Three seasons after his final WorldTour race as a professional at the Tour of Beijing, Marco Pinotti is back in China for the inaugural Tour of Guangxi, calling the shots for BMC Racing in the team car. Taking on greater sports director responsibilities in 2017, the Italian is aiming to finish BMC's season on a high at the final WorldTour race of the season.
The team showed its hand on stage 1 of the race with Silvan Dillier infiltrating the breakaway and mopping up nine bonus seconds at the intermediate sprints. The Swiss national champion added six more seconds on stage 2 after another day in the break and swapped his points jersey for the KOM jersey.
With stage 4 likely to be decisive in the general classification, Dillier holds an advantage, with teammates Ben Hermans, Nico Roche and Manuel Senni all capable of making a result on the final climb to the Nongla Scenic Spot.
"We don't have a sprinter to contest for the win so we try to be aggressive," Pinotti explained to Cyclingnews. "When you are in front you are always in the right place in the race. It was good with Silvan, he got some bonus and today he got the jersey, which is good for the motivation. I don't like to have an anonymous team."
While the opening three stages of the race resulted in bunch sprint finales, with little insight into the general classification riders, Pinotti explained there are several other factors he observes to gain insight into potential rivals for the overall win.
"You can see how the other teams are moving, who is sending riders into the breakaway, who is going to be aggressive. You can learn a little," he said of the opening stages. "Of course, coming into stage 4 there will be a question. First of all, on how is the climb because you can see the profile but it is the first time we do it so there is always a degree of unpredictably. Everybody expects that so that is why we want to take the opportunity before because you don't know what the outcome will be there."
A new race with a parcours that it is yet to welcome a cycling race in any capacity, teams are finding creative solutions to scout out the finales and tricky moments at the Tour of Guangxi. With no Google street view, Pinotti explained the race organisers have provided the teams with videos of the finales - a move he believes other races should follow.
"The organisation did a good job because they send us a video of the last three kilometres of every stage. Yesterday we were there so we saw the whole lap the day before. We have an idea of the environment here. The roads are wide and good and the organisation advises us of narrow points and the most important stage like today is the finale and we got the video. The organisation knows there is this issue of knowing the course so they did a job good in at least covering the last three kilometres. We welcome this initiative."
For some of the riders and team staff at the race, Guangxi was not top of the wish list when it came to arranging a race schedule. For Pinotti, though, he welcomed the race and explained he asked specifically to join the team in China.
"It is amazing. I had this opportunity to replace one of the sport directors and I was excited to take it. First, I can learn a little bit being the first sports director, and second, I have very good memories of the Tour of Beijing - of the organisation, the racing, [and this race] even seems to have higher standards. The riders always like to do the race and they are even more excited when there are people so this is a good combination. This race, it seems they did a very good preparation among the public."