Age can be deceiving, and one cannot find a better example of this than Domenico Pozzovivo.

We are sitting in the hotel lobby in Riccione on the shore of the Adriatic Sea. It is the evening before the start of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, and no one is more excited than the 40-year-old racer. Not even his young teammates, like Israeli Nadav Raisberg who is 19 years his junior, can match his spirit.

“Yeah, I am feeling emotional and excited like it is one of the season’s biggest races; and, in a way, it is. After all, I don’t think I have ever waited for a race this long” he smiles.

It’s been more than just a long wait. There were moments, he readily admits, he was unsure he would ever race again. Those long months when no teams were coming forward to offer him the chance to continue his career. “The looming thought that it was over for me did cross my mind a few times,” he says “but I refused to lose hope and just kept on training.”

This, of course, is all behind him now. Israel – Premier Tech came calling and from that moment, he says, his mindset changed completely. “I did not have time to celebrate. I changed my focus immediately to ‘how do I make sure that I get to the first race in the best shape possible and ready to go?’”

He has spent the last few weeks at an altitude training camp in the Alps, climbing back and forth from his base at 3000 meters. “At 9 am I was already in the cable car with my bike on the way down, much to the surprise of the skiers!”

He hopes the hard work will pay back dividends. “I am ready to fight for the GC here,” he says “I am hopeful a top-10 is a realistic goal. I am not shying away from it. I am very competitive, and what’s the point of racing if you do not challenge yourself?”

It won’t be an afternoon stroll in the park. Coppi e Bartali is a mountainous race. Each of the four first days will include more than 2500 meters of climbing. But the team is prepared to back the Italian. “He will be our leader here,” said Sports Director Oscar Guerrero. “We don’t want to put too much pressure on him. It’s his first race of the season, but he is confident, and we will support him.”

One of the supporting riders is Omer Goldstein. “I have massive respect for him”, said the Israeli. “He has been around forever and stays at the highest level, year in and year out.”

Pozzovivo admits it is a strange feeling to start afresh with riders he has never raced with before, but he feels confident they will mesh quickly. “I will be more than ready to help the young riders here and share my experience”, he says. “I was so glad to join. It is a team that has made such long strides in a short time since it started as a small team. I can relate to that.”

He also holds fond memories from Israel, where he started his best Giro d’Italia in Jerusalem back in 2018, finishing fifth in the GC – “I hope I can create more great memories with IPT.” The Giro d’Italia is a big goal, but he points to many other stage races. “I am extremely motivated. I will start this race with the same motivation I had 15 years ago … actually, even more.” He feels confident that his body and mind are still as strong as ever.

For Pozzovivo, it all goes back to his horrific accident back in 2019, when a car ran him down leaving him with nearly career-ending injuries. “I decided then that no way I will stop racing and I even surprised myself coming back as strong as I did. Actually, I never thought I would keep going until 40 but I am as hungry as ever.”

Today his journey will begin a new chapter.