Marco Pinotti was one of the driving forces in the HTC-Highroad team for the team time trial at the Giro d’Italia, and fittingly he led the squad over the line in the colours of Italian champion as the Giro celebrated 150 years of Italian unity in the nation's first capital Turin.
The consummate team rider, no sooner had Pinotti pulled on the Giro's first pink jersey than he was contemplating how he might pass the overall lead to a teammate on the opening road stage.
After finishing ninth on general classification last year, Pinotti is nurturing overall ambitions again this time around and so he ruled out the possibility of attempting to defend his lead in the next few days.
"I'll try to follow the best and then maybe take it back in the time trial in Milan," Pinotti joked. "I could lose it already tomorrow, but hopefully to a teammate."
That teammate is likely to be Mark Cavendish, with stage two to Parma, one of the few stages in a Giro jam-packed with climbing that appears likely to finish in a bunch sprint.
"Tomorrow we'll try to put him in the best position possible in the sprint, but the team gave me a fine present today," Pinotti said.
Cavendish was prominent among the five HTC-Highroad riders who stayed together to record the quickest time in the team time trial and so secure their second Giro TTT victory and opening maglia rosa in three years. In 2009, however, it was Cavendish who led Pinotti over the line and pulled on pink.
"This time, he told me to lead through the final corner," Pinotti explained. "Mark is very passionate and when he sees the chance to win it's hard not to take it. Today he was excellent, but so was the entire team."
A second spell in pink
Pinotti is no stranger to the maglia rosa, having first worn the hallowed jersey in 2007. On that occasion he moved into the overall lead on the road to Spoleto after forming a lengthy breakaway with Colombian Luis Laverde. He explained that the emotional impact of the symbolic jersey was stronger the first time around.
"2007 was a jersey that gave more joy, as it was so unexpected," Pinotti admitted. "This jersey was something that was more desired and more planned, but it was never taken for granted. Cycling isn't mathematical."
As if to reiterate that point, Pinotti crossed the line with the bare minimum of five teammates, after a puncture saw Mark Renshaw lose contact in the final kilometre.
"Nothing was a given," Pinotti pointed out. "There was always the danger of another puncture, so luck also played an important role."
A credible voice in an often troubled sport, Pinotti also took the time to welcome the UCI's introduction of a no needle policy on the eve of the Giro, viewing the measure as a signal of intent.
"It's definitely a good thing," he said. "Above all, it sends out a message for the culture of the sport."
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