By Shane Stokes
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.
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."