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Pinotti ready to fill Italian void at Giro

Italian time trial champion Marco Pinotti (HTC-Columbia)

Italian time trial champion Marco Pinotti (HTC-Columbia) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

After winning the prologue of the Tour of Romandie, Marco Pinotti (HTC-Columbia) is a natural favourite for the opening time trial at the Giro d’Italia in Amsterdam on Saturday, but the affable Italian has played down his chances after rating his opposition as being at a higher level for the corsa rosa.

Should Pinotti shine during the coming three weeks, he’d fill a void left by a number of Italian riders, including Danilo Di Luca, Riccardo Riccò, Emanuele Sella, Franco Pellizotti, Luca Paolini and Alessandro Ballan, who have all been sidelined for various doping-related reasons.

"When I hear riders complaining about the transfers, or whatever, being uncomfortable at the Giro d’Italia, I’ll remind them of the people who are really pissed off because they're at home and not here," Pinotti told Cyclingnews in the Netherlands. "Some supporters will miss them, but I won’t miss them! In their absence, there is certainly some space available in the results and the media, but that’s the space they stole from us previously, so it’s fair if we occupy it now. There are still Italian riders like [Michele] Scarponi and [Stefano] Garzelli, who have more chances than me to get results."

Pinotti's first opportunity for a result of his own will come in the Giro's 8.4 kilometre individual time trial on Saturday. Despite his proven time trial ability, the Italian is cautious about his chances of success in the race opener.

"Every time I’ve done well in time trials, it’s been without any pressure, so I don’t feel like embracing the role of the hot favourite," Pinotti said. "It’s a pretty technical circuit in town, like in Romandie, but I haven’t seen it yet since it’s in the middle of the traffic and the railways until Saturday. The level of the contenders for the win is a little bit higher here. I believe David Millar and Alexandre Vinokourov are stronger than me for this time trial. This one is for pure time triallists.

"Usually, the longer they are, the better it is for me, but in Romandie I went worse on the 23.4 kilometre time trial [19th] than on the 4.3 kilometre prologue. It was half the distance of the prologue here. But more than the distance, I think the [techinical] characteristics of the course will play a bigger role. I want to do well but I can’t promise to win."

Pinotti showed great condition in Romandie as he supported Michael Rogers' bid for the overall title. At the Giro, Pinotti will be in contention to wear the pink jersey, like three years ago when he took it on stage six, which included the Monte Terminillo. The climb will be the first mountain of this year's race, on stage eight.

"I’ll try and stay up on GC until the Terminillo stage," he said. "After that, I’ll evaluate my condition compared to the rest of the bunch. If I struggle, I’ll target a stage or two, but not the overall classification. Last year’s Giro suited me more than this one. The last week is for pure climbers. But in the end, it all comes down to the physical condition."