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An interview with Marco Pinotti, Januar 30, 2007
Pinotti: Hunting that big stage win
New team, big motivation. Marco Pinotti wants to have a good season, but what's also important is the way those results are achieved. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes met him at the T-Mobile training camp.
Having placed third on the Stage 11 time trial in last year's Giro d'Italia, former Italian TT champion Marco Pinotti is hoping that his transfer from Saunier Duval to T-Mobile this season will coincide with a Giro stage victory.
The 30 year-old had a very solid year in 2006, riding well in that race against the clock and also taking seventh on Stage 10 of the Italian Tour, sixth on the Stage 4 time trial in the Dauphiné Libéré, eighth overall in the Tour of Georgia, eighth on a stage of the Tour of Catalunya, fourth in Firenze-Pistoia and the runner-up slot in the Italian Time Trial Championships.
He's clearly banging on the door of a major win, and is hoping to land one or more of those with T-Mobile this season.
"My season will be focused around the Giro d'Italia," the friendly Italian told Cyclingnews. "I would like to ride a good Giro. The goal is to arrive there with my best fitness level and to use this form to win a stage if it is possible.
"I also want to ride every race in the front, because I feel more responsibility this year with this jersey. I don't want to go to race just to do my job, but rather to do my job really well. I want to be an example for the others."
Pinotti was present at the mid-January team training camp in Cala Serena, Majorca, and clearly enjoyed the experience. "It has been great," he said. "Normally when you go for a two-week camp you're happy when you go home. I'm about to go home now but I feel like I could also stay longer with this team, doing the things they have been doing here.
"I've enjoyed the training and also the pillar-strength workouts. In the last two days we didn't do that workout in the afternoon and I was missing it, because I really liked it. Anyway, I look forward to going home and continuing with the same structure, and hopefully feeling the same atmosphere. For me it was very good."
Pinotti was very motivated at the camp, asking the directeurs sportif if he could do extra training on the hills. Although he's quiet at times, he seems to have fitted in well. So how did the move to T-Mobile come about?
"Well, I knew that the team was changing the riders and management," he answers. "I know the Italian doctor Massimo Testa and through him I found a contract with the team. We reached an agreement and I moved."
"I'm happy so far with what I have seen. I like the fact that the management do not come from traditional cycling. They do not have the closed point of view of the sport, but are rather open-minded. I think they give us the same open-minded view. I like this. It is a new structure and you can see it, you can feel it."
Pinotti was clearly referring to the new transparency and anti-doping ethos of the German team, born out of the shock last summer when its big star Jan Ullrich was excluded from the Tour de France. T-Mobile responded to that bombshell by brining in strict new measures to prevent the use of performance-enhancing substances, including a revolutionary new blood volume test. It also introduced the contractual obligation that any riders found to be cheating would refund their salaries.
He says that it is important that cycling is run this way after the events of 2006. "Of course. We (T-Mobile) should be. We are, I think, the leader of the change in cycling and we should help to rebuild the trust of the people in cycling. That is the most important thing," he asserts whole-heartedly. "They should have people they can trust and we want to be that team. We want that they can trust us."
The mood at this year's camp was noticeably different to the same time last season. Then, there was a the strong sense that the team could be on course to a possible Tour win, with Jan Ullrich reportedly training hard and being fully motivated to repeat his 1997 success. There was a sense of determination, of pressure, and also the feeling that the winning in July was the over-riding preoccupation.
This time round, the atmosphere had changed. Riding well in the Tour is still a goal, but the events of 2006, the after-effects of the Operación Puerto and Landis affairs in addition to the departure of Ullrich has given a sense of perspective. A feeling of balance.
While doing well in the Tour is still a goal, the perception is that the team would be satisfied with a top five placing by Michael Rogers or Patrik Sinkewitz. Of equal - or greater - importance is the sense that the team are trying to do things the right way. New general manager Bob Stapleton has been very clear that the riders need to be committed to clean cycling; perhaps this collective approach, this feeling that they are part of a necessary way forward for the sport is why Pinotti and many others spoke about there being a very positive mood at the camp.
He believes this philosophy is a big part of the buoyant mood. "I think so, yes. Because you can trust your team-mate and you can trust the manager and the directeur. You know clearly that everybody has the same view about these kind of things, that we are all in the same boat and we will follow the same path. There is more trustful relationship between the riders and the directeurs as a result."
Pinotti said that he was happy with his condition in Majorca. "I feel strong. I think I was also good, very good, in the last two years. The feelings here are different though because the team is bigger. I have a better feeling because the character of this team is different.
"But," he adds, "it doesn't mean that last year I was not in a very good team and with a very good management as well. Mauro Gianetti is a very good person, and Algeri too. I can only say good things about my last team (Saunier Duval)."
Following the end of the camp, he was due to return home to Italy and continue training ahead of the season. His race programme begins with La Marseillaise and Etoile de Bessèges, after which the Ruta del Sol is likely to be next on the list. He will then continue his build-up toward the Giro.
Whatever about other events, it is the Italian race which is foremost on his mind. Pinotti is motivated in his new pink jersey; now he wants to finally win a stage in the pink Tour.