Marco Pinotti will again fly the flag for Italy in the time trial at the world championships in Tuscany, targeting a top five placing, with a the possibility of a medal not out of reach if the big four favourites of Tony Martin, Fabian Cancellara and Taylor Phinney under perform on the flat and fast 57km course.
Pinotti is more suited to hilly courses because he cannot produce the power of the big four but he has the experience, mental strength and attention to detail that can make difference over such a long course.
"I've been thinking about the Worlds since the Italian national championships. In the last two months, I've probably spent more time training on my time trial bike than on my road bike," Pinotti told Cyclingnews before heading to a BMC training camp in Tuscany as the US team prepares for Saturday's team time trial event.
The 37-year-old Italian is not sure if he will make the final cut for the six places in the BMC line-up but as ever, he is unperturbed by decisions that are outside his control. He especially wants to ride well in the azzurra jersey of Italy in next Wednesday's elite men's individual time trial.
Recovered from the Vuelta
Despite pulling out of the Vuelta, Italian national coach Paolo Bettini was confident that Pinotti would be at his best for the Worlds and selected him alongside Adriano Malori of Lampre-Merida. Pinotti's rivals for a place in the top five include Sylvain Chavanel (France) and Richie Porte (Australia).
"My preparations went really well until the Vuelta time trial," Pinotti said. "I was second in the Tour of Austria time trial and fourth in the Tour of Poland time trial. Unfortunately, I became ill two days before the time trial at the Vuelta and so wasn't able to do a ride. Unfortunately I think I went too deep in the break a few days before and pushed myself over the edge. I still gave it a go and finished 25th but I came down with a temperature and so decided to head home to recover properly."
"I've got to thank Bettini because he trusted me to recover and stay focused. I did a test at home early last week, and it showed I'd recovered and so I was able to do some good training. I'm ready."
"There are four big favourites for the medals: Tony Martin, Fabian Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins and Taylor Phinney, but after those names, it's wide open and if one or two of them get something wrong, there's a place on the podium up for grabs."
Pinotti has studied the 57km course and adapted his training to suit an intense 70-minute effort.
"57km is about a 1:10 on the bike, we don’t do long time trials like that often, so mental focus and a balanced effort will be a factor. If you lose focus or go to deep early on, you'll pay for in the final technical part of the course in Florence," he said.
"I think I've trained well. The tests I've done since the Vuelta prove it. The Worlds in Italy will give me even more motivation but I've got to be careful not to get carried away by the emotions of it all and start too strong."
Martin and Wiggins the favourites
Pinotti intends to be a coach when he finally ends his career, and he is an expert when it comes to the discipline, having racked up a series of victories and impressive results during his career despite having to come back from several difficult injuries and fractures. He crashed out of the 2011 Giro d'Italia and fractured his collarbone during last year's time trial world championships when he was on course to win a medal. He fractured the same bone again at the start of the season.
His experience and knowledge allows him to make informed predictions about time trials and he predicts Martin and Wiggins will fight for the rainbow jersey, while Cancellara and Phinney may have to settle for bronze.
"Of the four, I think Martin and Wiggins have a slight edge on Cancellara and Phinney," he told Cyclingnews. "Cancellara was really strong on the climbs at the Vuelta but on a flat and fast course like this one, I think Wiggins and Martin will fight it out."
"I was impressed by Wiggins at the Tour of Poland, and I imagine he's a lot better now. I'm surprised he's targeting the Tour of Britain. The weather's been terrible, I know he's British, but it could affect him. But he won the Olympics after winning the Tour de France and so must know what he's doing.
"Tony is really strong and did some incredible things at the Vuelta, including winning a stage. He's also had the time to recover and train specifically for the time trial."
"Phinney is American, but he's the one actually racing on home roads because he's based in Quarrata, which is really close to the course between Montecatini Terme and Florence. He could be a surprise because he can always lift himself for the big events."