By Shane Stokes
Team Columbia - Highroad's Marco Pinotti will next target two hilly Classics with the aim of boosting the squad's chances. The Italian recently won the penultimate stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco in Spain.
"I will race Amstel and Flèche [Wallonne], where I hope to use my form to help the team," the Italian time trial champion told Cyclingnews. "Then I will do the Tour of Romandie. That's a race I like and, in addition to being a good warm-up for the Giro, it will be a goal in itself."
Pinotti is a triple winner of the national time trial title and took his first ever stage race victory last August when he won the Tour of Ireland. Despite being 33 years of age, it appears that he is building strength and motivation with each passing season.
"I have been gaining confidence in myself for the past four years and I feel my learning curve is still increasing," he explained. "In the Basque Country I really had an impressive ride, making a similar kind of effort as I did in Ireland."
He secured the overall victory there last August when he broke clear on the final stage, hitting the line sufficiently ahead of the chasing group to overhaul the leader Russell Downing. Last Friday's stage was a similar last-gasp effort, but produced very different sensations. It allowed for a special celebration and also completed a circle, repeating a triumph there six years ago.
"The last time I raised my hand in the air for a [road race stage] victory was also in the Basque Country. Since then I have won only time trials or as, I did in Ireland, placed third on the [final] stage and won the overall."
"The País Vasco stage victory is a bit special for that reason, and also because it was achieved in bad weather and ahead of a strong field of contenders."
Now Pinotti will bring that increased confidence into the Classics, Romandie – where he was third last year – plus the Giro d'Italia itself. In 2007 he held the race leader's jersey there while 12 months later he won the final time trial.
"Of course the Giro is one of the key points of my season," he said. "I have worked well in the last few months and I am sure I can do a good race."