Giro's leader unimpressed by Basso's actions
By Gregor Brown
Marco Pinotti, who goes into Stage 8 Sunday wearing the leader's jersey, fulfilled a dream of every Italian when he took the Maglia Rosa on the Giro's sixth stage to the Umbrian town of Spoleto. The rider from Bergamo, nick-named Pino, stuck with Columbian Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) when he attacked on the Forca di Cerro.
The duo respected cycling's unwritten rules; Laverde helped build a bigger time buffer for Pinotti's leader's jersey and was repaid with the stage win. It was respect that was passed over on Pinotti's former teammate Gilberto Simoni in last year's stage to Aprica.
"I was more correct with Laverde than he [Ivan Basso] was with Simoni," said Pinotti after the stage to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
That day in 2006 Basso was riding for time gains on the overall and Simoni agreed to work with him by slowing down on the descent of the Mortirolo so the two could ride together to the finale. Instead of letting Simoni have the stage Basso allegedly asked for money and went on to take the stage when his escape companion refused the offer.
"There exists these unwritten rules in cycling that I wanted to respect," continued Pinotti. "One rule says that, in certain cases, you divide the stage and the jersey. This was one of those cases; the stage to Laverde and the maglia to me. It was not like what happened in the Giro, at Aprica, when in the same situation the unwritten rule was not respected; Basso the stage and maglia, Simoni nothing."
It is not only unwritten rules that are respected. Pinotti joined Team T-Mobile partly because of its anti-doping stance. "Our code of conduct is very broad," said General Manager Bob Stapleton in an interview with Cyclingnews, in April. "So any form of intent to cheat or misrepresentation is basis for termination, fines or suspension. And we do blood volume testing, so if there is some chance you are involved in blood manipulation there is the chance we are going to catch you directly."
Pinotti is known as a clean rider in the peloton and now, under heightened awareness due to Operación Puerto, we are seeing different riders rise to the top of the sport.
"I went with T-Mobile because the German team has set out to be clean and transparent," the 31 year-old noted. This pane e acqua approach has also left the Serhiy Honchar, wearer of the Maglia Rosa in 2006, at home. "To exclude Honchar because his blood values were abnormal is a demonstration that the line is followed."
He thinks that his compatriot's signed agreement with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) was less of a confession and more of an insult to cycling's effort to clean up the sport. "The Basso event is sad. He continues to talk and not talk, hint and hide, it is an offence to everyone's intelligence, including us racers. He disappointed me."