Following the demise of HTC-Highroad, Marco Pinotti is one of a number of riders on the look-out for a new team for next season. While Gazzetta dello Sport has linked the Italian with a transfer to BMC, Pinotti told Cyclingnews on Thursday afternoon that he is not yet in a position to comment on his destination for 2012.
“I can’t confirm where I am going,” Pinotti said. “I’m in the situation where I'm looking for a new team for 2012 and I’ll make an official announcement in September.”
A professional since 1999, Pinotti has enjoyed the most successful period of his career in the Highroad set-up, and he remained hopeful that the team would survive right up until the announcement in early August that the team would disband at the end of the current campaign.
“I think we were all hoping that we’d find a new sponsor,” he said. “The more time passed, the more difficult things became I suppose, but I was hoping to the very end that the team would be able to find a solution.”
As well as having to contend with the demise of his team in recent weeks, Pinotti has also been continuing his recovery from the fractured pelvis he sustained in a crash at the Giro d’Italia. He was finally able to get back on his bike in early August, although his rehabilitation is still ongoing.
After a training ride in the morning, Pinotti’s afternoons are spent either undertaking specific exercises in the swimming or undergoing physiotherapy as he attempts to put the muscles imbalances triggered by his lay-off to rights.
“I’ve lost some muscle tone. I’ll need a bit of time to recover. For now, I can’t put too much of a strain on the muscles. To regain muscle tone I’ll need to stimulate them more. But it’s something that I have to do carefully and slowly.”
In the immediate aftermath of his crash on the rain-soaked stage to Macugnaga, Pinotti was upbeat about his chances of returning before the end of the season, and he remains optimistic that he will see action before the Tour of Lombardy in October.
“I hope I can. I’m not certain if I’ll be able to race, but I’ll see with the team if we can find a solution that gets me back racing,” he said.
“I think that by the end of September or the beginning of October, I could be at an adequately competitive level. That’s my objective, but we’ll see as we go along. I’ve made great progress in the past two weeks.”
Tour of Ireland
Pinotti’s lonely training schedule this August is a far cry from the late summers of years gone by, when he was a popular protagonist at the now-defunct Tour of Ireland. He won the race overall in 2008 and finished fifth the following year, but in January he revealed via Twitter that the organisers had never paid out the prize money from the 2009 edition of the race.
On that occasion, the race was cut from five days to three as Lance Armstrong made a very rare post-Tour de France competitive appearance in the event run by Alan Rushton and Darach McQuaid. Rushton is currently part of the management of the Tour of Beijing, while McQuaid is organising Richmond’s bid to host the 2015 world championships.
“It wasn’t a pleasing situation for anybody, for us riders or for the Tour of Ireland, but the economic situation didn’t help,” Pinotti said of the race’s demise.
“I received a personal message from Rushton after I wrote about it on Twitter. He said that there had been financial problems, but that he would do everything he could to pay the prizes, even if he had to do it personally.
“I replied saying that I understood the situation. My tweet was simply to find out if anybody had received prize money, I didn’t want to blame Rushton.”
According to UCI rules, race organisers must deposit the prize money with their national federation at least 30 days before the event, and that money is then distributed to riders within 90 days of the end of the race.
Pinotti had a special affinity with the Tour of Ireland, and in particular the gruelling finishing circuit over St. Patrick’s Hill in Cork, and he is more disappointed by the disappearance of the race itself than the outstanding prize money.
“I won the Tour of Ireland in 2008, so I have a certain link to that race, it’s a beautiful memory,” Pinotti said ruefully. “I know it was a small race but the people were very passionate and I didn’t want to create any kind of polemic regarding the prize money. I repeat, it wasn’t a nice thing. I’m sorry above all on a personal level that it happened to the Tour of Ireland, because it’s a race that I cared about.
“If the Tour of Ireland couldn’t pay the primes, it’s obvious that it had some serious difficulties, I don’t think it’s that the money disappeared. I don’t want to make any protest. It’s really just a great pity that the race doesn’t exist any more.”