By Jean-François Quénet in Spoleto
Marco Pinotti has believed that Danilo Di Luca would do what he said: get rid of the pink jersey. Now, his move into the maglia rosa symbolises a victory for T-Mobile and the Italians in their drive to clean up the sport. (See the stage 6 report.)
Pinotti, an engineer who represents the riders on the board of the Italian cycling federation, was third in the 2006 Giro d'Italia stage 11 individual time trial in Pontedera behind Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso. Now that T-Mobile has put a strong antidoping policy in place, he carries the flag for both the German team and Italian cycling in the absence of the two main stars of Operación Puerto.
Since turning pro with Lampre in 1999 after completing his studies, Pinotti has had the reputation of being a clean athlete. "I would have never joined T-Mobile if it wasn't for this change of policy," he explained.
"Their ideas are clear and direct. The team gives us the best instruments for performing in cycling without using banned substances. For example we have followed a program for a muscular reinforcement of the back and abdominals. It's working really well. I feel stronger on the bike. We are also helped by a sport psychologist, although I have my own NLP (neuro linguistic programming) since 2004."
"T-Mobile has a line and they keep it," Pinotti continued. "It's not a small decision to come to the Giro without Sergei Gonchar who has always been an important rider for this race." Due to injuries, the German team is reduced to six men already, "but I have very good team-mates," Pinotti stated.
He hopes to keep the pink jersey until Genova (stage 10), and he even dreams of leading the race in stage 14 where it will finish in his home town of Bergamo, but he's a very realistic cyclist. "I'm not strong enough for the mountains." As a former Italian champion against the clock, Pinotti might make the headlines again after the stage 20 time trial in Verona, the only flat time trial there is this year. However, he doesn't pretend to be a big champion, and attributes his third place behind Ullrich and Basso to factors outside himself, saying "I was lucky with the wind and the course suited me at perfection."
At least the tifosi will be able to listen to all the positive things that Pinotti has to say because, with the power of the pink jersey, he now has the position to speak out. About Basso, he stands clear: "He made his confession only when he had his back against the wall, but it's an offense to the intelligence. I've been very disappointed by him. Well, this is my opinion."