What I love about it is how it’s so simple and classic in its design”.
The resulting bike embodies the design ethos of the Cicloprato. Rather than abandoning Passoni’s road racing heritage, it builds upon it to create a faster and more agile bike than most other makers’ gravel designs.
It’s a philosophy that nicely matches the idea behind Pozzato and Moletta’s event, which aims to bring the excitement of the pro peloton and combine it with the fresh appeal of gravel racing. The first edition, won by Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko, proved a thrilling spectacle that brought the tactics and scale of road racing to a new and unpredictable off-road arena.
“For me, it’s a perfect combo,” says Pozzato.
Back in the workshop
Having begun while he was still contracted to ride machines supplied by his sponsors, Pozzato’s relationship with Passoni has continued to grow. Already the owner of a custom Fidia, a new disc version of the bicycle with a unique paint scheme is currently under construction for him at Passsoni’s Milan atelier. Of course, having the Italian National Champion drop by is always exciting. However, the hanger-like facility outside the city is just as welcoming to any cyclist interested in seeing the skill and craftsmanship behind Passoni’s bikes.
“Me and Matteo (Passoni’s Product Manager) have a design in mind. But I want to come and speak with the team at the factory, especially Emilio who’s going to do the finishing,” says Pozzato. “For anyone who loves bicycles, visiting the factory is such a fantastic opportunity. You get to understand the heart of the brand. For someone who loves bicycles like me, it’s great to see.