HTC-Highroad’s Italian star Marco Pinotti will return home today, a week after the Giro d’Italia crash which cost him a compound fracture of his hip and, in all likelihood, at least three months of racing.
Speaking from his hospital bed in Bergamo on Thursday evening, Pinotti maintained that his morale was “quite good” and that he still harboured hopes of returning to action before the end of the 2011 season.
Pinotti crashed together with teammate Craig Lewis 35 kilometres from the end of stage 19 of the Giro from Bergamo to Macugnaga. In many ways, the Italian time trial champion agreed on Thursday, the fall was in keeping with his bitter-sweet Giro: Pinotti had led the race after the opening day time trial in Turin, fallen ill and down the general classification in the mountains, then narrowly missed out on a stage win front of his home fans in Bergamo on the eve of his accident.
Had he made it to the final-day time trial in Milan, Pinotti would have been hotly tipped to repeat the success he earned on a similar stage in 2008. “But I’d rather not think about that and all that I’ll be missing – the Tour of Switzerland, the Italian championships and so on,” he told Cyclingnews. “In terms of the time it’s forcing me to spend off the bike, and the frustration it’s causing, this is the worst injury of my career.”
While he doesn't wish to dwell, Pinotti remembers the circumstances of the crash clearly – indeed probably more clearly than he’d like.
“It was a central reservation in the road which wasn’t marked with flags or any of the usual signs,” Pinotti said. “Craig and I weren’t the only ones who fell but we were the only two who suffered the consequences. Perhaps if it hadn’t been raining, we would have been able to get out of the way…But I can remember braking as soon as I saw it in the middle of the road, and of course it was too late.”
Ever inclined to look on the bright side (Pinotti said of his second place to Eros Capecchi on stage 18 that he’d had “a lovely day nonetheless”) the Italian considers himself “fortunate, or at least luckier than Craig”. His injuries did not require surgery and, says Pinotti, should cause no lasting damage. Lewis, meanwhile, is beginning his recovery from a broken femur.
“The doctors have told me I can’t do anything for the next three or four weeks," Pinott explained. "After that, I’ll be able to walk on crutches, then the next step will be physio and riding on rollers. In total, the process before I’m able to train again should take between eight and 12 weeks. It’s quite unpredictable, though. If everything goes well, I hope to be able to do a few races towards the end of the season. It would be nice to be at the Tour of Lombardy.”
Pinotti’s lay-off of course ends his hopes of a sixth national time trial title in June – but he can at least take some comfort in the knowledge that his successor won’t be a rider convicted of doping offences in the last three years. Earlier this week, Italian Cycling Federation chief Renato di Rocco announced that, with cycling in Italy currently mired in a crisis of credibility, any rider found guilty of doping since 2008 would be asked to stay away from this year’s national championships.
On Thursday, Pinotti echoed other commentators who have expressed their surprise at the arbitrary nature of the 2008 cut-off date. “It seems a bit subjective,” he said. “I think it’s useful as another signal, another way of rewarding those who have played by the rules and punishing those who haven’t. On the other hand, I can see how a rider who has served a ban and come back would be a bit miffed. Ultimately, though, I’m pretty neutral because it doesn’t concern me."