Vuelta a Espana - Blazin' Saddles: Pippo's secret weapon
Eurosport - Fri, 10 Sep 14:15:00 2010
So secret is Filippo Pozzato's weapon, he's keeping it firmly concealed in his trousers. Yes, this is the news that the oily long-haired Italian lothario is prepared to abstain from sex in a bid to be in tip-top condition for the World Championships.
In fact, it's now been five months since Pozzato had a bit of hanky panky - and with the Worlds still 23 days away, there will be no action between his sheets for a number of weeks.
Saddles' first thoughts are for Pippo's current room-mate on the Vuelta: it must be like being in the dormitory of an all-boys boarding school after lights out.
Saddles' second thoughts are for the poor Australian girl who he picks up in Melbourne on October 3: she's going to have her work cut out.
"Staying away from women isn't a problem for me at the moment. For the World Championships I'm willing to make that sacrifice and lots of others," Pozzato told Gazzetta dello Sport.
The Italian, who celebrates his 29th birthday today, said his sex drought started after he broke up with his girlfriend during the Giro back in May. "I was a wreck," he added with a tear in his eye.
But Pozzato turned a difficult period of his life until a useful motivating tool - and he's pleased to see his reputation being re-evaluated accordingly.
"I've been called a Playboy before but I hope things will change now. I've had some fun in the past, like everyone my age. But I'm 110 per cent dedicated to cycling now."
So, to win Down Under, Pippo's not going down under - but is it a tactic that will work?
In the same article, Gazzetta explained how in the Forties and Fifties it was common practice for riders to shank sex for months on end during the season, citing the example of Vittorio Adorni, who went the whole 1968 season without any in-and-out before winning the rainbow jersey in Imola.
Given that this was the Swinging Sixties, Adorni showed remarkable composure (although checking him out on Google, it's clear he was no Matti Breschel).
If Saddles was convinced of the benefits of long periods of having no sex then it would have surely have put more effort into its cycling. It could have notched up a few Tour de France wins of its own by now; a junior title would certainly have been there for the taking, not to mention an U23 world champion crown.
But Pippo could well be breaking his balls for nothing. According to a study carried out in his native Italy in 1999, having sex makes men more aggressive, increasing their testosterone levels and improving their sporting performance.
This theory seems to be backed up by descriptions of the seedy goings-on in Olympic villages through the ages. One former table tennis player, now a writer with The Times, described the Barcelona Olympics as a "sex fest" where competitors were "s------- like crazy".
Matthew Syed himself admitted to getting laid more often in those two and a half weeks than in the rest of his life up to that point - and he was a 21-year-old student with crooked teeth.
Apparently there were so many used condoms on the roof terrace of the British team's residential block after the swimming finals in Seoul '88 that the British Olympic Association sent out an edict banning outdoor sex.
With all this in mind, could we possibly deduce that maybe Pozzato's period of abstinence is less a thing of choice than a result of his lack of appeal to the opposite sex?
Any girls watching those adverts starring a naked oiled-up Pozzato and some strategically-placed Sidi cycling shoes might well appreciate the Italian's toned physique - but they would be forgiven in thinking he rides for the other side, so to speak.
In fact, come to think of it, Pippo is even sporting a Village People-style moustache in this year's Vuelta - something he vows to shave off once the race finishes in Madrid.
"Joaquin Rodriguez reckons I look like (fellow 'tached rider Dave Zabriskie's) twin brother," Pippo writes in his Cyclingnews blog. "I've nothing against Zabriskie, but to be honest, I think I'm a little bit better looking."
Saddles' conclusions are thus: if Pippo reshoots those Sidi adverts while still sporting that facial aberration then he'll be getting no end of offers from men; if he really wants to break his duck after the Worlds he better get his upper lip cleaned up pronto.
A bit of testosterone flowing round the body does no one any harm - just ask Floyd Landis.
Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the Vuelta on