An interview with Marco Pinotti, May 19, 2008
One year ago, on May 18th, Marco Pinotti's career reached its high point. The Italian escaped with Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) on the stage to Spoleto and took over the maglia rosa of race leader. For an Italian rider competing in the Giro d'Italia, it was a dream moment; he went on to hold the jersey for four days.
Pinotti is no stranger to special jerseys, having twice been the Italian national time trial champion. The 32 year-old beat Marzio Bruseghin in 2005, finished second to Bruseghin one year later and then triumphed once again last season. Luca Ascani was actually fastest on the day but was then disqualified due to a positive test for EPO.
In 2006 Pinotti was third in the Pontedera time trial in the Giro d'Italia and, for many, will be considered the moral victor of the stage. Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso finished ahead of him but were subsequently implicated in Operación Puerto. Pinotti has long been outspoken against doping; in contrast, Ullrich and Basso were both proven to have worked with Eufemiano Fuentes.
"I think the one in Plan de Corones will be very hard for me." -Time trial specialist Pinotti is not sure if all the time trial kilometres will help in this year's Giro.
He had a taste of Giro success last season and came to this year's race hoping for another big result. When asked by Cyclingnews prior to the race what he was aiming for, he said that it 'was a surprise'. He was a little less secretive at the start village on Friday's seventh stage, saying that a strong GC position or a stage win were on his list.
Pinotti felt that he was in very good shape. "I think my condition is better," he said. "If I look at how I planned the season, it is definitely better. In past years I started racing in early February and arrived at the Giro with good form, with a very good base. I was good and lucky.
"This year, things have been much more structured and I did the races differently. But the form is definitely better [than before] as I was third overall in Romandie, which is a very good result. Now, I have been feeling well in the first week of the Giro. I think that many riders feel well, though – you never really know until you have the real racing in the climbs."
Looking back to last year's race, he feels that getting the maglia rosa was a special occurrence. "It was a good experience. The team had to use a lot of energy to defend the jersey, but it was worth it as the pink jersey is very important. This year, with the way things have worked out, it is difficult to keep the jersey until the mountains and there are many other big riders. So we'd better focus on a stage win and the GC will happen after that."
Cyclingnews asked Pinotti what he thought might be possible in the race. He was non-committal but this was not due to a lack of knowledge of his condition rather than any trace of false sincerity. "I don't know, actually," he said. "Maybe I can hope for a top ten. But I don't know. The later climbs are very hard.
"But it will be hard for the other riders as well. Now, I just want to stay confident. We have three riders who are going well – myself, and also Morris [Possoni] and Kanstantsin Siutsou. We will see how things develop. I could say top ten, top fifteen, top five but I am not sure. Two years ago I wouldn't fight for GC."
Becoming a bigger rider
Given that change, the obvious question is what is different? "It is a couple of things," he answered. "I think my mentality has changed and also as regards to the team, I am more protected now than two years ago. I have trained a lot in the mountains, more than in other years. And I think the training has been more effective and also the team helped me a lot."
As Pinotti pointed out, it's very difficult to know how the body will respond to the pressure of a three-week Tour. Following Cyclingnews' interview he tackled the first big mountain stage of the race, but performed below his own expectations. He was 49th, four minutes and six seconds behind the winner Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes – Ballan), and two minutes and two seconds off the time set by Danilo Di Luca (LPR). He was then twenty seconds down in 45th place on stage eight.
That left him 35th overall. He'll hope to improve over the next two weeks, clicking into top form and finding his legs. Riding well in the time trials will be an important start; fortunately, he's highly motivated by races against the clock, even if he feels the courses at the Giro are not suited to his talents.
"To be honest, only the last one [looks good to me]," he stated. "The others are much more for climbers. The first one is for riders who have very good condition. Maybe it could also be for me if I am good; we will see. I hope to have a good result, like I did in Romandie and País Vasco.
"That said, I think the one in Plan de Corones will be very hard for me."
Even though he is 32 years of age, he said he is still finding out ways to improve. "For the team time trial, I was watching closely what Wiggins and Cavendish did," he said. "I think they are very experienced…even if they are younger than me, you never finish learning. And so they were just relaxing, listening to music, making a lot of jokes and then warmed up on the rollers for the last 30 minutes. It worked well.
"It is a question of thinking about the race in only the last 45 minutes. To have no stress, not wasting energy. The goal is to keep the energy for the moment you need it." Wearing the national champion's jersey is also a boost: "I feel that when I have the jersey, I can perhaps get one percent more out of me," he said.
He'll put all his focus into the Giro, then follow that up by targeting the Italian national championships once again. "They are important to me because in the last three years I have been first, second and first," he said. "I always loved riding time trials and so the jersey was important for me. I was upset last year when I got second, and especially after the other rider tested positive.
"Now, finally everything is well and I hope to win it again this year. It is taking place in my home town of Bergamo, so that's an important goal."