It was way back in 1999 when Marco Pinotti signed his first pro contract, with Lampre Daikin. The Italian team is still with us – and so is the time trial specialist from Bergamo. To use the clichéd comparison with wine, the 37 year-old gets better as every season passes.
But Lady Luck hasn’t been his best friend these last few years – take the 2011 season; strong rides in Oman, Tirreno and Romandie were a precursor to his leading the storming HTC squadra across the line in the Giro’s first stage TTT in Turin and grabbing the second pink jersey of his career.
He narrowly missed victory on his ‘home’ stage 18 but on stage 19 disaster struck and, along with team mate, Craig Lewis, he ended up in hospital.
Pinotti had a fractured hip and would face months off the bike. To add further dismay to his year, HTC announced they could not continue and thus Pinotti was looking for a job.
However he bounced back from both issues.
His injury problems were put behind him and 2012 saw him in action in the red and black of the ‘super squad’ BMC Racing Team.
But despite taking victory in the Tour of Austria time trial and the final time trial in the Giro, it was another season ending on a ‘down’ – he crashed whilst well in the medal hunt at the Worlds in the Netherlands, breaking his collarbone.
Another crash, this time in the Tour of the Mediterranean marred the start of this season – and fractured ribs were the damage.
But you simply can’t keep a good chrono man down and he’s back on top – pulling on the tricolore jersey of Italian Time Trial Champion for the sixth time, last week.
Pinotti first came to prominence with a silver medal in the European U23 time trial championship in 1998 and that year he rode one late season race as a stagiaire for Polti – but it was Lampre who signed him for season 1999.
Neo-pro or not, he was thrown straight into the Tour de France, the experience can’t have done him too much harm – by the end of the season he’d won the now defunct GP d’Europa ‘two up’ team time trial with Latvian strong man, Raivis Belohvosciks.
The pair took second in the same race the following year and Pinotti paired with Swiss rider Rubens Bertogliati to occupy the same position in the Duo Normand.
But an ’en ligne’ stage win in the Tour of Poland that year proved that Pinotti wasn’t just a ‘chrono man.’
In 2001 he rode the Tour and Vuelta and lined up again for the Tour in 2002 but was a non-finisher.
The following year he took a stage in the Tour of the Basque Country with 2004 seeing him on the podium of the Italian time trial championship with a bronze medal.
Saunier Duval became home for 2005 and this coincided with the start of his love affairs with the Giro – where he finished 48th – and the Italian time trial champion’s jersey, which he pulled on for the first time.
The 2006 Giro saw him 60th overall in the Giro but ‘mountain man’ Marzio Bruseghin proved too strong in the Italian time trial championship and it was silver for Pinotti.
T-Mobile Team was the name on the jersey for 2007 and his progression continued with a Giro top 20 on GC and four days in the pink jersey.
He took back his Italian time trial champion’s jersey and had strong rides in the Tours of Romandie, Denmark and Poland.
T-Mobile became High Road for 2008, and as well as retaining the red white and green jersey in the chrono, he took the final TT stage of the Giro (95th on GC), placed third in the Tour of Romandie and won overall in the Tour of Ireland.
More wins were on the way in 2009 when, with Columbia on board as title sponsor, he picked up a stage in the Basque Country, team time trials in the Tour of Romandie and Giro (40th on GC), the Italian time trial championship and the GP Citta di Stresa chrono.
The jersey colours changed for the 2010 season when HTC took over, and he once again brought big value to his sponsors. He rode strongly in Oman, the Basque Country, won the prologue in Romandie and missed victory in the Giro’s final TT by a scant two seconds to Gustav Larsson.
This was Pinotti’s strongest Giro ever, finishing 9th on GC.
It almost goes without saying that he won the Italian time trial championship for the fifth time – a title he had to abdicate to Lampre’s Adriano Malori in 2011 due to his Giro crash injuries.
But as we said above, he just keeps bouncing back – here’s what he had to say, a day or two after his win over the surprising Giro King of the Mountains winner, Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole-CSf Inox) who took silver and big TT specialist Adriano Malori Lampre-Merida) in third spot with 2012 winner Dario Cataldo (Team Sky) back in fourth spot.
Congratulations, Marco – the motivation is still strong, then?
“This was a goal I set myself, an incentive to recover from my injuries from the early season crash.”
Should you always ride the course beforehand?
“Definitely – I rode the course twice, once the day before and then on the morning of the race.
“It was a 40 kilometre point to point event and it was important that I see all of it at least once.
“If you are serious you must see the whole course at least once – but at the end of the day it is still the legs which must do the talking, of course!”
Do you structure your training to peak for the event?
“Not really but it was a goal I was working towards.
“I usually ride my time trial bike twice each week – around 200 kilometres and I’ve kept with that routine.
“But the last few weeks I have built the time on my time trial bike up to 300 kilometres each week.”
Did you ride on watts?
“I started with that plan but actually ended up riding on feeling; my average was 370 for the 40 kilometres.”
Pirazzi was a surprise.
“Yes, I had expected the main opposition to come from Malori he’s moved up a level, this year – and from Baoro (Saxo, eventual fifth @ 1:50, ed.)
“The course was hilly with a strong tail wind and I thought it would be good for Malori; but you don’t know how guys form is, maybe he’s tired at this stage of the season and his form has slipped?”
Is the electronic shifting best for time trials?
“On some courses you’re up and down of the tri-bars, but on this one you were on them for 95% of the time so the electronic shift is an advantage – there’s much less chance of a mechanical problem during gear changing.”
And the long sleeve skinsuit?
“If it’s a good fit then it’s a little bit faster; but it’s a trade off – if it’s super-hot then you can’t use it.
“But the day of the race was 25 degrees so that was no problem.”
So the early season injury from the Tour of the Mediterranean is behind you?
“Yes but I’m still a couple of weeks from my best form – I was fatigued after the Dauphine and had to take three or four days off.
“My condition is good but not at the top level.
“Even though I am 37 years-old, I still have good recovery from injury.”
Your Worlds crash must have been hard to take.
“Yes, it was possible I would have won a medal – but it was my own fault, I made a mistake on a wet corner.”
What’s your programme, now?
“I have the Tours of Austria and Poland next – I never look too far ahead.”
But you must be thinking about the TT Worlds in Florence?
“Of course – but it will be very hard to win with Cancellara, Wiggins and Tony Martin…”